Once again, I flew across the country to mow my lawn. Working on the land was only a pretense for the trip. The real reason was to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and our whole family. Conspiring with my two brothers, we surprised my mom and spent the weekend together, just the five of us.
I felt lucky that the timing worked out for us all to be fully vaccinated for this trip since we bought the tickets months ago. After this past year, it was especially emotional to be together again. Relief, joy, excitement, grief all swirling around. I’m sure you know the feelings.
As a reintroduction to life outside of my apartment, this was a perfect trip. It was also a reminder of all the reasons I love Keuka Lake. We cooked meals as a family, went out to some of the local breweries and played fetch in the lake with the dogs. We saw my grandparents and I ate pizza four times that week. I spent a week with the people I love most in a place I love. It was all so New York.
Working on the Land
I did actually get work done on the land too. As I wrote last time, the point of coming out in May was to work with the seasons and to get ahead of the major spring growth. This is all in my quest to clear the brambles and, eventually, to plant an orchard there. By doing it now instead of in July, it’ll be half as much work. That’s the idea anyway.
It rained 6 of the 7 days I was there, so the amount of work I could get done was less than I’d hoped, if I’m being honest. The rain was beautiful and much needed, after a dry summer last year. Everything is green and growing. The gullies were flowing and I found a few springs on the land. There’s water pouring out from under tree roots and stones, and it tasted great. I will check in on them this summer and see how seasonal they are. It’s a good sign for future well water.
I had one misadventure, as I’ve come to expect now. I had researched a brush mower that would help clear the land and found a place that rented them nearby. OK, the country version of “nearby”, meaning it was a 55 minute drive one-way to the rental place. After two hours of driving, you can imagine my dismay when the mower stopped working in the first 20 minutes. The land wins again.
I returned the mower the next day and got a refund, but wasted about 5 hours and two whole mornings driving. Instead of mowing, we resorted to the manual method of clearing the brambles.
It was pretty effective to clear the land by hand. The growth is a mix of various sizes, so the mower was not a pancea anyway. Raspberries, blackberries and other weeds could be sliced down with a scythe. Small saplings could get chopped with a battery powered sawzall.
The larger trees could get cut down with my Dad’s chainsaw, which we all gave him as a gift last year. Is that a selfish gift? Perhaps. But the true gift is spending time together, sweating and cussing and picking ticks off each other, isn’t it? We sure did that.
Why chop it all down?
All this clearing of overgrowth is a responsible way to manage a forest, something that was lost upon me a few years ago. This land has been mis-managed, left to fester however it pleases. All these invasive species are growing in a thicket, blocking light from saplings. It will never grow into a healthy, mature forest. The only way to get back to a healthy forest is to start over. Sometimes love looks like chopping it all down to start over again.
This video explains a bit about the results of clearing and harvesting a forest to keep it healthy. You can watch from 37:25-40:00 to get the idea. But if you have an hour, it’s a great overview of managing a food forest.
Lastly, the cabin is looking great. You’ve probably seen the recent improvements here already. There was NOT ONE MOUSE to be seen, after the entire winter. If you remember how the cabin was when I bought it, that’s a huge deal and a very good sign of things to come.
I scheduled the second round of log repairs for this summer, after which I’ll be sanding and staining the cabin. Then comes electricity. I think it should be livable (at least roughing it on a cot) by the end of this year. While we’re living out there this summer, that’ll be the goal at least.
Hey! If you’re new here, this is West Bluff Food Forest. I'm building a permaculture orchard and fixing up a log cabin in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I write about the lessons I'm learning and update you along the way. Join in!