By Samir Shukla
Digging a hole in the ground one day on land we recently acquired, a tree root and a stone blocked the shovel. The root was wrapped around the lodged stone, both relaying an unspoken notice that I would need to work harder with the shovel in hand to finish the needed hole. I dug around the stone and poked away at the root with the tip of the shovel. Sweeping aside the dirt to pick up the rather large stone, the root, a portion of it shredded by the shovel, held its ground. Who knows how far it stretched underground, the nearest large tree was about 20 feet away. The root didn’t want to let go of its buddy, attaching itself to the thinner part of the long stone.
I don’t generally enjoy doing yard work. This land is different. It is more than just a yard. Here’s the thing, going from the typical small front and back yards of a home we owned and then moving to many acres of land we now inhabit gives a sense of vastness, a sense of a new frontier, along with confusion. We want to remake this land, but where to start? Now with many acres of land we own, the yard work of past years seems like child’s play. This is no longer yard work; it is now all about acres work.
We are clearing land. Doing some digging here and there. Pulling out fallen branches and twigs from the overgrowth before we clear it with a mower. We worked in the comfortable springtime sun, the ground beneath had that pleasing wet soil aroma from a drizzle the previous night. There was a steady breeze keeping sweat at bay on this mid-spring day. The glorious summer is just a few rainfalls away, just about knocking at the door. In the dark chasms of winter, I long for summer, practically on an hourly basis. I enjoy all seasons, winter, not so much. The cold nights of winter have their moments and a quiet aura, but I generally wish winter came with a fast forward button.
We keep clearing the land, overgrown weeds, and bushes around nearby trees, collecting fallen logs and sticks and setting them aside.
This land reminds me of one of my favorite film genres: Westerns. In Western lore and films, the pilgrims and frontier people load up and head out in their wagons, point them towards West and eventually find or acquire plots of land, sometimes huge plots of land, and then proceed to work the land to make it into a homestead. They build a home, fenced fields for horses and animals, clear pastures, plant stuff, dig the requisite well for water.
Of course, most of these lands were stolen from Native Americans, but that’s a different conversation.
In the spirit of a common phrase used in the young years of this country, “Go West young man,” and with a nod to the frontier folks of the past, in this frontier land of ours, we are clearing brush, trimming the waist high grasses, exploring the woods, and slowly emerging a homestead.
Dealing with fields of high grass surrounding the small home on the property was the first order of business. After these sections were cut by a hired gun with a tractor and bush hog, a little bit of where to start and what to do with these large fields approached clarity.
In the spring you cut a couple of acres and they are already ready to cut again the following weekend. Rain and warm springtime sun tends to do that to the land and the greenery.
The blades of grass, or in this case multiple species of grasses and weeds and bushes and brush, all make up the giant yard that now marks the land around the small, old home we fixed up. The recent rain urges new scents and blooms out of the grounds and trees have come alive in glowing shades of green, even the weeds are blooming colorful flowers.
This will be the first summer we spend on this acreage. It will be a work in progress for many years.
A push lawnmower is useless in these parts. It would be like using a push mower to cut a golf course. Even a riding lawnmower seems ill equipped, what’s really needed are the tractor and a bush hog.
This day we worked the perimeter of the house. Maybe next week we will tackle the fields and woods to the West, the part of this property that evokes the mythical American West. The riding mower, machete, boots, weed-whacker, axes and saws at the ready.
Off to the frontier lands. Go West, “not so” young man.