Tree Killer

I went to battle the other day with a burly and gnarled old willow tree that was sitting on prime creek-front real estate, choking out the sunlight, and generally being an unkempt and unruly mess. We started with a new brush cutting implement I used to cut away the thicket of blackberry brambles surrounding the beast, and then moved on to the chainsaw. By day one I had most of the foliage removed from the stump, which had clearly been cut at before. Instead of dying the willow kept sending out new trunks, so the thing I was dealing with was a multi-armed, contorted hunk of heavy, wet wood.

The second day I set fire to the pile of blackberry brambles and let it crawl towards that hacked willow stump. The fire burned away all the remaining brambles, as well as the thatch of broken dried blackberry stems that coated the ground beneath them. It left behind clean, smoldering earth, pocked every couple of feet with leftover blackberry roots. Eventually I should dig each of those out by hand, or expect to be seeing them again.

I’m left with several feet of gray and blackened willow stump. Soon I will bring out the chainsaw again and hack more of it off, then pile brush and deadfall around what remains before burning it until there is nothing left to burn.

The whole exercise leaves me feeling vindicated for the results of the hard slog, and also feeling like a killer. I don’t know how old that willow is, but it has clearly fought long and hard to establish itself in that spot, and I have deprived it of the right to be. Except that the willow will carry on—Trish asked me to save a bucket of cuttings with the idea of eventually planting them and creating willow sculpture. Willow is one of the easiest plants to clone. You can take a cutting from a willow and essentially stick it in the ground, and it will take root and grow. I’ve even heard that horticulturists will grind up willow and use the paste as a natural hormone. Besides all that, I’m not completely convinced the original willow will die. There are still ominous pockets of root and trunk that look to me as though it may simply be hiding underground and biding its time.

A Little Sanctimony

Speaking of killing, I really wish this modern-day fascination with bacon would subside, or that at least people would
do the smallest bit of research into the living conditions of factory-farmed hogs. These are smart animals. If you knew
a pig, you’d probably enjoy its company. Personalities aside, factory farmed pigs spend their entire lives confined in steel cages no larger than an average pet carrier. It’s animal cruelty on a massive, industrial scale, and you shouldn’t participate in it simply because “it tastes good.” If we saw someone treating their pets the way we collectively treat the sources of our fast-food bacon and store-bought hams, we’d condemn that person as a malicious and callous individual. So what does that make us?

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Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.