Inconveniencing Earthworms

Yesterday when I went up to work at the Old Library, I took a shovel in addition to my usual tools. Because the task of consolidating my accumulated piles of debris into one big pile kept being left to the end of the workday, it kept not being finished, and some of the piles had begun to decompose. They had become so compacted that a rake and dustpan were not very effective in transferring them. The shovel was more efficient, but, even empty, it was very heavy, with a solid metal head and a 1½″ diameter wooden handle. It made me really appreciate my aluminum-handled rake!

While these piles of leaves and sticks (with an admixture of dirt) were being neglected (and rained on) for several weeks, a number of enterprising earthworms had taken up residence in and under the piles and had taken the opportunity to begin the process of turning the debris into compost. Needless to say, they did not welcome being evicted from their cozy homes and interrupted in their labors. There was a lot of furious wriggling and attempts to burrow back into the ground. I assured them if they would just be patient, they would soon be transferred to the larger pile, where they would find much greater scope for their endeavors, but they were not appeased, and some of them actually lost their lives in the process. I do regret that.

Once I had managed to consolidate the piles to my satisfaction (more or less), which took about an hour and a half, I spent the remaining six hours or so mostly raking. This would have been fairly light work if I hadn’t had to keep bending over to pull up vines that had become entangled in the rake. I don’t know the name of the ground cover that infests much of the library site, but whatever it is, it should be outlawed. It at least does not climb up into the trees, but it shelters and encourages the propagation of other plants that do. Actually, most of the vegetation on this site is of the type that propagates by sending out roots far and wide—not just this ground cover but also azalea, sparkleberry, camphor, and several other trees and shrubs I don’t know the name of. This insidious creeping vine, which one visitor guessed might be Asiatic jasmine, is actually sold as a useful ground cover, and I have seen yards (especially berms) where it is used effectively. But it requires regular maintenance, which this has not received in many months, and it and everything else at the site has gotten completely out of hand.

I did get some relief from raking. One might even say comic relief, because how can you not laugh at this picture?

This is a photo (on the hood of my car) of a collection of rhizomes (of one of the more obnoxious tree-climbing vines) extracted from two sites within inches of each other. The shovel came in very handy here, as a trowel was definitely not up to the job. The photo does not include several more that I found later; at that point I did manage to get them up with a trowel because I was unwilling to make yet one more trip back to the car for the shovel (which I’d thought I was done with) and my phone to take more in situ photos. Oh, you’d like to see those, too? Well, here you go.

I would like to think that these sites are the headquarters for these vines, and that by removing these roots, I will have discouraged at least some further growth, but everywhere I looked there seemed to be more of the stuff, so I suppose that is a vain hope.

In addition to digging up the rhizomes, I also enjoyed dismantling a rotten stump. It had red wood, so it could have been red cedar but was much more likely sparkleberry, which is a weed tree at this site.

One of the diversions of working near the street is watching the passing scene. There’s construction going on in the neighborhood, so there’s a constant procession of full and empty dump trucks, concrete mixers, backhoes (one of them passed me at least half a dozen times), and the like. But it is also interesting how many pedestrians there are, even on a weekday. The library site is on a corner, and the sidewalks on both Summit and Magnolia are heavily traveled. Yesterday, in addition to the usual dog walkers, fitness walkers (singly and in couples), and roaming teenagers, I saw a young couple pushing (not riding) a tandem bicycle, which of course generated an earworm (“Daisy, Daisy…”) that haunted me the rest of the day!

At the end of the day, I hadn’t accomplished as much as I might have if I hadn’t taken time to dig up those roots, but at least I have my work cut out for me the next time I go.

The debris pile at the end of the day.

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