Monday, April 7, 2014

the Mulberry Hedge

Rob grew up in town. His family had a small yard. And, yet, there appear to be a fair number of stories about him and that yard. Why is that? We shall allow you to ponder that whilst we tell our tale.

The back yard was bordered by a series of mulberry trees/bushes that were trimmed into a hedge (of sorts). If you know mulberries, you realize that they can grow VERY quickly and an established group could rapidly grow from 10 feet tall to 20 feet tall in a season. It did a fine job of providing privacy for our neighbors (hey, there were four kids at our house and none at theirs - so I suspect it went this direction more than the other).  But, I liked the mulberries in part because they attracted wildlife to our yard.

Brown Thrasher aka Chirpa Chirpa Bird

Birds loved that hedge.  We learned to appreciate brown thrashers, robins, goldfinches, wrens, cardinals, waxwings and all sorts of birds because of the habitat this single hedge provided.  Tiger swallowtails liked to run the line and switch sides as they flew their route and we were periodically graced with the appearance of a mourning cloak (butterfly).  One of the downsides would have to be the bird droppings that contained mulberry.  I am guessing a few neighbors were less fond of our natural habitat when they were scrubbing their cars.

The job of taming this hedge fell to me - the boy with the pruner and the box. In this instance, an 8-foot step ladder was also pressed into service. Typically, I was trying to cut the hedge down from 16 feet to 10 feet in late July/early August. And, since I wanted to do the job well, it was important that I not leave any stragglers and that the top be as level as possible.  Now, don't ask me WHY the top had to be level.  It just did.  That's how you trimmed hedges - right?

I had some additional motivation since one of our neighbors was extremely particular about everything on his property.  This person would scrape and repaint the eave on his garage every year.  He would crawl his entire lawn looking for weeds.  While I thought he was obsessive about such things, he was a great neighbor and I didn't want him thinking I couldn't do a good job.  So, I did my best to bring this wild thing into some sort of shape for the rest of the year.

Mulberry tree on the farm at left
The hedge was also probably 10 feet wide in places. Do you see a problem with that? Consider my height of approximately 5 and half feet at that time. How does a person reach the middle of that hedge at the ten foot level in order to trim those branches? There were many hours of leaning into the hedge with one foot on the ladder. Arms and legs fully extended. Eventually leading to the successful trimming of some of the middle branches.  I distinctly remember the sore shins I would get because I would hook my leg (or legs) between the rungs so I could lean in further.

There were a few bruises, scratches and pulled muscles - but I usually succeeded. Until the day I fell into the hedge. Yes, you knew this was coming. I lost contact with the ladder and lost my grip on the bigger branch I was using to stay on top of the hedge. And, I fell. Well, no, I didn't fall. I just kind of slid through the bushes....slowly.  The Tiger Swallowtail floating by probably flew in a straight line for a second there as it suffered a fit of the giggles as it watched me fall in.

Tiger Swallowtail aka Tiger Swallowtail
Hey, if a human has a giggle fit while walking, they zigzag a bit.  If a butterfly, who flies in a zigzag pattern giggles, it probably results in flying a straight line.  This all makes sense as long as you allow yourself to believe that a butterfly can giggle  Once you accept that, the rest is easy.

Of course, I suffered more scratches and bruises from this unplanned tour of the hedge than I normally did during the entire process.   I suppose I could have quit for the day. But, the pruner was still up at the top of the hedge. Oh well.

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