In my quest to create a backyard garden (as opposed to a garden in my backyard) some things had to be tidied up. November was going to be that month. We knew we had to work quickly as possible since winter seemed on planning an early arrival.
The big projects for the month involved trimming the branches from trees, the woodpile and the compost heap. Trimming the branches would give us all sorts of wood for the fire pit next year. Alas, the wood pile was still filled with branches and wood from previous years.
Additionally, nightshade had grown up over the woodpile. It is pretty, and all summer long we had bees visiting the flowers and birds eating the seeds. As picturesque as all that is, it also got in the way of the wood, and smells horrible when cut. So, first order of business: clear out the nightshade and the seasoned wood from the pile.
While we were at it, we cleared out the compost heap, too. If the nightshade kept us from the wood, it certainly didn’t keep the dogs out of the compost heap. I was tired of them treating it like a salad bar. The compost heap had also been a rather haphazard affair. We’d toss our vegetable leavings from the kitchen in and just leave it. Last summer we had actually turned it over and used it in the aforementioned small garden. But this summer we’d just let it sit. Along with the dogs, birds, including two local cardinal families, availed themselves of the heap. It was nice to watch the birds from the workshop window, but again: dogs.
Pulling out all the stakes, chicken wire, nightshade and wood was an all day affair. It was slow work going through all the layers of the wood pile due to things like old rose bush and buckthorn branches that required careful handling. Also, we were working through years of trimmings that had been thrown in a haphazard heap, meaning that things were tangled. And then there was the nightshade, which had grown through it all, like mooring lines.
Before we could start filling the cleared out space with the new tree trimmings, branches and logs, we had to also clear out the compost heap. We had decided to get a little more organized and contained this time around. To that end Stephan drilled holes into the bottom of an unused garbage can. Then we shoveled the compost into it and set it up in the corner where it would have a stable base. The holes in the bottom allow earthworms access to the compost and drainage. The lid of the garbage bin would keep the dogs and other animals out of the compost. Taking a page from A Householder’s Guide to the Universe, I started a bag of shredded newspaper to toss in once a week as we add to the compost bin. It helps to use up the mound of flyers and advertisements that come in each week.
All that was left to do was to stack up all the new branches and tree trimmings. And this is where the “fun” came in. We hadn’t trimmed the trees in a couple of years, and all of them were in desperate need of attention. Stephan went through all the trees in the front and back yard (three mulberries, a maple, and a willow), while I took the hatchet and cut down several saplings that had popped up over the interim. By the time we were done, we had a good sized pile of wood.
It took another several hours to cut the branches down to a manageable size and stack it up. This time we tried to be a little more organized about how we stacked it, but by the end I’ll admit that we were just tossing the branches up on the heap. There’s enough wood, once it is dried out, to keep our fire pit flaming through spring and summer. We’ll add to it, of course. Every time there’s a storm around here there are tree branches to deal with. And the wood that we cleared out has been set aside for the Solstice fire. It will be a nice bit of closure, clearing out the old wood and immolating it, making room for the new for a new year.