Is Gardening a Workout? This Kind Is...
Sunday, April 21, 2013
I like bamboo. Three years ago I had a few varieties planted in the back yard. Our place looks down a slope and across a street to a wall of apartment balconies; this seemed a good way to get some privacy and block some of the noise.
Bamboo can grow in a clump or it can spread by running. The nice man who brought the bamboo assured us he brought clumping varieties. He was mostly right, but two of the plants he put in are runners. By the end of last year I knew they were going to be a problem; the barrier we'd installed doesn't even slow it down. Last fall I took a saw out there and cut down one of the clumps, and made a good start on the very challenging task of getting the roots out before it got too muddy.
So now it's spring, and those roots are putting up shoots. Since I've been working out so much I figured digging would be easier than it was last fall. Silly me.
I put on my boots and gloves today, grabbed the mattock, and tromped around to the back of the house. I moved two wrought iron poles supporting bird feeders; there's suet and niger seed and sunflower seeds there, and vast numbers of birds come and go all day.
OK, here we go. Up went the mattock, and down; up again, and down. Tug and twist to get it out, then swing it again. All the while standing on a slope of very soft soil, so footing was tricky. Whack, whack, whack - finally! one little chunk of root gave up it's grip. Stand there and breathe. I was sweating already.
After a few more whacks yielded one more little chunk of root, I needed to SIT DOWN! I walked up to my back porch. As soon as I was still, the surrounding trees filled up with confused birds. Chickadees, gold finches, purple finches, lesser finches, nuthatches, downy woodpecker, bush tits, sparrows - all wondering where has the food gone? On the ground, a wren and some yellow-crowned sparrows were happy with fallen seed and turned earth, but in the trees all was indignation.
I watched the birds for a few moments, and caught my breath. OK, let's give it another go. I walked down the slope, and the birds moved off. I got my footing and started swinging that heavy (is it getting heavier?) tool over my head and down. One side like a pick, goes deep; the other side like an ax, and the whole thing curved so by pushing back on the handle the end in the dirt is lifting (trying to lift) the rootball of that bamboo up out of the heavy wet earth. It was a terrific workout! Every 15 minutes or so I'd stop and sit down. The chickadees found the bird feeders, and soon all the birds had settled back into their munching routine - interrupted by me when I started digging again.
I was at it for about an hour and dug a big trench all around that root ball but only got a little of it out. It's there waiting for me. And I still have to cut down the other clump, and dig that up.
This is going to take a while.