Member Rara Avis
This falls under the category of very strange coincidences.
Some of you might remember me mentioning, a week or two ago, that I had recently discovered a hidden swamp on my property? The back of my land adjoins a heavily wooded area, with the last forty or fifty feet of my yard merging into the wild. Most of my share of nature included small sumac trees (not the poison kind, fortunately), surrounded by wild blackberry vines. You know, the kind with 40 thorns for every inch of vine? Impenetrable. But in addition to the nuisance plants, I found three black cherry trees (two mature and topping forty feet), some beautiful poplar, a few elms, and a dozen or more pin oak trees. And a teeny, tiny mulberry tree. All backdropped by four pines that tower nearly 80 feet into the western sky. All the property along my dirt road was flat corn field twenty years ago, so mature trees are a rarity and worth saving (and savoring).
I spent most of yesterday with a farm tractor, a friendly Amish neighbor, and my brother "clearing land." We'd hook chains around a sumac, then yank it out by the roots. Over and over and over. There were several dead elms that had to be pulled down, a wild bush with roots that reached clear to Pellucidar, and of course those dreaded thorns. The vines were finally conquered by trampling them with the tractor, then using my riding mower to cut them to ground level.
I have 26 trees ordered, ten for this Spring and the rest to be planted in September, along with a variety of hosta and ground cover. I've also ordered lilac bushes of various hues to put along the property lines to provide eventual privacy. I've laid out where the humming bird plants and feeders will go, the more conventional bird feeders, and the picnic tables. It'll take a few years, but it'll be a nice little shade garden some day.
At the end of the day, the three of us sat atop a small hill, directly beneath the giant pines, looking down at our handiwork. We were exhausted. And sore. And, after driving through those thorns for two hours, I was even a little bloody. Coincidentally, the conversation turned to what it must have been like a hundred years ago, to clear land for farming with nothing more than a horse or two for muscle. Not just for the relatively small park I envision, but for tens of acres of tillable land. And no hot shower to end the long day.
I can tell you right now, I don't think I would have survived.
On the other hand, I spent most of today behind a roto-tiller, and starting the long process of moving and layering three dump-truck-sized loads of top soil. If you've never operated a roto-tiller, just imagine a hundred pounds of severely vibrating metal with a mind of its own, going in every direction except the one you want. Frankly, a horse and plow are sounding pretty good tonight. Almost as good as that hot shower.