If you’re planning to kill something, you’re better off not naming it first.
My Uncle Cliff was pretty nonchalant about the cycle of life and death on the farm. All his cows were dairy cows, but I can’t imagine that they aged into a big square hole with flowers and a headstone. I imagine they got et. However every one of them was named Bossy and he never warmed up to them emotionally. In fact the day he retired from farming he was positively gleeful about getting rid of the cows once and for all.
Anyway, I never named my frog. Which is good.
Still and all the same, it was a frog, a frog that had been quite a dandy in his adolescence, but had seen better days. Much better days. He did accidentally get an arm lopped off once, but it grew back, sort of, and for a while he was downright spiffy. Then he got old and fat and caved in and half of his head was pitching to portside and when it came right down to it, he was just taking up space. Boxwood works pretty well for a salamander but when you can’t tell a boxwood frog from a gigantic lumpy mushroom, you haven’t really gained anything.
But it was hard to actually pull the trigger. “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you,” I’ve been known to say to trees I’m pruning, but it’s not true in this case. Frog’s gonna die. So I waited until my friend Linder came to town. Linder is a woman of deep empathy and appreciation for the natural world and if anyone could help me humanely execute my frog, it was she. I imagined some sort of small ceremony. Parting words, hands raised in blessing, burning of sage. Some appropriate Linder-acknowledgment of the glory and gift of the biosphere.
“Okay, let’s whack this sucker,” she said, unceremoniously sweeping its big-ass frog skirts aside and exposing its naked feet for the amputation. WHACK.
All righty then! That works too.
If you’re going to murder something anyway, there’s nothing to be gained by feeling shitty about it.
It’s all about context. Linder lives on a one-acre plot that is elaborately laced with garden beds and bird feeding stations and backed up by woods she has either left alone or added to. I recently totted up 28 bird species I have ever seen in my yard. At Linder’s house you’ll count that many before your morning dump. A couple days before she flew to Portland, she was awakened at two a.m. by the sound of her centrally-located silver maple tree crashing to the ground. That sucker was eighty feet tall and twenty feet in circumference and it was only a matter of luck (a commodity Linder cultivates assiduously) that it didn’t land in her bed or level her house. The fellow who came by to estimate removal insisted she stay out of the second floor altogether until he got the other two leaders of the maple out of there. The remaining trunk is punky as a box of lint. Half of her garden beds are smashed, all her birds are confused, and she has to research sun-loving plants now.
She didn’t have any sentiment left over for my frog. Which is just as well. I don’t miss it either.
Several years back, we had an ice storm that took one whole side of limbs down from my three pine trees. I wept copiously. Then, a few years later, Paul noticed that two of them had their roots lifted and were leaning toward the house. We had to get them cut down. Once again, I cried. My mom and I had planted those trees when I was a youngster. I loved them. I still miss them, but mainly for practical reasons now. They had provided shade and mulch from their pine needles. Now that it’s sunny on that side of the house, and there are no pine needles carpeting the area, all sorts of invasives have cropped up. Poison ivy, honeysuckle, wild rose, as well as stuff that I actually like. I have to go out there and manually get rid of them, as I won’t use herbicides. Some of them, I can only keep in check, as their roots go too deep. Sure, we have a lot of other trees in our yard, but on that side of the house, they are just saplings. By the time they are big enough to provide shade, I’ll be dead. Even when my neighbor cuts her trees down ( with seeming regularity), I cry and carry on. (To myself and my parrots, with windows closed.)
Somebody’s operating a chain saw (at 8am) here and it feels like PTSD.
Oh, god, yes! I try to see who they are so I can glare at them through the window as a punishment. Needless to say, it does not deter them in the least.
I always hate it when I see trees being cut down in spring and summer. Won’t you think of the birds’ nests? The birds’ eggs? The baby birds? I guess not.
I NEVER trim my azaleas, because they say you should trim them after they flower. Well, that’s when the birds build their nests! Catbirds and cardinals love these bushes, and I would be devastated if I disturbed a nest!
I have a very tall columnar conifer that is now tilting 30 degrees off vertical and will surely crash down very soon. I can’t bring myself to cut it myself until after baby bird season!
Poison ivy is a great colonizer of disturbed spaces. Which makes me wonder why it isn’t coming out of my ears. The soil here in Jackson is mostly sand, which means if you catch the nasty stuff early enough and wear elbow length rubber gloves and pull gently, the vines will usually come up in one piece.
I think I share your reluctance about doing away with plants. I have a hard time throwing out the cuttings from my Christmas cacti when they get leggy and need to be trimmed back. The idea that they are only a pot of dirt away from being a new plant and I’m just supposed to throw them away is hard.
Paul and I had two Norfolk Pines that we rescued from a college dumpster way back. One was bigger than the other. We took them out on the deck in the spring and brought them in again in the fall. Well, the bigger one started to get inordinately bigger, to where it would not clear our ceiling. We had to leave him outside, and he passed this past winter. We burned him in our smoker. Paul debated whether we should leave the other one outside as well, as it only has a couple years until it, too, gets too tall. I told him that Norfolk Pines are probably not adherent to any religious following that demands one’s mate to burn on the pyre when one dies. But it will reside inside all year now, so that it will grow more slowly. Still, it is only a matter of time.
