These past few months Pat has grown chainsaws for hands. Let me explain. About a week after Thanksgiving we decided to clear a significant portion of our upper meadow to make room for the planting of hazelnuts and some fruit trees. Upper Meadow is a bit of a misnomer since most of this stretch of land is not made of lovely prairie flowers and grasses but overcome by a dense thicket of honey suckle and buck thorn, our resident, invasive weed trees. These weed trees will easily spread--overtaking the meadow and undergrowth of the wooded areas. So, we are trying to not only curb their rapid and tenuous growth but also sow plants that will feed us while creating a more hospitable environment for local plant and animal species. Our goal is to clear about an acre for what we are calling our Nuttery.
Now, Nuttery is no misnomer because we certainly belong in such a place that requires an insane amount of meticulous stripping of thorny, stubborn plants. In November, we circled March 17th as our deadline for the clearing, and although Pat (and less so I) have faithfully devoted hours and days to this project, we are about only 25% cleared. With early budding and the growing season upon us, our clearing time is shrinking. It will have to be enough for this year.
Pat uses his chainsaw to chop down the trees, and I systematically strip the smaller twigs off of branches--breaking and sorting the sawed-off limbs into three sizes: brush, chipping pile, and logs. As I methodically break these plants down into their base pieces, I contemplate Aldo Leopold's writing from A Sand County Almanac:
When some remote ancestor of ours invented the shovel, he became a giver: he could plant a tree. And when the axe
was invented, he became a taker: he could chop it down. Whoever owns land has thus assumed, whether he knows it
or not, the divine functions of creating and destroying plants.
There is a part of me that truly dislikes these trees, but I can't help feel some remorse in their destruction knowing that it's a favorite place for the deer to find shelter. Hope resides in spring, though, when we find our shovels and start planting new trees.
If I haven't made it clear already with words, perhaps these pictures can give you a sense of the amount of labor required to clear this land.
Pat is far more patient with the process than I am . It can feel overwhelming which is new for me in that I usually savor projects that are painstaking slow --like hand quilting and weaving. What I know about undertaking slow art projects is that really being with a repetitive, tedious process can give way to new thoughts and a keen awareness as the repetition grinds away the grime and fog left by the rapidity of life. I find myself wondering what does it mean to really surrender to the slowness and the steadiness of these projects? In the nuttery, I can feel my body find its rhythm, my mind slow down and I begin to notice birdsong, stones, how the limbs grow in contortions seeking out the sun which now heats the ground unobstructed. Bit by bit, limb by limb, tree by tree, we clear this land and eventually the repetition will yield a fruitful nuttery!
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.