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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rainy Day Essay: Fenceline Eucalyptus

Above is a photo taken yesterday either by Norma or by me with my prehensile tail. Now that I am 4 years into retirement, it grows back sometimes. I was busy with loppers and chainsaw, clearing volunteer eucalyptus trees from our fenceline. These trees were introduced to California in the middle of the last century. So was I. But the connection goes further.

In order to follow this reasoning, you must consider some incidental physical changes I have undergone since childhood. I shall use a photo that was mislabeled "Prince Hamlet" in  a prior post (that NOBODY commented on!)  but was really a photo of me in 1949:

1949 marked the beginning of the "Cold War", when the entire world was subject to political re-division, and some militant Australians resorted to sneaking eucalyptus seedlings into California. This may sound harmless enough until one learns the dangers of the tree. A eucalyptus seedling, 2 inches tall, tossed casually and unnoticed upon dry, nitrogen-poor California soil will take root immediately and grow to a height of 300 to 1000 feet in a matter of two or three hours, then, if there is a careless smoker within 20 miles, explode into flame, fall, and destroy several cities.

Fortunately,  the science of diplomacy was well-advanced and the Australia-California border dispute was resolved within a few years. Peace reigned. But the trees were everywhere. Back then, they were all I ate so I did not mind them. But now I am old and nearly human. What can I do? Just what I have done, I suppose. Use the cool dry interstices of late winter to hack the hazards away. And, of course, there's a bright side discernible in the following photos:

Fenceline AFTER summer shade provided by eucalyptus invasion:

Fenceline BEFORE eucalyptus shade:

Charles Dickens wrote, in A Tale Of Two Cities, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...", which suggests the quality of the rest of the time is anybody's guess, or what anybody makes of it. Personally, I admire those who pursue sanity in fenceline maintenance and international relations. However, I recently looked up the definition of sanity in the dictionary and its definition had disappeared. This marks the next step, the trend beyond political correctness: political coherence.  It does not indicate any advancement of thought. So if you, like me, find the more you think, the more incoherent you become, we're on the right track.


  1. As always, thanks for providing many smiles accompanied by a learning experience. I certainly remember those California eucalyptus trees and I loved them - - but I never knew a thing about them.

    By the way, you looked very cute in 1949.

  2. You may be onto something there. I think... perhaps we think too much.

  3. Jon-- Thanks, I'm reminded of two lines from "The Big Sleep":
    Carmen Sternwood (Martha Vickers): Is he as cute as you are?
    Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart): Nobody is.

    Susan-- Perhaps, but we can't escape the philosophical certainty of "I think, therefore spud."

  4. Thinking??? I tried that once.

    Your eucalyptus sounds like the kudzu down here in the south. It can grow over a house in a matter of minutes.

  5. I had no clue that eucalyptus trees here to be found in California. I remember visiting the Cincinnati Zoo once and they had a temporary koala exhibit. When we were going through line, they handed us each a tiny eucalyptus twig with a leaf attached. I'll never forget the leaf smelling just like a cough drop.

  6. I've heard that there are rogue vigilantes walking fencelines looking for illegal eucalyptus out there. Of course, they don't admit that none of us have very deep roots here. But watch out for them, they don't like marsupials no way no how.

  7. You were a cutie in 1949....
    Thinking gives me a headache..I try not to do it too too much.

  8. S.P.-- Indeed, Eucalyptus and kudzu comprise a formidable horticultural assault.

    Keith--It smells as you say. And unless I crib the wood at least two years, my stove makes the whole region smell like Vicks VapoRub.

    Austan-- I have written down your warning and put it in my pouch.

    Delores-- Thanks, but I had to give up cuteness to diversify my diet.

  9. I love hedge maintenance - and the idea of Vicks on the stove, warming the house and clearing the airways!

  10. All I know about eucalyptus is their wonderful fresh smell. That fresh smell is what one smells in floral shops. I didn't know they could erupt into kudzu if planted out of their zone.

  11. Bamboo - that stuff's pretty brutal, too.

    I'm a little surprised you gave up the koala lifestyle. Those kids know how to live!

  12. Ha! Yes the more I think the more I realize I have no idea what's going on.
    Hey - loved your addition to my list of 'will he have your back'. Having someone to think around should actually be my #1.
    Have a great rest of your week maintaining your fence line.

  13. Ron-- I hope it's not botanically possible for eucalyptus to become kudzu, but it's one of the mos fragrant trees to trim.

    Armchair Squid-- I love bamboo and happily haven't attracted any pandas with it. But I draw the line at willows, which attract dinosaurs.

    Tesha-- I've followed your blog a while and my estimate is you definitely found someone you can think around.


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