Monday, October 5, 2009

Of moose with the munchies (and machetes, oh my!)

Ah, the memories this photo brings back. Feelings of futility, rage, anger...but I will focus on the humorous story that goes along with it. Perhaps you did not know that in a former life, the Last Frontier Gardener had another alias: the Southside Chopper.

Our story unfolds a couple of years ago in the lovely metropolis of Anchorage. The city was making improvements to a park in my neck of the woods. Mountain Ash (genus Sorbus) were planted. Right next to a swamp and forested area. If you have lived in Alaska more than, say, 10 seconds, you know that moose frequent forested or swampy areas. And moose love, love, love mountain ash trees. It's not if they find them, it's when. And they did a couple of months after planting at the park. They snapped off all the leading shoots. Major scaffolding limbs were smashed and left at odd angles on the trees. When Ralphie's mother said "you'll poke your eye out," she could have been talking about a stroll down that sidewalk. Yikes.

I drove by this unlovely sight for several months before I snapped. I packed my pruning saw, Felco hand pruners, and Plantskyyd and headed out for some tree TLC. I parked the car, hiked through snow, and avoided the icy patches as best I could. I hacked away for an hour and forty-five minutes. OK, hacking doesn't quite describe it. Artfully, sensibly, pruning the broken branches with saw and hand pruners. A lot of cars were slowing down to check out what I was doing as they passed. A woman rolled down her window and thanked me. I was starting to feel pretty good.

After I slipped and slid to the trees planted in the median, I got started spraying the Plantskyyd. I love the stuff. If I didn't have it, I'm convinced my front yard trees would be short, wooden poles. As I was starting to wrap things up, saw in hand, covered in a fine mist of rotted animal blood (just what do think Plantskyyd is?), two APD cruisers rounded the corner. (My internal monologue something like: probably just some tykes into a spot of graffiti down the road. They are slowing down though. Is it possible? Yes, they are here for me!) They cautiously exited their cars, hand at holster. For a moment, I thought I might laugh but instead I said "hello, officers" and one answered by saying "uh, what are you doing?" I explained myself in my most cheerful tone and he had the good grace to look abashed and say "some lady called in and said a crazy woman was cutting down the street trees with a machete." They drove away and I laughed 'til the tears came down. Housewife doing volunteer work rates two police cruisers...I couldn't make it up if I tried.

You should know that a few days before this event, a disturbed person was running around the Sand Lake area of town with a machete and was styled "the chopper" by some, including myself. I was covered in (animal) blood and sliding down the icy sidewalk with a hand saw. I suppose I can see how the caller was confused (and now you know how I acquired my alias). The handsaw (or so-called machete) in question, is pictured, along with co-defendants (pruners and gloves).

The real point of this long reminisce is to remind you to get out the Plantskyyd (which I used religiously) or whatever you use as a deterrent and put it on any plant the moose can reach. I much prefer it to the orange vinyl construction fencing, black garbage bags, or duct tape contraptions. If you wouldn't dream of sending your yard to sleep without wrapping the trees, try burlap. It is far less conspicuous in the landscape than home improvement orange. Your neighborhood will thank you. If you need something less "mummy-on-top-of a-tree-looking" than wrapping and less odorous than spray, consider fencing. I've seen some decent chicken wire cages, both the permanent and temporary kinds.

So, final questions. Do you want your valuable, venerable, and vulnerable trees to transform into wooden sticks? Do you and the neighbors want to be looking at elevated, bright orange "tree-mummies" for 7 or 8 months? Now is the time, as my brother says, to "T.C.O.B." That's "take care of business." You've been warned.

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