(2.2) The Grand Plan

Look at the bright side, we said. For some time we had been thinking about thinning trees. Maybe Isabel did us a favor. Well, she could have been a little

View of our backyard from the second floor

more fastidious about picking up her prunings. Oh, don’t quibble, she was having too much fun banging about and knocking things over.

What to do first. We were so busy watching the lopping, we never thought about how we’d pick up the pieces. We needed The Grand Plan. And we needed to implement it–fast. At the very least, we should

Crepe myrtles and black-eyed susans the previous July

not lose the loppers. Deadheading blackeyed Susans or pruning roses would probably not be Number One and Two in The Grand Plan.

How about Raking for Number One in The Grand Plan. Yes, we can’t go wrong with raking. Imagine all the mulch we’d have if we chipper-shredded all this stuff! Number Two in The Grand Plan: Shred and recycle litter from Isabel.

So we raked. We raked with a joie de vivre and an energy that can only come from supreme confidence in well conceived goals. We raked neat little piles. We

Piles of litter, foreground, grew and grew

raked little piles into big piles. We raked big piles into Magnificent Mounds. Magnificent Mounds multiplied like sorcerer’s brooms. We glowed with the happy fantasy of progress. . .

. . .Until the Magnificent Mounds stretched from one end of the garden to the other, leaving us no place to walk. The glow began to fade. The Grand Plan was not so grand. Change Number One in The Grand Plan to: Throw

The Magnificent Mounds threatened to bury us

out the broken wheelbarrow and buy a couple of new ones. Change Number Two in The Grand Plan to: Cart litter in new wheelbarrows to roadside for pickup.

Too bad. This was gold for the garden. In a snail’s time there would have been volumes of rich, good-smelling soil. But we did not have the luxury of poking along on snail-time.

At least we could save downed tree limbs. You want to keep these? asked the Texas Tree Man we had hired to take care of the big stuff. Yes. Just pile them

Bob creating a pile of edgers from tulip tree branches

over there (another pile). We use them as edgers for paths. How many do you need? he asked, uncertainly. All of them, we said.

We were ecstatic. We are always looking for edgers because the pileated woodpeckers poke them to pieces looking for grubs. Now, in a day, we were granted edgers-for-life. The Texas Tree Man was less enthusiastic.

Funny about the edgers. They remind us that this garden is not ours alone. We share it with creatures who may find as much comfort here as we do. That low-key but rhythmic tap-tapping of pileateds reminds us to listen to the wild world. It connects us to the mysterious–and not so mysterious–lives of wild creatures.

Pileated catching a meal from a downed log. Internet photo

With many of our trees gone, we thought the wildlife would be gone, and the mysteries, too. We were mistaken.

Pileateds did not desert us. They continued their tapping. Squirrels scrounged downed hickory nuts and crabapples and other seed delicacies, stashed them in underground hideaways they would forget about. Midwives for future forests, they are. They sampled a goodly share, too. By wintertime our squirrels would be fat and bushy-tailed.

Wood thrush catching a meal before he leaves for Mexico? Internet photo

Catbirds and mourning doves, never regulars in our dense woods, came to explore the open spaces. Hairy woodpeckers inspected damaged trees. Future living quarters? Emergency bug-meals? A wood thrush scratched for insects. Shy and retiring, we usually don’t see him. He serenades us with his flutey song from deep in the woods during late spring.

A single yellowthroat hesitantly warbled onto the scene. Turtles found a log poking out of the jumble. They spent hours lining up and lounging, wet shells reflecting sunshine on autumn days made for play.

Sometimes the work seemed never-ending

For us, back to The Grand Plan.  It took several weeks, but one day we stood at road edge and stared, strangely self-satisfied with what we were seeing: a block-long mountain of Isabel’s handiwork. It had been hauled there by the workers we had hired, and by us, too.

Then it was time to settle down with a glass of tea to watch the roadside show, brought to us compliments of DOT. “Clash of the Dinos,” we called it, as we watched a triceratops truck butt

Lovely to sit and watch other people work

log-lunches into the hungry jaws of a tyrannosaurus truck. When it was over, we didn’t look back.

But I am jumping way ahead in my story of how Isabel challenged two gardeners.

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