Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Material Guy

I guess I am ultimately a materialist.

For a long time after we bought this house fifteen years ago I took a certain delight in fiddling with things--particularly outdoor things.  Since we had only rented before, owning property was a novel experience.  Almost before we moved in, I had begun drawing up a design for a native meadow garden to replace the "wildflower mix" garden in the strip between house and driveway, dreaming my way through catalogs from native plant nurseries.  The first spring I could not bear to cut the back lawn until I had traversed the whole on hands and knees, cataloging the striking diversity of grasses, sedges and other herbs that made up our "lawn."  (Today an artistic arrangement of dried plants from the yard adorns our wall.)  That year or the next I built the "grownup" tree platform in the tiny woods out back.  And a year or two after that I began a protracted war against the English ivy that had invaded and taken over a large part of the little woods.  Homeowner delight, naturalist-style.
My strip of meadow.  It will be more impressive in a month or so. 
Twice as old now, the grasses form a solid mass as tall as me in late summer.  (6/1/2006)

In some years I couldn't bear to mow down all these beautiful plants until July. (7/2/2005)

Then I got too busy to use my little tree platform, the meadow thrived until it no longer needed me much, other interests distracted me until the ivy had grown back, and plumbing and other issues made me sometimes yearn for the days when I could just call my landlord for a fix.

But through it all I've never lost my interest in our slightly mysterious property lines.  The border with the neighbors on each side hasn't much wiggle-room, but the woods of a number of neighbors runs together with ours, and property lines don't all run straight, so I've never been exactly sure where our land ended, so have never exactly known how much fiddling I could get away with out there.  There are (were) some majestic red oaks back there that I hoped were ours, but probably weren't.  And what about the little stand of spindly, old white oaks way back there?

New impetus for the settling of our property lines came when the accumulation of standing dead trees came to include a small elm near the property line that clearly threatened two houses.  Was it our problem? or would the bill go to the neighbors?  (It was too tiddly a situation to be safely taken down by me and my little electric chain saw--the diy savings would have been overwhelmed by the cost of repairing at least one home and also our relations with the neighbors.)

This at last sent me in search of plot plans for our neighborhood on the net.  Lo and behold, they were there--something I guess we wouldn't have found thirteen years ago.  The scanned image of the old drawing announced that we owned a bit more land than I'd thought, and it extended a bit farther back.  They also gently informed me I'd be paying a hefty bill to professional arborists.

My "new" scarlet oak. (12/11/2013) 

The upside is that I suddenly have more trees, including at least one fine, strapping scarlet oak and a multiple-trunked pignut hickory, as well as some of the spindly white oaks.  Pride of ownership in my majestic 4/10 of an acre--complete with ramshackle house and leaky roof--swells once more.

For a bit of contrast, here's Thoreau in Walden:

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only.  Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.

No comments:

Post a Comment