dead wood

Last year I spent a few weekends cutting and clearing vines that were choking my trees and cluttering my woods with debris. I was able to make a little headway, but not much.

Over the summer, every so often I’d go into the woods and pull up the fallen branches or uproot the little dead trees (really — some were only loosely standing there, and I could push them over) and I’d make a big pile.

Behind our house, just where the woods take over, the previous residents created a Graveyard of Sticks. It’s creepy back there, but I’ll go there long enough to dump dead trees or broken limbs, and then I dart back out. The main feature of the Graveyard Of Sticks is a tree, sixty feet tall and choked with vines, that looks as if it’s going to fall over. At some point, either we have to take it down, or else nature’s going to do it for us. I’d prefer that not be on top of one of our children.

Similarly, the previous owners left a half tree standing upside-down, braced against the still-living part of the tree. It’s creepy, like a fork stuck into the ground by its tines, and I can’t figure out how to get it down.

A few weeks ago, I cleared a lot of brush and dead wood from alongside the driveway,  making a pile. And I asked the landscaper (whose services we won back in May) if he could haul that stuff away for us. Instead he came to take a look, and I said, “That’s way too big a job to get all of it out of here.”

I showed him the Graveyard of Sticks, and he became animated: he’d  have a burn!

Huh? You want to set a fire on my property, in my woods?

Indeed, he said they love jobs like this “because they make terrific before and after pictures.”  They’ll make lots of little piles of dead sticks. They’ll plow through about ten feet of my overgrown woods, pulling up all the dead wood and clearing out all those thorny brushes and the vines. They’ll leave the healthy trees. They’ll haul it over to the Graveyard, which he says it the perfect place to spend a couple of days burning things. They’ll even take down the half tree.

He quoted a price, and I’m there. This dead wood has been a bugaboo in my head for a long time, and I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

But I admit, I’m a little jealous, because I’d love sometime to take a walk with God through my soul and hear God just as animated as the landscaper: “We’ll haul the garbage out of there, cut that stuff back in this section, mow it clear up to here, and for a few days we’ll burn everything right here at the center. You can’t even see the scenery now because of all this garbage. But next fall, when all those leaves come down, you’ll see — it’s going to be beautiful. It’ll be just beautiful.”


  1. cricketB

    Sounds like a great plan. Dead wood is a real fire hazard. One of the many things making forest fires worse these days is there haven’t been smaller fires clearing out the dead wood.

    Also, getting rid of a few tall trees that shade the little guys lets the little guys grow stronger. We see that happen at the cottage all the time.

    I’m worried, though, about some of the animals who make their home there. Can you do it while they have time to find a new winter home, or after they’ve left it in the spring? There may be other considerations I’m not aware of.

    Looking forward to those before and after pictures. It will be interesting to see how it changes over the years.

    1. philangelus

      I believe we can only burn between January and May, so we’re very limited in that kind of thing. But considering that most of this stuff is dead and down already, the animals that would be most inconvenienced would be hibernating ticks. I’m not so worried about them. I think most of the woodland creatures here have burrows, like voles and rabbits, so they might find their entrances exposed, but they should be fine.

      Nothing, but nothing, grows in the Graveyard of Sticks. The whole thing is dead, and it’s very creepy-feeling. Turning that back into living ground would be an awesome gain. We’re going to effectively double our usable property.

  2. Ivy

    I can picture G-d as landscaper going through you. He’d send a team of angels with orders “Gather all the garbage you can find” and they go through and they go through and they go through and finally they come to Him, “Well, there was one candy wrapper and two brown leaves. The rest is perfect.”

    1. philangelus

      The angels beg to differ, standing ankle-deep in a foul-smelling bog, then finally coming back to God and saying, “We need a back hoe, and keep the dump trucks coming.”

  3. Promise

    LOL, I’d expect any angels doing landscaper duty on me would demand hazard pay.