I don’t know about you, but something about autumn makes me want to work outside. Maybe it is the cooler air. Maybe it is just the instinct to nest. Maybe it is wanting to gather as much sun as possible before the snow flies and the days darken. Whatever the reason, fall finds me perky and industrious out of doors, and this year is no exception.
Settling in here at home in Lake Arrowhead after my summer away, I took a critical look around my front yard. My friend “The Hydraulic Power Junkie” was kind enough to save some wooden pallets for me to construct into additional compost bins, and before jaunting off to the city, I’d thrown them in a a messy pile over by the garden boxes.
My lone bin just isn’t adequate for proper piling and turning, so this past spring I dug into the pile, found all the good decomposed stuff on the bottom, and deposited this “black gold” beside the bin thinking I would dig it into some new beds. Of course, I never got around to it, so the compost just sat there feeding who knows what seeds over the long, hot summer. Sure enough, by September the pile was lush with gigantic weeds and some leggy tomato plants with teeny, immature fruits dangling from slender stems.
What a waste of good compost!Disgusted with myself for such blatant procrastination, I got to work. With some ingenious use of rocks wedged under corners, bent wire coat hangers, and bungee cords cadged from Hubby’s garage, I soon had a triplex of compost bins lined up in the corner of my lot. I had just enough chicken wire (somewhat rusty) to wind around and form a barrier in front. Now all I need is some latticework to fancy the project up a bit.
After all, who wants to look at rotting lettuce and coffee grounds and eggshells and piles of soggy leaves?
The “LAC Chickens” (a.k.a. crows) don’t mind seem to mind the mess. Our first day back from D.C., I went to the market to restock my ‘fridge, and when I came back, seven large, black crows were pecking around on my front lawn looking just like a flock of particularly sleek hens. I think the crows are a good sign–hopefully a sign of beneficial insects and whatnot in my garden area.
By the way, early morning cawing is much more annoying than the gentle clucking of laying hens, despite the prejudiced rules in my homeowners association outlawing “livestock.” However, I’m quite fond of “my” crows, just the same. They are fun to watch and have a wide variety of calls and cries, sometimes even chuckling as if they’ve found something incredibly amusing, probably my attempts to dig out root systems of maple saplings (see below).Crows and ravens are intelligent birds. I learned this while reading A YEAR IN THE MAINE WOODS by Bernd Heinrich. This memoir records the author’s year spent in a remote cabin on a mountain up near Mt. Blue State Park. Heinrich brought his pet raven to live with him that winter, and the stories make for some delightful cool-weather armchair traveling.
If you don’t feel the actual need to go and live in an under-insulated cabin in the woods with no running water or electricity but feel it would make for an interesting and enlightening read, pick up a copy at your locally-owned bookstore before the snow flies.
As for me, I still had work to do. I mowed the lawn, weeded out a perennial bed, transplanted some flowers, and chopped down the vegetation that had grown up near the “rock wall” and the somewhat cleared area near the garden boxes.
I then began digging out the root system of a particularly stubborn maple sapling that had been crushed by a fallen pine tree a couple years ago. The double-trunked pine came down in a rain storm while we watched from the safety of our basement. If the wind had been blowing the other way, our house would have been crushed. Instead, a small maple and some oaks took the hit.
All the sapling stumps now inconveniently sprout a new bristle-brush of shoots every time I clip them off, and as I’m trying to create a perennial bed there around the pine stump, these suckers are annoying. I’ve tried to smother them with leaf litter and old carpets to no avail. It’s bad enough I have to camouflage the ugly reminder that we live beneath one-hundred foot, one-hundred year-old pines with shallow root systems inadequate to anchor the top-heavy giants when the earth gets soaked and the wind blows hard, but now I have to dig out entire root systems as well?
I’m complaining, but there are compensations to living with anti-chicken rules and scary and/or irritating trees. The lake is beautiful, and I never thought I would be so lucky to live so close to the water. If I manage to give up my obsession with growing food crops (too shady), I will be able to enjoy growing shade-loving plants and creating native woodland gardens.
Like most things in life, you can choose to focus on the negative or the positive, which reminds me of a saying I used to hear in church: “Two men looked out from behind prison bars; one saw mud and the other saw stars.”
Not that I’m feeling imprisoned here, or anything– wink-wink.After a day of hard labor, I rewarded myself with a hot cup of coffee sipped from a favorite locally-sourced Barnswallow Pottery mug from Newfield, Maine. I filled the bird-feeder and hung a cake of suet. Maybe the chickadees and goldfinches will come back to keep me and the crows company this winter while the snow flies and I’m curled up with my knitting and enjoying the change of season—and wondering how the compost is doing out there in the bins transforming from garbage to rich soil beneath an insulating layer of snow.