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  • Writer's pictureRosa

Saturday, October 6

First Day of Work!

Bradford pears and their thorns

The day dawned hot and sticky. We set a goal to clear a large rectangle of land for a future flower bed.

Concetta’s brother David came up from Atlanta to lend a hand – and a chainsaw. Concetta, Hunter, Lillian and I also joined the crew, and our good friend Janet Gibbon joined us a little later.

The first challenge we faced was the Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana). Widely planted as ornamental trees, you might know them from their smelly white spring blossoms. However, Bradford pears have escaped neighborhoods and roadsides to become non-native invasives. And of course, the hundreds of saplings covering our land reverted to a more feral form and possess thorns several inches long and needle-sharp.

Even at 1-2 inches in diameter, these saplings are not easy to bring down. Their wood is incredibly dense and sticky, and of course there are the thorns. Dave and his chainsaw gave everything they had to bring down close to 100 of these nasty saplings.

During autumn, trees are beginning to focus their resources into their roots and are less likely to be able to recover from cuts. So now is an ideal time to clear trees we don't want returning. Trees of any type would cast inhibitory shade on our future sun-loving gardens. But more importantly, Bradfords are invasives, and every passing day just makes them bigger, tougher, and more abundant.

The fallen Bradfords didn't go to waste, though. We got a chipper to turn the saplings into mulch, which can be spread on beds and incorporated back into the soil. While Dave cut, Lillian and I dragged the trees to the chipper, and Concetta fed them through. A mulch pile very slowly formed.

As the trees were cleared, Hunter mowed down the tangled grass, dog fennel, and goldenrod. By this time of the season, most of the goldenrod is past peak, already waving poofs of fluffy seeds. The seeds will enter the soil and hopefully we’ll get some wildflowers again next autumn.

Mowing revealed a new adversary: fire ants. Yet another invasive, fire ants pose not just the threat of painful bites to us humans, but also to the chickens and other animals that will eventually inhabit this land. More to come on our war with this formidable enemy!

(I’m writing this blog covered in ant bites and thorn stab-wounds, so forgive the combative tone. Even invasives play a role in an ecosystem. Coming to the land with a mindset of war is dangerous. Tearing out everything that doesn't meet our standards would result in terrible erosion and rob pollinators and birds of food and shelter. Besides, people are the ones who brought invasives to new places; they are just trying to grow as best they can.)

In addition to clearing an area for a future bed, we cleared some of the tangled vegetation around the old house. We used the chainsaw to bring down an ancient Bradford pear, the mother of all the spiky babies. This wood also went into the chipper, expanding the mulch pile.

Everyone was exhausted by the end of the day. We had achieved our goal and more!

The progress we made illuminated just how much we had left to do. Still, it's incredibly rewarding to put in a hard day of work and be able to see the results.

And our land is always delivering treasures, like this praying mantis. She graced us with a visit while we were working, so we moved her to safety.

I'm excited for another day of work and reward tomorrow.



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