Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chop it down to size: Parallels in life and health

Just past 4 p.m. on Easter, I sat on the back step of our patio and stared in amazement. "After three years," I said, turning to Mark, "I can't believe it's done. They are finally gone."

Enjoying a strawberry basil cooler that first summer with the bushes in the background. Note that I'm about 9 months pregnant in this picture.

Since the first summer in our house three years ago, I have had a volatile relationship with two honeysuckle bushes.They were overgrown, invasive and taking up highly prized garden space. The branches grew through the chain link fence, hanging over our neighbor's driveway, and the daffodil bulbs planted underneath didn't get enough sunlight to bloom.

I let the frustration simmer for a year or two before trying to take on the problem. We cut it down with the help of my father-in-law (and his chain saw). We took advantage of wet springs and tried to dig them out in a single effort. No matter how much we thought we did, the bushes won.

In the fall, I had had enough. I didn't think I could make another feeble attempt, many of which had made the area a sore sight in the yard. I called a tree removal company and got an estimate. As they always do, the estimate was more than we hoped and the worker's sheet included notes of other spots in the lawn that also required attention. There was a dead tulip tree in the front and a near death pine in the back. It would be good for another bush to go, and the company made other suggestions for improvement. The total bill was not looking pretty.

Overwhelmed, I tucked the estimate in a drawer and tried to forget about it.

But I couldn't. Even through the tough winter, the two bushes stood there as if they were taunting me. They seemed alive despite the hacking and frigid temperatures, and I knew they would once again take over. With a renewed drive (and plans to grow my garden space), I decided to do something.

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For the past several weeks, I have tackled the blight - a step at a time. I borrowed my father-in-law's chain saw and cut the bushes to 2 feet in height. Using a pair of pruning clippers (sharpened by Mark), I further cut the branches. With the chain saw, again, I cut exposed roots. I dug some more. Cut more. Going a little deeper each time.

We (Mark and I) were going to give it a break on Easter. The morning had been busy and stressful at times, and we needed to relax. But I couldn't. The branches were staring at me and being so close to the finish line, I knew that I needed to do it then or it never would happen.

In my Easter dress (an $8 find at Old Navy), I grabbed the axe from the garage and started work. I cut the root ball into pieces, dug around it to expose more roots and then hacked them. Mark came out and, together, we pulled piece by piece out. Sweat dripped and the muscles in my back burned but each piece of wood that got tossed in the burn pile made it worthwhile.

An hour in, Miles toddled out from his nap. He blew some bubbles and played as we kept at it. He was tired but with the promise of a trip to the park, he let us finish.

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After our trip, I took a moment to soak it in. It seemed so strange that after all that angst, everything was finished. I didn't need people to do it for me and I didn't need fancy equipment or to pay someone for a drastic procedure. I just needed to muscle up, dig, cut away the layers and pull out the bad parts.

The holes were filled with ash and dirt, and the area will soon be tilled to make room for more garden space. In the spot where bad things grew, new life (squash, eggplant and tomatoes) will grow.

Maybe I'm being overly introspective (thanks, therapy!) but there seemed to be so many parallels between life, health, fitness and weight loss in those bushes. We want something, we say we want to do it but when it comes down to it, more often than not we want someone to do it for us. If we give up that ideal and give ourselves a chance, we are far more capable than we gave ourselves credit.

Note: Mark was helping A LOT with this process but I felt a lot of ownership with the project as my hate for the bushes ran deep.


  1. Way to stick it out and get that done! We have some honeysuckle that has taken over some of our landscaping! My hubby curses it every spring because not only is it just in the way but he's allergic. Ugh. Maybe I need to muscle up to our pesky beasts too.

  2. And isn't it sooooo much more satisfying to see the end result when you know it came from your own hard work?

  3. Way to be all Tony Danza and show that bush who's the boss!