Now you need to build a tower for it.
Bruce, I’m pretty good at pulling up plants. Of course, they’re usually dead first.
Too bad, that frog was really cool!
Did I mention that our neighbor, without notifying us and while we were away, cut down a 40 foot redwood which draped gracefully over our fence? Now unfortunately we see another house previously hidden and hear more traffic noise from Marin Avenue.
That is so very horrible, Steve. You must be in mourning.
That frog was a pretty good specimen. Can you prop up that leaning conifer until any baby birds have flown away? I lost a great peach tree once, the landlord discovered the nearby termite nest had also invaded the trunk, so down it came.
I was going to tie it to the gas line on the house, but something made me hesitate.
The Frog was splendid, but everything has it’s expiration date. Sad about the magnificent Old Tree tho’ that your Friend lost. We once owned a Historic Property that had a 350 Year Old Tamarack on it, the City improperly exercised eminent domain and cut it down without our permission and I was as distraught as if I’d lost a Loved One! I’m very Sentimental about Nature, but you’re right, best not to Name them. I thought about getting Chickens, but they don’t live that long and I know my attachment issues would mean that if they ceased to lay Eggs, or had Roosters, I wouldn’t have the Heart to make any of them a Meal with a Name…
What in the world was the city thinking! Gadzooks! Power lines?
I’m in the tropics. No worrisome maples, but surrounded by palms. Some rather
B IIII G suckers. They rarely topple, but spent fronds, close to 6′ long hurled from 20′ +up…well they can do some damage.
I’m sure you’re right, but I can’t help but imagine that being beaned by a palm frond would feel like a caress.
Years ago I cut off a large branch of the walnut tree in spring. A fountain of water erupted and seemed to go on for ages. I felt so guilty, apologised but still feel guilty today. Of course it survived. Thelma not Anon….
I have a river birch in my backyard, and after we’ve had a heavy rain, it WEEPS. Drops of moisture rain down on our deck. This is a RIVER birch, and it’s saying, “Okay… too much water!”
I would have been shocked and stunned to see water pouring out of a tree like that.
That was brave, and wise, to leave it to Linder to bump off your beautiful, beautiful frog. Well, your once-beautiful frog. You’re the only person I know who makes topiary, and I love you for it. xox jz
I still have a working salamander but a failed snail and box turtle. I keep putting off trying to trim them and they’re getting ungainly. I still have hope though. Got to get one of those Round Tuits.
Driving in a beach community, we found a rose we loved growing near enough the road, with the owner’s house well-screened by vegetation, to enable us to take three cuttings. I rooted them in a particularly well-watered spot in our yard. They all did well. Marsha suggested I throw away two of the three. I cried. Well, it turned out that one was plenty. I took a flower and some leaves to a professional rose grower, who made the sign of the cross with his fingers, as if to ward off a vampire, and said that if he found that at his place he’d tear it out without a second thought, because it’s such a pest. But he did identify it for us: Dorothy Perkins, the “Perkins” being from the same family as the Perkins in Jackson and Perkins. Books told me it’s a good rose to plant if there is a junked car on your property you want to hide. In the UK they distinguish between “rambles” and “scramblers.” I think it’s a scrambler. We kept one of the three anyway, and with due attention paid several times a year I can keep it from prying the fence boards apart or covering the fence entirely. In the town I got the cutting from, they trim them annually with a hedge clipper, pruning be damned. I don’t know what our neighbors will do when Dorothy sends roots under the fence into their yard. If I ever decide that getting along with the neighbors requires that I kill it, I will cry again.
Now you’ve got me worried about my yellow climbing rose which I’ve planted next to a magnolia. It’s taking over. I don’t know if that’s okay or not.
One of the invasives that has planted itself where the pines used to be is the wild rose. It looks and smells heavenly. But. It DOES take over. And it has deep roots, so I have to repeatedly trim it back. No way can I pull it out. There are days when I’m just like “WTH?! We’ll just let everything go, and it will look like the haunted mansion in Stranger Things.” Especially on days like today, when the “Supreme Court” basically said that women (who are ACTUAL life forms) are not as important as POTENTIAL life forms. I’m seething.
We just had to cut down a 45-foot black walnut. It had been dead for several years, so it didn’t hurt as much anymore. Squirrels used to half-eat nuts and drop the rest with a sound like a pachinko machine. The tree person relieved my guilt by telling us that all black walnuts in the front range were dieing. We are comforted that a friend will make beautiful things with the lumber.
Always good to leave a snag if it isn’t going to decapitate you some day.
OMG… black walnut is wonderful to make stuff with! My husband and I found a large quantity of black walnut lumber in a dumpster when they were refurbishing a local high school. We didn’t know what it was, took a bit of it to a local lumber store, and the guy told us what it was and offered to pay us a thousand dollars for the lot. We said “Hell, no! This is our new kitchen table!” Paul not only made a trestle table with two benches from it, but a rolling spice rack that fits between our stove and sink, plus a knife rack that goes on the wall. I also gave a bit of it to a local knife-maker, who made me a beautiful carbon steel chef’s knife with the walnut handle.