Sunday, September 22, 2013

What I know about trees

My house came with an apple tree in the backyard.  It was one of the things I liked about the house. 

During my housewarming party my grandma told me that my plum tree was nearly full of ripe fruit.  My plum tree?  I didn't even know I had a plum tree!  It was planted on the side of the house where I never went because the gate was on the other side.

Over time, the house became a home.  In doing so it collected more and more occupants.  In 2003 it was just me and my two cats.  In 2005, Gene joined the ranks.  Then in 2008 we got 4 chickens, and 8 more in 2009.  2010 saw the addition of a dog and 2011 closed with a new addition taking up residence in the former office.  In the fall of 2012 we welcome a German teenager into our home for a few months and our hearts forever.

The yard also changed quite a bit during those same years.  It had been a rental to 3 young men in their early 20s prior to becoming mine.  I sifted out the gravel from the former RV parking space, threw away countless shot-gunned beer cans and cigarette butts found in the garden, put up a new cedar fence, built a chicken coop, replaced it with a larger coop, pulled out an ill-conceived raised bed, installed other raised beds, took out grass, planted grass, tested vegetable gardens in different places around the property, planted 3 more fruit trees (crab apple, dwarf apple, and dwarf pear), and witnessed the complete desecration of my backyard by the voracious, digging chickens.

A couple of summers ago Gene and I put up a new chicken run in what we now know was a vain attempt at corralling the birds and still having an attractive yard.  Keeping the area inside of the run nice was a constant struggle.  I roto-tilled and leveled the ground, then replanted it with grass.  It was a Herculean effort.  Twelve months later there was not a blade of grass to be seen, the ground was riddled with chicken-sized holes, and Rosemary still didn't have enough space to stretch her stubby legs.

In our household hierarchy, Rosemary and Kaelen take priority over the hens, despite the girls' (ever-decreasing) production of lovely eggs for our dining pleasure.  Something had to go so that the baby and dog could enjoy our backyard with a lawn, not a mud pit.

First to go were the old apple and plum trees.  The apple tree didn't produce good apples and the plum tree's location was, well, stupid.  I now suspect that it was planted by a critter rather than a person.

In deciding to get rid of the trees - a difficult decision - I realized that I have a significant deficiency of knowledge when it comes to trees: I simply don't know how to prune them to maintain their health and productivity. 

The city had free pruning classes.  I signed up and learned... nothing.  What a waste of time.

The grass is now beautiful and lush, thanks to a couple of years of chicken poop.  We neither water nor fertilize the grass anywhere on our lot.

Am I happier?  Yes, oh yes, oh yes.

This fall I want to put in more grass in the front yard.  I just can't handle the neglected, overgrown flower beds any longer.  Since we hope to move in a couple of years, it's time to start projects like this so that we're not overwhelmed by them when it comes time to put the house on the market.

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