trimming the trees
Monday, November 27 2006
This morning I took the dogs on another walk to the southeastern tip of the 4000 foot long property we're purchasing. I've decided that the tip actually falls near a line of spectacular bluestone cliffs following the 650 contour line around the east and south side of "Canary Hill." I walked along the base of these cliffs today, admiring the differences in their faces. Some were nearly smooth like a wall made of concrete, while others had extremely rough surfaces where thin beds of rock had been eroded away by random amounts. Many were undercut several feet and could provide shelter to a hiker caught in a downpour.
It's that time of year again, and so this afternoon I could be found perched atop a ladder into the evergreens south of the house, trimming the trees. Unlike some of our neighbors, though, I use the term "trimming" to mean cutting parts off of them, not hanging plastic objects and strings of lights bought at a dollar store. I've always been disappointed with the relationship between our house and the local topography, where a mysteriously-acting creator saw fit to erect a low evergreen-studded hill immediately to the south. The hill wouldn't block precious winter sun if they weren't home to so many hemlocks, and those same hemlocks wouldn't be a problem if they were not perched on a hill. The obvious thing to do would be to cut down the hemlocks (and a couple spindly White Pines as well). But I'm not the sort of person who delights in felling living trees, and in any case most of them are not actually ours to cut down (much of the land to the immediate southwest of our house actually belongs to our uphill neighbors).
So, as previously mentioned, today I undertook a compromise solution, climbing up in those trees and cutting off their branches. I removed all the branches below a certain height on three different hemlocks, opening up a window through the forest. This window wasn't perfect; there were plenty of deciduous branches intruding into it and its bottom sill was defined by a treeline of mature White Pines over 100 feet away. Nonetheless, now there is a band of reasonably-unobstructed sky visible from the large south windows of the living room, and this band corresponds roughly to the low path of the winter sun. There is more to be done, of course, but it's possible this will help a little with winter passive solar energy collection.
This evening Gretchen was craving burgers and fries (both vegetarian) so we went out to our newest favorite restaurant, the Dietz Stadium Diner in Uptown Kingston. Nobody called us darlin but our waitress was impressed by how healthy we were eating. That's saying something considering a third of it was deep fried potatoes and another third was root beer. (That final third included Titanic-sinking lettuce, slices of American Pink Tomato, and coleslaw that was good until you found your way to the deep puddle of mayonaise at the bottom.)
Over dinner Gretchen told me about her miserable day in Schoharie County, where she'd attended a animal cruelty case with various Catskill Animal Sanctuary people. The sanctuary ended up with several truckloads of nearly-dead animals last winter from the defendant in this case, but the problem with trying her is the unjust rural upstate court system. New York is peculiar as a state in that outside its municipalities it relies on a so-called "Justice Courts" presided over by elected amateurs with little or no legal experience and with proceedings held in such places as garages and rumpus rooms. The proceedings today took place in fireman's hall where the judge's bench was a table with foldable legs. Representing the animals in this case was the incompetent-yet-nebbishy Schoharie district attorney, who could never find what he was looking for in his stack of papers. When told by the judge that he couldn't pursue a line of argument, he kept coming back to it anyway as if incapable of following instructions. Meanwhile the defendant's attorney was a charismatic bully of the Bill O'Reilly school, who kept flirting inappropriately with members of the jury and verbally abusing the district attorney in ways that in any real court would be found contemptuous. It's profoundly troubling that this sort of thing can happen in any American jurisdiction outside of Guantanamo.
An added nugget of absurdity in this confection of the absurd was the bumper sticker Gretchen spied on a car belonging to the animal-starving defendant. It read, "Support Our Troops, Give War a Chance."
On the drive back from the restaurant something made me say "Mentally Ill!" in the quick falsetto of a frustrated crazy person with a slight speech impediment (it was modeled on the verbal stylings of my brother, actually). It was inexplicably hilarious and gave Gretchen a real chuckle, following the fast-track to in-jokehood. Mentally Ill!
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