Yard At Work

Pile of Pallets

Dear Reader:

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!

My Pink Hammer

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.

Completed Bins

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).

Image from Goodreads.com

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.

Rewards of Hard Labor

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.

5 responses to “Yard At Work

  1. That is a great looking compost setup you have now. I am jealous. I find I have started to dread this time of year as I have so much clean up and transplanting to do. Not to mention the fruit picking and canning and planting of garlic and….thelist goes on and on…..

  2. Robin, every year I plan on planting garlic (and tulips and daffodils, etc.), and every year I procrastinate until it is too late (snow flies). Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I hope you put the grass clippings in the compost. It really heats it up.
    I’m glad you got to use that beautiful picture of the hammer and nail more than once.

    • Yes, you caught me in a repeat photo! I do compost grass clippings, leaves, leftover plants from garden, table scraps. Anything I can. How’re the bees doing?

      • That photo was good enough to use twice. The funny thing about it was that I didn’t get it the first time. Then when I reread the blog I saw the “hard right” aspect of it. It couldn’t have been a better illustration.
        The bees are doin’ fine. The Warre hive is going to be fed even though I was determined not to feed. They didn’t build up enough stores and through checking the forums, I guess that’s the best thing to do. I don’t want them to die because of what I do or don’t do, but I would like to have bees that don’t need human intervention…after all they got along without us for some 100 million years.
        The log hive is doing well. I’ve got to rig up some kind of weather proofing. I’m thinking about a rainproof Alpine hat pulled down to cover the slot between the ‘hat’ and the rest of it. Hopefully my wife can come up with something like that. She’s the creative one of the family.

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