Circle the wagons

Sometimes, a problem is so big, it calls for a big, loud and growling solution. Such was the case recently at Howlets. After two large trees were taken down and a long-forgotten kitchen garden was cleared of years of unchecked growth, we were faced with a 10-foot high pile of brush filling the parking spaces for two cars.

As readers of this blog know, Howlets is a 100 year old stone house overlooking Folly Cove in Rockport, Massachusetts, purchased last year by friends David and Heather. The grounds of the property had unfortunately been neglected, save for the lawns being mowed. David and Heather and I hashed out a plan to “take back” the grounds. David has been digging up the kitchen garden of briars, saplings and other unwanted volunteer growth — and he has the scratches on his arms to prove it. Heather has been weeding, replanting and restructuring a long narrow garden bed which hugs a sweeping stone wall. Two old, half-dead locust trees were removed by a professional tree service and the usable wood cut into fireplace lengths. Some of the remaining crowns of the large trees were thrown on the ever-growing pile. A parking spot for two cars at the bottom of the driveway had been sacrificed for the woody detritus that seemed to grow exponentially.

Feed me

Once Spring had sprung, how to get rid of the eyesore was on all of our minds. A wood chipper, of course! What is it about men and their fascination with power equipment? Boys and their toys, I suppose? As I excitedly drove off  to hitch up the rented wood chipper to my station wagon, I tried not to focus on the Freudian answer to that question. The yellow beast was much larger than I imagined, and as I got a quick lesson on the intricacies of its operation from the rental agent, nagging thoughts of performance anxiety began to rear their ugly head.

Bump and grind

All fears were put to rest as the engine sputtered to life and began to chew up pieces of wood as big as my arm. During the course of the six hours that it took to work through the pile, we watched the beast’s revolving sharp teeth pull the branches into the grinder, conjuring images from gory movies (Fargo, anyone?). The possibility of drawing back a bloody stump kept both David and me hyper vigilant. Fortunately, no ambulance trips to the emergency room were necessary and the woody mountain we called Everest was finally conquered. Sir Edmond Hillary had nothing on us that day, at least in our own minds.