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The woods around us consist mostly of ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), and every autumn we have a few weekends of frantic leaf collecting (particularly frantic around the chicken run). The trees seem to shed leaves at random – one tree will be completely starkers, while another is just turning, so the chore of collection seems endless. Any leaves that fall on borders are left there, but we rake leaves from the paths and lawn (they smother the grass), adding them to the compost heap.
Finally, by the end of November the work is done and the trees settle back into a period of winter hibernation.
Or do they? No, they do not because, come January and February, the trees start shedding again. Not leaves this time but something far less useful: seeds. Do you know how many seeds an ash tree can produce? Neither do I, but it seems like a limitless supply.
We sweep up barrow loads of the blighters and then are rather stuck with what on earth we should do with them. I don’t want to put them on the compost heap lest they just snuggle down and wait to ambush me next year. They are too wet for burning and I feel oddly guilty if I put them in the council recycling bin as I may just be passing the problem on to somebody else. My cunning solution is to leave them in a bin with some water in the hope that they will drown.
In spite of all this sweeping I know that soon there will be baby ash seedlings popping up all over the garden. They are fine if you get them early enough but they don’t half grow fast when they get going. I have a few which are so embedded in the roots of other plants that all I can do is cut them down each year.
However, they are a constant reminder of the impermanence of man (if you would excuse me for getting a bit philosophical for a moment). I know that if we stopped gardening here then within a very few years the trees would reclaim the garden and we would sink back into the arms of nature.
I find that strangely comforting.
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