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The Mess Out There

Sunday, August 2, 2020

That slight birdy diversion aside (and there will be others), I would like to dwell in this post on the sorry state of my old orchard after the twin blows of a vicious derecho  and the death of my husband, who was the sole chainsaw wielder in the family. 

These photos were taken in January 2020, hence the dreary Mid-Ohio Valley monochrome. I couldn't get through it, couldn't go around was bad. 

Every path looked like this, punctuated by multiple downed trees. Bill counted 32 down right after the storm. Some of them he was able to clear. Most he couldn't.

There were some good sized trees out there, far too big to lever aside. Chainsaw time. And I lack the skills.

It was disheartening, annoying, and there was nothing I could do about it without machinery.
I clipped and cleared as much as I could so I could clamber over the logs, but the fact of them remained, and they weighed heavy on my mind. If you can't get a tractor through to brush hog, you're just going to have to give up getting through at all.

Some of them you couldn't get under, and couldn't go over.

And the walls were closing in. Multiflora rose, honeysuckle and poison ivy was threatening to choke off the paths altogether. You couldn't even get a tractor through in some places.

The absolute worst mess was the former clearing, where we used to build our New Year's sweatlodge and have bonfires. Two huge black oaks came crashing down, putting an end to the clearing.

All this was weighing on my mind as I watched the Amish crews working on the house roofing and siding. They worked like they wanted to work, like they liked to work. So as I was thanking them for their amazing speed and professionality, I asked Daniel Yoder if he knew anyone who might be willing to take a chainsaw (and maybe a Bobcat) to my pathetic mess of an orchard.

"Yeah, we could do that," he replied. My knees nearly buckled. The thought that someone would be willing to tackle this mess for me was so alluring, so fantasmagorical, so undreamt...
I guess you have to realize how long I'd lived without hope of finding anyone, or being able to afford hiring anyone around here, to understand how astonished I was to hear him say he could find the men to tackle it. It was February. The weather was awful. And they wanted to do this for me, soon. Now. I literally would have paid anything, because I'd been trying to get people out to help me for so long, and it just hadn't happened.

Daniel and I walked the orchard, and it didn't take long for us to decide that it needed more than men on foot wielding chainsaws. It needed a Bobcat, or "skid steer," as he called it. The mounds and mountains of multiflora rose had grown up everywhere, and hand-cutting them would be a nightmare compounded. The only thing for it was to push them all the hell off to the sides, uprooting them as they went, then keep the cleared areas mowed so the rose couldn't establish a foothold again. 

And so it was, just a few days later in a light rain,  that I stood on the raised deck and beheld the first assault: a hideously overgrown mess of rose and honeysuckle that had formed mounds around fallen trees just beyond the yard and Liam's willow. Oh, to see that little skid steer push that awful rose away! The crack and crackle of my worst enemy, defeated and pushed back. For once, the roar of a chainsaw and beep of a bulldozer was music to me.


We were on our way to recovery, to making the orchard a nice place to be again. It would be a long road, but a good one.


This is exciting. Can't wait to see how this project evolves.

I'm looking forward and curious to see the next project ...
Greetings from Indonesia.

You are a woman with a mission now that you have found someone to help with the work. Way to go.
Kathy in Delray Beach, FL

I have waged the war on a smaller scale and I say “Death to multiflora rose! And deaths to invasive honeysuckle” happy you doing your guys.

Oh my gosh! Love this story! As a fellow woman living alone, I know the feeling of immobilization in the face of a big project. When you find good help, your whole world changes.

I am so impressed with your bird knowledge and depth of study and pushing the knowledge of ornithology further and not to mention your art. Wow. You are a one woman wonder!!
I have a bird question and don't know where to go with it . Is there a site where I could put forward a question from an expert like you?
I am Sharon Sondrini and can be reached at:
Thank you in advance if you allow me to correspond about my question.

Sharon Sondrini

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