May 29, 2020

Ignorance Carries a Fearful Price

• By John F. Chisholm •

We have dogs.  I’ve told you that.  In fact, we have a lot of dogs.  Having four or five home at any one time is nothing unusual.  Sometimes it’s more.  Rarely is it any less.  Still, I can’t remember the last time I stepped in the inevitable result of keeping that many dogs.

It’s not that I’m clever.  Neither am I agile.  I’m not lucky, either.  (Please, let me prove that right here.)  My wife is simply aggressive about cleaning up after them.  It’s something I’ve never paid much attention to.  I should have through.  Clearly I should have.

Ignorance carries a fearful price.

In my defense, I’m distracted by other things.

Every fall, there’s a tremendous amount of trim-up work to be done on this farm.  I take that effort seriously.  Four feet of annual growth is common with certain woody species.  Balsam poplar can beat that.  Seriously.  I’ve seen six feet of annual growth with that species, particularly if the root is well-established.  Pussy willow isn’t apt to grow that tall ― at least not in any one year.  It makes up for that deficit by growing in bunches.  An annual growth of six to eight stalks in a clump of two- to three-foot-high pussy willow is very common.

Both of these species are bad, but neither are the worst.  Red osier is insidious.  It can grow five feet a year ― sideways.  Over that length, smaller shoots stick up and leaf out.  It’s easy ― far, far too easy ― to mow just the shoots and miss the stalks.  They root down if ignored, spreading red osier that much farther for the next season, greatly exacerbating an already considerable effort.

If you aren’t active trimming back plant growth, in two years’ time, certainly in three or four, your fences are tangled masses of wire and willow, posts and poplar with red osier making the entire thing a rat’s nest of chainsaw-eating wood and wire.  There were hundreds and hundreds of feet of overgrown, abandoned fencing on this farm when we moved in.  So, yes, this is the voice of experience speaking.  Go ahead.  Try preventing your electric fencing from grounding out through all that.  Good luck.

Of course if your fences ground, your animals get out.  If your animals get out, you’ll spend a lot of time wishing  ― wishing fervently ― with obscenity-laced explicatives ― that you’d maintained your fences better.  Trust me.

The point is, I’m an aggressive weed-whacker.  You would be, too.  I come in from our fence rows every fall afternoon covered, head to toe, in bits of raspberry stalks, leaf litter, burrs, beggar lice and brambles.  It’s the inescapable result of weed-whacking.  The trim lines throw a great deal of material.  They hurl it with conviction.  It sticks where it lands.

This is all pertinent.  Trust me.

Because yesterday I discovered where my wife has been disposing of the inevitable results of keeping this many dogs.  The weed-whacker found an extensive deposit with no problem, none at all, spread out, buried, disguised and completely hidden among grasses, weeds and woody plants.

Guess what I was covered in, reeked of and sincerely regretted discovering?

Words cannot express it.

My wife’s hands flew to her face, covering her mouth and grasping her nose as soon as she saw me.

I studied the floor, shuffling my feet.  Then I glanced up.  “Honey?  Next year, when you clean up after the dogs, would you please throw it a little farther from the fence?”

Ignorance carries a fearful price.