Unproductive as it is, here’s how I do it.
I clean, gas-up and bar-oil the chainsaw then load the cart with the necessary tools: chainsaw, pruning saw, lopper, helmet, protective chaps, blue-tinted roundup, paint brush, acrylic gloves and leather gloves.
I pull the cart 3/8 of a mile to the far east hedgerow. Donning leather gloves, helmet and protective pants, I bushwhack into the hedgerow, find the demon bushes, cut them down with whatever tool works, yank them out in pieces, load up the cart, haul the cart to the brush pile and toss them on.
All this is repeated for 3 to 5 hours, load after load. Then, paint brush in my acrylic gloved hand, I seek out the fresh cut stumps and paint their rims with blue-tinted roundup.
Finally, I load up the cart, pull it 3/8 mile and unload everything back into the shed.
There! That’s how I try to eliminate the demon shrubs: 80% buckthorn, 15% honeysuckle and 5% cedar. Doesn’t sound very productive does it? In fact, yesterday all my efforts resulted in 30 feet of cleared hedgerow. Less than cleared actually, I removed a few more from that section today. There are other methods. A few years back we basal sprayed each demon shrub and just waited for them to die. We could hire a skid-steer to chew them up and then dab the stumps. We could even hire a crew to cut down the entire hedgerow, extending our eastward view into the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area and create more desirable habitat for grassland birds. Any of these methods would be far more productive---as measured by demon shrubs eliminated per hour---than my method.
So I why do I do it? Because I'm learning to be productively unproductive.
You see productivity is measured in terms of output per units of input. And I’m not arguing with the metric. My aha here at Home the Land has been to question the definition of output. What do I really want out of this project? Is it merely the elimination of demon shrubs? I could settle for that. And I have for most of my life. And what has that gotten me? Just the usual outputs: a stack of demon shrubs, a painted room, a mowed lawn, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t leave my good life in Minneapolis and build a whole new life just for blah, blah, blah.
I came to improve my health, my vitality. And right now as I type, my body can certainly feel the pulse of the day’s effort: hauling the cart, cutting, yanking and tossing shrubs, all make for a whole body workout. Navigating the hedgerow jungle requires balance and coordination.
I came to engage my creative energies. Within the jungle of hedgerow trees and vines, determining which shrub to cut when and how to do it best is an ongoing puzzle. Not to mention going back and finding each and every freshly cut stump in order to dab them with roundup.
I came to have fun. And believe it or not I can’t wait to get going each day.
I came to feel connected to the Land. Today I was so thrilled when I removed a huge buckthorn patch to discover the wonderfully large oak hidden behind it. Who knew?
I came to connect to the divine. I can find no words to explain how today’s effort connected me to the divine as much as did. I need my brother Steve to write a song.
When my goal is merely to get the task done, then it’s just that: work. But when my goal is to increase my vitality, my joy, my sense of community, my feeling of connection, my sense of the divine, then I call it something else: living. So I’m learning to define the output of my efforts not as blah, blah, blah work but as vital, joyous, community-filled, divinely-inspired living.
And today, by this measure, I was extremely productive. Productively unproductive.