Stumped!

I must be part Amish. The English would have rented a stump grinder or other motorized technology their loose morals allow them to operate. Not me. Because I am righteous, fearless of hard work, and also unwilling to part with my money, I did it old school.

Weeks ago I documented the pioneer spirit with which I chopped down our dead maple tree. The plan was to replace that tree with a new one. The plan was not to wait so long to do it, but we hearty woodsmen have to roll with the punches.

The first step was removing the stump. After six weeks’ meditation on the subject, I decided the way to do this without spending money was just to dig the thing out. I was under no illusions about how difficult it would be to dig up a tree stump.

Yeah, I may have been under some illusions about the difficulty. Illusions can become a burden to the psyche. They’re tricky little bastards, and so are tree trunks. Tree trunks can mutate into philosophical quagmires.

I got my shovel and dug around the stump, and I got my ax and hacked off roots, and this all went well for about 10 minutes. I’m not saying I stopped after 10 minutes; it’s just that the digging and hacking grew tiresome. I persisted, because I’ve never been one to surrender to the reality of a situation without a fight.

My tree stump spiritual adviser.

Big Man came out to help after an hour, at which point I was ready to accept advice from a four-year-old. Being a man of action, most of his ideas involved more digging and hacking. Since a preschooler’s digging and hacking can quickly become unfocused, we hit upon a new plan. We got some wedges and split the stump in its hole. Amazingly, this kind of worked.

Having mostly cleared the hole, it remained to locate and new tree. It can be handy having a garden you abandoned when children stole your free time. In this forsaken spot, a sapling had sprouted where it had no business. Its leaves look Maple-ish, but I can’t prove its pedigree – it’s my first week as an arborist. I guess we’ll find out.

Plants grow best in my garden when I let them fend for themselves.

Maybe we’ll find out. We might have killed it in transit. Its roots were twined in the neglected chicken wire surrounding the neglected fence around the neglected garden. Some of its thicker roots were casualties of our tug-o-war with the chicken wire.

Dead or alive, we dropped it in the hole. We added all three shovelfuls of fertilizer our composting barrel has produced from eight years’ worth of vegetable contributions. Then, we filled in the dirt and gave our new baby a long drink of water.

Possibly a Maple; possibly a tall weed; possibly dead.

If we planted a dead tree, we’ll just try again. We have all kinds of little ones growing where they don’t belong. We’ll keep trying until we get one to prosper or the rest of our yard looks civilized. Either way, it’s a win.

The result of all this hard work on my delicate blogger’s thumb.

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Misinformed tree brings thorns to chainsaw fight

We have this annoying tree near the corner of our house. I think it might be a Hawthorn Tree, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is this tree is trying to take over the world, or at least our back yard, which is a good part of the world to us.

This tree is evil. It runs its woody little finger along the boys’ bedroom window at night to convince them Freddy Krueger is coming for them in the dark. If you attempt to prune it, it will pull a knife on you. Its thorns are three inches long and they are expert at locating any human flesh within reach.

The tree thrives in wet, dry, cold, hot, seasonable, and unseasonable weather. It has been laid on its side by ice and bounced back without a groan. Three other trees in our yard have been killed by disease or insects in recent years. This tree hasn’t so much as sneezed. It laughs at the weakness of the other trees.

Laid on its side by ice, but the ice couldn’t finish the job.

Some believe Hawthorn branches were selected to make Christ’s crown of thorns. I don’t buy this. I think the branches volunteered. Folklore says it’s berries can treat high blood pressure, which is exactly what the rest of the tree will give you when you try to mow around it.

Last Fall, as the tree made its final attempt of the year to mug me, I vowed I would give it a respectable haircut in the spring, before it could conceal its armaments behind a canopy of leaves. Last week, I made good my promise.

With chainsaw, loppers, ladder, and my best helper (Big Man, a.k.a. “I can help you!”), I took the offensive. The tree put up a stiff fight. As I hacked away at the big branch touching the house, there was some question as to which of us would lose a limb to the saw, but the human skill of running from danger prevailed. The fruits of my victory were a lawn full of dismembered, prickly branches and a thorn tip lodged in my thigh.

My best helper sizes up the opponent.

It rained for several days after, and I was still limping a bit, so it took a week for me to get back to the lawn full of downed branches. My best helper was napping at the time, so that probably saved me a good half hour of extra work. The thorns were many, and sharp, even in death. About two hours after the cleanup was done, I pulled the final fragment out of my heel – the last desperate thrust from a defeated foe.

By June I will be kicking myself for not cutting more.

I hope this miscreant tree has been chastised enough to learn its lesson about running amok. It should be mindful that next spring is just one short year away, and next time I might not stop at taking a few limbs, now that I have a taste for blood.

“I wanna do it!”

Whenever I go outside to do some man work, which hasn’t been often lately, I find an eager huddle of young helpers circling my ankles. You’d think we keep these kids chained in the basement for all their enthusiasm about going outside to dig a hole.

Over the July 4th weekend, I planned on doing one caulking project to ease myself back into the world of the useful. Somehow I was able to complete this project without any of the hindrance known as little boys being helpful. For all the good the project accomplished I might as well have had truckloads of their help.

I meant to relax the rest of the weekend, so as not to lead my wife into the illusion that I would be regularly useful around the house, but we stumbled into a trees and shrubs sale at buzz-kill Home Depot.

hunt and peck

“I wanna do it!” syndrome affects inside jobs as well, like computer work. This one’s helping me write my blog.

For years, we’ve had boxwood, or dogwood, or some horrible wood-suffixed plant growing in front of our living room windows. Whichever [random noun]wood bush smells like cat pee on a summer breeze, that’s the one.

Some half-priced rose bushes were just screaming to take the whateverwood’s place. I, and more importantly, my wife, heard their cries.

On Sunday afternoon, I hitched up my big boy pants and headed out to make the switch. I was followed outside by two boys, who having missed their earlier chance to pitch in, would not be denied this opportunity to help.

The first task was to trim the urinewood so I could get at its roots. The moment I started clipping, Big Brother was all over me. “I wanna do it!” he demanded.

Buster wouldn’t be left out. “I wanna do it!”

housework

I wanna do it!” love for the vacuum cleaner wears thin as soon as they are actually capable of pushing it.

Big Man had been made to stay in the house, and now he looked out at us through the window screen, giggling and making Dada words that certainly translated into a one-year-old’s version of “I wanna do it!”

When boys say “I wanna do it!” what they mean is: I want to use these tools to do something that is less work and more fun than what you want me to do with them.

As soon as I had instructed them what to do with the tools that their budding reservoirs of testosterone had commanded them to co-opt, they were off cutting bits off every plant in the yard except the one I had pointed them at. That one was too hard to cut. Gladiolus shoots were much easier, and proportionally more fun, to clip.

Fortunately, it only took clipping a few flowers for me to get at the roots of the shrubbery, 15 feet away. The task of picking up and carting off their clippings and mine cured them of their desire to help. Anything that resembles cleaning up will do that for boys. They found their own games to play and I dug three holes, free and clear of the burden of help.

It turned out to be a lovely afternoon.

The new babies have big shoes to fill.

The new babies have big shoes to fill.