much mulch

After nearly fifteen years as Californian transplant to New England, I still find myself caught off guard when the seasons change. In September, I forget that bare toes are no longer practical. In May, I have boots, coats, and gloves languishing near the door waiting for their yearly rest. The first snow fall and the first blooms in the yard–the in-your-face neon pink ones–startle me into reality.

As I have been reminded, it is spring. It’s the time to smell the flowers while heavily medicated for seasonal allergies. And it’s time for enthusiastic yard work. Yes like good homeowners, we bought and hauled twenty bags of mulch.

This mulching business is relatively new to me. I grew up in the California chaparral where plants had to be cultivated. If you didn’t work to get a plant to grow, you’d end up with a lot of dirt. Not so around these parts. If you leave the dirt alone, you’ll find a five foot tall tree and knee-high growth all around. Mulch is the secret to keeping this restless growth at bay. The other fact that I learned was that mulching is most effective if you get rid of the growth first. The yard looks so tidy when you throw down that mysterious colored bark mixture. If we neglected to prepare the soil, we’d have a jungle in a matter of weeks.

So this week, I found myself with this horror story collection of tools and a dead shrub. How hard could removing the dead wood be? Landscapers do this all the time. This is routine yard work. Sure. I started with my bare hands. The branches are dried and rotted, no problem. Until it was a problem and the hedge clippers came out. I lopped off branches. Then the thicker stems resisted the clippers. Oh yeah, we have a saw in the garage. More wood was hacked away. But the biggest ones still remained. So I sawed notches and brought out the sledge hammer. Finally it was “just” the stump. The dead yet resistant stump needed attacking on two fronts: above and below ground. And the shovel joined the gang.

Piece by piece the yard waste barrel filled up. The immovable wood came away not with one great tug but by methodical weakening: branch by branch, root by root. There’s an analogy in there about small accomplishments leading to widespread change.

Looking at my yard today, I’m quite satisfied. My stubborn will persisted against many decades of branches and roots. But really, all there is to show is an absence and a thick layer of mulch.

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One Comment on "much mulch"

  1. Emily
    01/09/2017 at 9:45 pm Permalink

    Hi k! I haven’t visited here in a while but I’m glad it’s still here. I remember seeing the photo of the gardening tools and it’s fascinating to read your behind-the-scenes reflections. If I were in your shoes, I think I’d have surrendered to the stump. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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