The beginnings of a budding garden in Southeast Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Growth mindset

By Jeff Lund

While my wife carefully planted tomatoes, lettuce and onions in neat rows inside the greenhouse, I was busy applying brute force to salmonberry bushes. I clipped the small shoots that grew from last year’s clipped sections. I hacked larger shoots and trampled the debris.

The blueberries and huckleberries have shown their appreciation by waking early and have made the most of the beautiful start to spring.

They are ugly, but grateful to have their own space. One clump used to be suffocated by salmonberries and a few small alder trees that I removed, so it stands awkwardly tall like a lone spruce in a clearcut.

But while I’m incredibly excited for the desired berries to fill that part of our lot, I am not nearly as excited about the pending encroachment of grass and clover in the driveway. Right now the edges of gravel make the driveway look clean and tidy. But within days, maybe even in the time that it takes me to write this, a dandelion will take root and ruin an otherwise beautifully plant-free driving surface.

So it goes with gardening and landscaping in Southeast Alaska.

Growing up there always seemed to be a pile of gravel or a cord of firewood in the driveway. I know exactly where the wood ended up going because I chopped it, stacked it, restacked it, then brought it into the house. The gravel just seemed to be eaten by the rest of the driveway which had a perpetual thirst for more D-1.

The lawn was grass until it eventually became a beautiful green moss rectangle with grass intermixed. The mossy carpet eventually spread out of the fence and to the edges of the driveway while salmonberry bushes did their best to conceal the wooden fence my brother Dad and I built. Facebook sometimes likes to show me old Olympic Games sites that look haunted if not post-apocalyptic. Southeast Alaska’s climate would make the old Olympic villages disappear faster than you can say, Where is Lillehammer?

By the time Mom sold the house a few years ago, the fence had rotted. Treated posts included. The raspberry bushes that had seized an entire corner of the yard had been reduced to a tired few canes longing for nutrients, more sunlight, its youth or whatever else.

The rhubarb and strawberries Mom carefully tended to were devoured by slugs as often as us. Slugs, like moss, are inevitable so I’ve never liked them or any other bugs really.

I have warmed up to bees though.

One of my first ever memories is Dad wildly swinging a shovel to kill the bee that stung me. We were at my great aunt Rosie’s in Kansas and I had been helping in the way a 4-year old can which was to completely sidetrack the project by getting stung by a bee. Aunt Rosie rushed me to the aloe vera while Mom told Dad to stop swinging before my problems were compounded.

I am on better terms now with the super pollinators and speak to each one, telling them to get over to the apples when they have time because our three trees only yielded four apples last year. I’m not blaming the bees, but it didn’t seem like there was enough attention.

It’s hard to imagine how different things will be in three years, let alone thirty, but the vision is now shared between my wife and I. As a teenager, the completion of chores feels more like a relief, as an adult it’s more like satisfaction.

Even if the next morning requires some additional stretching.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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