For the past few days, I have been pausing expressly at one unobtrusive corner of my garden whenever I make my daily garden rounds. In this little corner, there are some blackberry branches trailing high up along the wall separating our land from that of our neighbours on the right. The offshoots of these branches extend over to our side of the garden with bunches of fruits hanging temptingly in the air. How can anyone bear not picking these juicy little ones? On each of my round, I will pause and search eagerly for succulent, inky-coated blackberries dangling from the thorny branches, wondering whether more of the red blackberries have ripened overnight into sweet little black fruits. Any juicy new finds will be picked and popped directly into my mouth.
It’s not an easy task to harvest these berries which are hanging high above me. My barely 5’2 stature means that I have to tilt my head backwards at an awkward angle and stretch my arms out as far as possible towards the berries, balancing between pushing the upper arm bone out as far as possible and not popping the bone out of the socket of the shoulder blade. That’s not all to the acrobatics. While performing the just mentioned acts, I have to stand precariously on the tips of my toes on the uneven ground.
You might be wondering why do I not just stand on a stool and pick the blackberries like what a normal person would do. If I did that, my blackberries picking activity would be conspicuous, especially under the broad daylight. I am trying to avoid attracting attention because these inky delights do not legally belong to me; the blackberry brambles are not grown in the soil of my garden.
According to the French law, your neighbour’s fruits that cross over to your garden belong to your neighbour as long as the fruits are still attached to the trees. However, if the fruits fall on your land (no longer attached to the trees), the fruits belong to you. That is to say, if a gust of wind results in blackberries dropping onto the ground on my side of the wall, these fruits are legally free for my consumption. Hence, it means that whatever I did in the last few days was considered stealing, and I could face a three-year prison sentence and a fine of €45,000. This law also applies on invasive fruitless branches that encroach your territory: cutting the branches without your neighbour’s consent is illegal.
I wonder how many fines are issued and how many prison sentences are given because one’s neighbour has stolen blackberries or apples. I don’t think anyone will really take this law seriously and most people just share the extra fruits with their neighbours.
Talking about apples, the apple tree from the neighbour behind our garden neighbouring garden has encroached on our garden since last year. The thick apple branches are hanging over some of our bushes and crushing some of the taller plants. With the upcoming harvest season, these apple branches are now interspersed with yellowish-golden apples. In addition to the apples, the vines of this same neighbour have creeped over to our side of the fence…and the time of the year is near for grape harvesting.
What do I do with this abundance of fruits?