The unusually warm spring weather gave me a chance to get outside and do the yard work I did not do last fall. We have a large oak tree and a few maple trees so I had a HUGE pile of leaves. I used some of the leaves in the compost and anticipated having to bag the rest up for the town to pick up.
But NO. I was delighted/thrilled/amazed to learn that I can use all these leaves and MORE to create new beds for my much anticipated fruit trees and bushes. So, I began with a horrendous back corner. I say horrendous not because there is really anything wrong with wild spaces BUT I had buckthorn and bittersweet galore. Left there they would have choked out the entire back corner. I love the bittersweet in the fall and so I had ignored it for a couple of years. But our yard really is not big enough for such a plant.
This project has been days in the works. First cutting back all the brush.
Then there was the incident with the sick skunk who decided to spend it’s last night on earth in this same space. So I left things along for a while and came back to put a layers of: cardboard or newspaper, bloodmeal, ALL THOSE LEAVES, compost. It was at this point when I realized how much compost I would need. This is more than a “buy a few bags at my local garden supply shop” kind of thing. This is a “have my friend help me obtain 2 cubic yards from the local recycling/compost facility” kind of thing.
Of course I always require the help of my trusty dog!
Growing amongst the overgrown hedge I had removed from the back corner of our yard was a white pine I wanted to keep. I wanted it freed from the cedars that crowded it. I love white pines.
When I worked as a reporter in Montgomery County, NY in the late 1980’s, I had the privilege of meeting Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp. Chief Swamp founded the Tree of Peace Society in 1984. For native peoples in this area the white pine was the tree planted to represent a peace treaty that brought together warring nations into the Haudenosaunee, also known as the “League of Peace and Power” or “Iroquois Confederacy” to us white folks. This story is referred to as the story of the Peacemaker. Jake Swamp traveled the world sharing the story of the Peacemaker and planting this “tree of peace.” It is a story we need to keep telling.
This is what I love about this journey at home on this land. I have not thought about Jake Swamp in a while. He passed away 1 1/2 years ago. Now, every time I am out in my yard, I see that tree and think of it as a symbol of peace and all that might mean.
Moving forward with my edible landscaping plans required, in my mind, removing five overgrown trees that were originally planted as a hedge. They were close together and when the previous owner wanted to sell, they cut off the bottom branches so they looked more tree-like. It always felt like the northwest corner of our yard was blocked by these trees and indeed the entire corner had become an area overgrown with brambles and various “weeds” in the summer.
I wanted to “liberate” a white pine and make a magnificent magnolia tree more visible as well as a hemlock tree. I thought about this for two years. I found exactly the right person to help me.
But my beginnings were endings to my ten -year -old daughter. She was bereft that I cut down any tree. She is angry at me. She has said I “killed” everything that matters to her. This is a girl who wrote about Julia Butterfly Hill as her heroine. Julia Butterfly Hill wrote a book, The Legacy of Luna. Our dog is named Luna. My sixteen- year- old, who embraces change with the same enthusiasm that my daughter distrusts it said wryly, “she’s a pre-teen.”
I have no words to comfort my daughter. I tell her I understand, this was planned for years…. BLAH BLAH BLAH is what she hears I think. I have the same impulses as she. It took me five years of living on this land to even get to this place. What to my daughter is things left as they should be, to my neighbors probably resembles a neglected yard.
I found comfort though in the first issue of a new magazine called Taproot. In it is an article by Ben Hewitt entitled ,”Something Borrowed.” In the end we are all just borrowing this land. We will pass on as will our children, our homes may crumble, be rebuilt, who knows? But then he says, “If any of this sounds depressing, know that it comforts me; I do not want the burden of the knowledge that my mark on this land is permanent.”
And so, I begin here.
So I have been obsessed this winter reading every urban/suburban farming book I can get my hand on. I am in the process of preparing some of my own suburban plot to be an edible landscape with fruit and berries bushes and trees. This is what I have been photographing and will be focusing on in the coming days.
I LOVE THIS LOCAL COMMUNITY I am watching grow up around me in the little corner of the world. I love realizing that these things I have felt alone in pursuing, and probably have not pursued half as well alone, are in fact being done by all these people around me whom I have yet to meet but I am learning about through their blogs.
I read about making maple syrup this morning and realized the writer lived in a nearby city. A CITY, not a vast expanse of land filled with maple trees!
So I bought a bike, a Jamis commuter. My hubby and I spent our 20th wedding anniversary biking along Lake Champlain in June. Our first weekend alone since our kids were born, 16 years. Later, in the summer, we biked in North Carolina on Ocracoke Island. It was amazing.
Then, one a work-related trip I visited Portland! There were bikes everywhere. I did not bike, because I could take public transportation and walk, EVERYWHERE. I could take a rail line in from the airport. It was EASY. But I was thrilled to see the bikes, the bikes lanes, the bike culture.
And I didn’t write, but I biked along the Canal Path here, it’s a quick trip down to Lock 7 and an easy one with my daughter who is always up for the ride.