Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Zen of Grape Ivy

When my wife Margaret & I moved to our current country home on 22 acres after living in the city for all of our  lives, we knew that things would be different. As city homeowners we always subcontracted the care of our property to either willing neighborhood kids or a landscaping service, so caring for property is not something that comes naturally to me.

My expectations were simple enough, I figured that I’d just mow the 5-6 acres that have a “grass-like” growth on it, and leave the rest of it to nature—as is. 

But, as I walked through the woods, I noticed a pernicious plant called “grape ivy”—“wild grape vine” (vitis aestivalis I think.) strangling many of the trees. Now these are no small vines by the way, we are talking about vines with diameters ranging from 2 to 5 inches, and reaching 60–70 feet up into the trees—one plant often engulfing 2 or 3 neighboring trees as well. I knew that the vines were choking the life out of the native white ash, shag-bark hickory, maple and oak trees on our property and decided that I had to do something about it. 

At first I thought I could just pull it out of the trees with my hands—fat chance of that happening. So, I started carrying a small folding saw with me to cut the vines at the base hoping to at least stop the spread of this pesky plant. Then in later walks I started bringing a bow saw, and finally a chain saw to deal with the larger ones. But I still had these dangling masses of vines strung between trees making it impossible to walk through, and still choking the trees. 

So, the only way to get this stuff out of the trees was to pull it out using a tractor. I’m sure it’s hard to imagine how the process of attaching a 50-foot chain to a 40 horsepower 4-wheel drive tractor and yanking grape ivy out of trees could be “Zen-like”—but trust me, it is. Knowing that this small act can rescue the trees makes me feel like I’m doing what’s right—and good. 

And the final result is that over the past seven years I’ve managed to rescue well over 100 trees on our property, giving them a chance to prosper and grow without the stranglehold of grape ivy. The funny thing is though, that because there are so many trees still encumbered, it’s hard to see that I’m even making any progress. 

Maybe our (soon-to be-born) grandchild will get to enjoy our property more, and that alone could make it all worthwhile.


A small pile of grape ivy recently removed—ready to be burned.

Here's the next challenge, that 3 inch wide vine you see above is poison ivy! Now what the heck do I do about that?


Lisa said...

Don't you just love spending time with nature :). Yeah, right, huh? Not in this case. I too have the grape ivy everywhere and have pulled it and cut it in an attempt to save some trees.

one-third each of soap water, vinegar, and salt. Mix these as well as you can.

I have not really had much of a problem with the poison ivy. We have very little here (but, my kids usually find it, of course). I have read that 1/3 cup of each soapy water (organic dish soap-local stores have it), salt, and vinegar will eradicate it. I think I'd try putting in a lawn sprayer, rather than a small scort bottle, for a big job.

Good luck.

Lisa said...

See what happens when I don't revise. It's my click happy fingers that caused me to leave a sentence just kind of hanging the grape vine you mention :) Lesson learned, again.

Joe said...

DM - You ruthless, heartless, uncaring bastard! What about the living spirits of the vines?! They're just trying to make a living, just like you. They have kids, many have grandchildren (as you're about to), they're saving for retirement... & you come along with a fat polluting tractor and rip out their hearts! Tell me: is THIS your idea of "Zen"? And by the way, ever heard of "karma"?