June 5th, 2005


Digging in the Dirt (or: The Joys of Homeownership)

Nobody’s ever accused us of having a perfect lawn. There’s reason for that: half our yard consists of a steep incline into a flat, almost marshy gully, which extends out to the creek. The gully itself has some respectably old trees, a bunch of underbrush, brambles and logs and poison ivy, and some strangely fleshy plants that the deer keep cropped at about three feet high. The hint of path that we tried to set out last year weaves through these plants. Deer hang out there, and bunnies, the ever-present squirrels, and a fox. We’re committed to keeping that space as friendly to the wildlife as possible, but would also like to be able to get down to the creek without knee-high swamp waders and climbing gear.

Stuff in the gully grows really well. No wonder: all the top soil from our lawn eroded down into it. For years we tried building up the lawn, getting grass and clover and whatever else we could in place, and a good rain would just wash it all away. So last year, we finally bit the bullet, and I built a retaining wall (wee!) and chopped down a maple tree that shaded the whole yard, and then backfilled the yard with new soil. Surprisingly, the lawn actually took.

Which means mowing.

If I Told You That You Had a Beautiful Lawn, Would You Hold It Against Me?

When we moved here, we had lofty ideals. The mowable area was small enough that we didn’t need anything elaborate to handle the thing, and we figured the ecologically responsible thing would be to get a manual push mower (the type with the cylinder of deadly blades that spin around with an ominous shhk-shhk sound). Of course, the thing mows for shit. Which means that you have to go over stuff a few times to make it get most of the tall stuff (you’ll never get it all…). This isn’t all bad; it gives you the opportunity to actually see what you’re cutting up – we’ve got dandelions and plantains and clover and buttercups and wild strawberries and little purple flowers, different kinds of grasses, and other plants that Linda can identify (and regularly includes them in salads and such). It’s neat. With the push mower, you can do things like mow around the big moth sitting on a stalk of grass.

I Cannot Lie; I Chopped Down the Cherry Tree

Now, back when I was building the wall, there was a small Cherry tree, and I curved the wall to accommodate it. At the time it was about my height, and the trunk was maybe an inch in diameter at the base. It had been there several years, and was growing slowly but steadily. After the wall was built, and decent soil in place, and the big maple cut down, the thing took off. Linda noticed that it had developed some sort of nasty insect infestation – tiny little pods that stuck straight up off all the leaves, like green stalagmites. Also, the thing had grown to be about 20 feet in that one year, and the trunk had grown to about 4 inches diameter – the thing had become a monster. So, down it came. sigh.

Star Wars X: The Bamboo Wars

Next, we attacked the bamboo. I managed to clear about a three foot by three foot square, chopping at the ground with a mattock and pulling as much of the root as I could get. When we moved here in 2000, the bamboo was a cute little cluster at the base of the gully. What we didn’t know at the time was that it had started at the end of the street and was slowly working its way across everyone's gullies, eating the forest in its path. It’s now trying to take over our yard. So I beat at it until I was dizzy.

Anyone have a spare panda?

Hopefully next week it won’t be raining on Sunday, and maybe the boy can help me make a rough stair down into the gully. I have logs to use for this – just need to pick up some rebar spikes and a drill bit the right length and thickness to go through the logs. And of course, we’ll try to beat at the bamboo some more, for what it’s worth.
  • Current Music
    the bath and the fan running, and the silence of the dog