Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Oak Killing

I've been busy for the past couple of days killing oak trees for the Wethersfield Beautification Trust. It's the type of gardening that I do best - pure brute force grow 'um and mow 'um horticulture.

(photo by Mars)

My victims aren't really all that big - six to twelve inches tall - but they stand pretty much shoulder to shoulder in the midst of one of the small gardens that the trust's volunteers plant and maintain. This plot unfortunately sits directly under a couple of oaks - resulting in enough shade to keep several of the planted species from doing much growing in addition to fostering the aforementioned tiny forest of woody perennials.

The work isn't particularly taxing. It requires some degree of agility to crouch and duck-walk among the plants into which the oak-lettes have embedded themselves, a little eye-hand coordination to discern and grab the correct stem out of the crowd, an occasional burst of strength to dislodge some of the more deeply implanted stalks, and a decent sense of balance to keep from sprawling backwards when the difficult-to-remove invader releases its grip on the earth. The effect on my body is not that dissimilar from a moderately vigorous yoga class.

But pulling oaks actually should make me feel a little uneasy - not quite like a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals killing a bug - but just a little bit guilty perhaps.

It's probably because oaks aren't weeds - which is what I normally spend my time removing. Weeds are things that by common consensus just do not belong. People may disagree a little bit as to what constitutes a weed and what doesn't. And how best to get rid of them - spray or dig. But in the end there is no PETW to disapprove of their displacement.

Oaks on the other hand clearly belong, especially in New England. They dominated the landscape prior to the arrival of the first English Settlers. And have provided the infrastructure for colonial (and later) homes as well as the sturdy, high-quality furniture that furnished them and nowadays is endlessly extolled on Public Television's Antiques Roadshow. The founding fathers of Connecticut preserved the constitution of our state (the first written one) by sequestering it in Hartford's famous Charter Oak.

In the pantheon of New England trees, oaks rule!

Or did at one time.

Now, when not in their proper places, they are annoying intruders in our decorated landscapes.

If the Native American inhabitants of what would become our small Connecticut village had a Beautification Trust I fear that there might never have been a Towne of Wethersfield.

Essays are made by fools like me....

1 comment:

monica said...

weeds only grow where they're not wanted