The battle of the brush pile

Unusually windy and warm for these parts, yesterday was absolutely perfect for tackling the garden chores I didn't manage to get to last fall. Like removing the bird netting with which I'd covered my black raspberries last spring. (As it happens, the birds still flew off with most of the berries anyway.) By now, the brambles had grown through the netting in several spots, making me deeply regret my negligence. After freeing them, I removed the dead canes, pruned back some of the dusky purple runners, and tossed the refuse, along with scores of downed tree limbs, onto one of my favorite works in progress -- the brush pile.

Now my dad doesn't quite see the value in a good brush pile that I do, and, on occasion, he'll drop by and try to cart much of the pile away "to be shredded and composted," he promises. I tell him that I've given the placement of so much leaf litter and every limb and stick careful thought, and that, without the pile in place, many of my neighborhood birds would lack adequate cover.

Still, he says it's unsightly and that it will attract animals. I say "unsightly" is in the eye of the beholder, and, because my brush pile is screened from the street by a decades-old wall of forsythia, most of my neighbors can't see it anyway. If I wanted to, I could further screen one's view by planting a ring of wildflowers around the pile's perimeter. Or I could install a ring of roses or even more black raspberries, making reaching the center of the brush pile more of a struggle. (Sorry, Dad!)

As for the attracting animals part, well, that is kind of the point. Snakes, rabbits, chipmunks, and, yes, scores of native and migrant birds have nestled themselves in the pile, and I love watching them come and go (even if they do eat more than their fair share of berries.) For now, my dad and I have agreed to disagree, but I still catch him trying to whittle down the pile, even as I continue to build it up. And, so, it neither shrinks nor grows, and we continue to enjoy the impasse.

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