A Break Away
by Susan Schmidlin
I had a marvelous vacation away from the farm recently (it has been quite a while since I ventured away for more than just day-trips). The vacation was a real chance for me to get away, re-group, and have fun. Most people who hear about my fun tend to roll their eyes and give me strange feedback on what I call enjoyment, but this break was a true treasure.
The distance from the farm was less than 3 hours away, in the wilds of Western Washington. My niece and nephew-in-law had just purchased a house with property and had invited family out to have a retreat/work party to get the house ready for remodel before they actually move in.
It is an absolutely beautiful piece of property with several shops and out-buildings, a small creek that runs through the middle of the place, and a house that will be amazing after the contractor does some magic. The family, in preparation for the contractor, got to tear up flooring, remove moldings, smash and scoop tile and make run after run with wheelbarrows to the large, truck sized refuse bin that was located half a football field away. There was a lot of noise, a lot of dust, and a lot of laughter as we all tackled the projects with wild abandon.
Into the afternoon, the family broke up into 2 groups. By this time the temp had climbed into the upper 90’s and the creek began to call our names during lulls in the frantic pace. The creek gave us the opportunity to break away and cool off with a little splash now and again before returning to work. The fans were set up in the house to keep an airflow going as the power equipment and hammering dusted inside the structure.
The fellas stayed mostly indoors, sledgehammering and scooping up tile, while the ladies started outside to tackle the overgrown vegetation that had, over the years, enveloped most of the yard and the house. The amount of plants around the house and yard was staggering. I think that the sheer variety and volume of growing species would surpass most garden centers.
It was obvious that the previous owner not only had a green thumb but was a true collector of diverse species. Plants had all but swallowed the house, darkening all light access inside and many were planted so close to the house that the branches were rubbing on the siding and hampering gutter structures. The ladies of this outting attacked the bushes with the same vigor as the boys and their sledge hammers inside the house.
Once we got into a rhythm of hacking our way into a densely packed area, we started trimming up the plants that were just overgrown and totally removing those that were too monstrous to leave so close to the house. There was a steady barrage of questions to my niece and to the group debating if a plant should be trimmed or removed. A chant was started to deal with the questions, “If in doubt, grub it out.” 100’s of the plants still had roots remaining and will continue to grow back, we just slowed them down a bit. It will be much easier to make the final decision after we have this first clean-out complete.
Finding many branches too big for long-handled clippers, I asked about a using a saw. I was expecting to have a bow saw or hand saw available for the task. I was delighted to be told that there was a power saw. Oh my gosh, I thought, that would make the job so much easier. I was absolutely floored when my nephew-in-law pulled out a brand new Stihl chainsaw!
Now I have used a lot of saws, and I have seen new saws at the local hardware store, and I have even used saws that have had new chains on them, but I have never ever had the opportunity to use a brand spanking, not a single ding, first-time fired-up chainsaw. I was giddy with the prospect of tearing into the massive overgrowth of vegetation. I yanked the rope and the saw sprang to life.
I took out rhododendrons that were twice my height, stumps from trees that had been cut off many years ago, laurel bushes that hugged the roof-line of the house, and downed a couple of fir trees that were too close to other trees. I was in heaven. It was so much fun!
The decision about what to do with all the yard debris gave the new owners pause. While they thought about it, all the branches and whole plants were piled along the yard. My brother took one look at the amount of plant material and stated that it looked like a bomb went off in the front yard.
The decision was made to get the mess of debris off the yard and a large pile was made on the other side of the driveway. By the time we were done with the pile it was nearing the size of a semi-truck. Did I mention that the property was overgrown?
It was a totally exhausting time.
This was just the best vacation I have ever had!