Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cancer Survivor’s Garden – The Enchanted Forest

We have a quarter acre of woods outside the deer fence that we call The Enchanted Forest.  We have never done much with it.  It is home to Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Pacific Madrone and a Pacific Dogwood. 

This whole end of our island was logged off in the nineteen twenties.  The Douglas Fir grew back way too thick.  The property really did not have an understory.  We looked out on a quarter acre of tree trunks.  When we moved in, we thinned out some of the spindliest trees.  I never got around to planting an understory because I was busy inside the deer fence. 

We finally decided to work on The Enchanted Forest.  I was sick by this time, but thought that I would surely get better soon.  We had already contracted to have some of the sickest trees and dead trees cut when my biopsy results came back.  We ignored the forest.  The tree cutter came and took down the worst of the trees but did not clean up the mess he created.  Next, we had The Three Harsh Winters.  The ice and snow brought down more limbs and a couple small trees.  The Pacific Madrone got sick, all their leaves turned black and huge sections died and fell.

While the trees were shedding heavily, the local salal grew fantastically vigorously.  The stuff was four feet tall, thick and matted.  It was also diseased.  I couldn’t use it in floral arrangements because of the nasty black spots on the leaves. 

The tree cutter left the perimeter trail cluttered.  The First Harsh Winter left the trail impassable.  By this winter we could not get more than a few feet into The Enchanted Forest.  It came to remind me of Tolkien’s Old Forest.  It would not let us enter and was ready to attack the house.  As we investigated, it became obvious that the whole forest floor was covered with crisscrossed limbs and tree trunks.  It was a fire hazard.

Our house sits on the edge of about two hundred acres of forest.  Occasionally we do dry out enough for forest fires.  We decided that as the first buffer between the forest and our neighborhood of homes, we really needed to clean up the mess. 

We called in the people who cleared when we built the house.  The poor man looked over our little quarter acre. Being experienced with the local forests, he gave us a bid based on hauling off four huge truck-loads of debris.  Folks, he hauled ten huge loads of branches and salal out of that quarter acre.  He finally came back with his huge blade and smoothed the rough ground into a level park.  When I look out on my beautiful parkland and watch the shadows of the trees on the ground, I feel as if the restoration of my garden has begun.