Old age and Maple Trees…

BelowDeckburnYesterday I cleared an area below the house down to the creek. It hadn’t been mowed in two years because there were several areas where hazel prunings had been spread and fir branches piled which made mowing impossible. So blackberries had moved in… I pruned most of the blackberry down to the ground and burned some of the fir and all of the hazel (along with the blackberry twigs). The longest fir branches I lay at the base of the row of timber bamboo I planted years ago along the back of the deck. The ivy is spreading along the base of the bamboo now and looks really nice. The fir branches will act as mulch and eventually rot down into compost under the ivy, which also grows under the deck in lovely long runners that I am using for baskets.

The thing I noticed besides the challenge of getting a fire started in all this wetness – one that will burn big soggy branches – is that I spent over 4 hours at this and am doing fine this morning! I was hobbling around a bit last evening feeling all of my 78 yrs old – but slept great and woke up feeling fine! Thank you old body! I did what I learned from watching my folks when they were in their 80’s – I sat down when I needed to – which was frequently toward the end of the project. But I got it done! By myself… That felt good. I find that instead of cursing old age, I am finding ways to work with it, and still get the things done that I want to do. Having someplace to sit down is one of the best tricks of getting stuff done when you are old.

My dad, his chair and his lawn…

At the end of their lives my folks had a big lawn that ran the 50 feet from the house to the lake we lived on in Florida (I lived next door in the woods!). When it needed mowing they would put a folding lawn chair on one side and one of them would sit while the other mowed. Then they would trade places. They got the lawn done that way. They did all the yard work with a chair nearby, and would sit for a spell when they needed to. I have chairs in different sections of my garden – one in the orchard and one in the annual veggie section. There are several chairs by the pond and a bench near the rain garden and chairs and table in the “back garden”. Fizzy will keep an eye on me when I am working outside and as soon as I sit down for a “spell” she whizzes over and hops up for a “lap nap” – her favorite thing. Makes sitting down a sort of friendly purr-ey affair…

bench in Zen garden
bench in Zen garden

Today I’m going to plant a Big Leaf Maple tree down in that space below the deck that I worked so hard to clean up yesterday. That was what motivated me to do all that work yesterday. A friend had given me this maple and my son came up with the idea of planting it down there. Six months of the year there is a lovely creek that runs through the bottom of this area and there is a clearing below the deck that runs out to the creek. We have never really come up with the perfect thing to DO with this area – so we usually just mow it once a year to keep the berries down. It’s really a perfect spot for the maple. It’s a native here and grows in areas just like this along creeks and rivers – in the open shade near fir trees. It’s actually odd that there aren’t any growing naturally here. Perhaps they were all cut somewhere along the way.


The reason I took the maple is that I had just been thinking about maple syrup and making my own and wishing I had trees I could do that with. I even researched other sorts of trees for the purpose. When I lived in Alaska I made Birch syrup. I read that at one point some people in Oregon were looking into starting a maple syrup industry using the native Big Leaf Maple, but it never went anywhere.

It was only a couple days after I did this research that I was visiting a friend and she mentioned needing a home for this maple tree! Amazing… I may not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of this particular labor – but someone will, so it seems like a perfect use for this area and for my efforts!

Hope you are having a lovely Sunday…



  1. Hello Barb, I love your stories and insights! Maple syruping is done more than you may realize here! I just started this winter. Here is some encouragement:

    Barb Lachenbruch in Alsea is doing the tapping of Bigleaf Maple trees for syrup on her property in Alsea. She gave our group (Women Owning Woodlands) a tour of her property and taught us how to do it. She’s new at it also. But there are lots of people doing it in the NWP. There is even a facebook page devoted to doing this: Bigleaf Maple tapping in the Pacific Northwest https://www.facebook.com/groups/411532839012639/
    I have my taps set up here, but this winter has been unusually warm, and has not had the freezing night temperatures that are needed in order to get the sap flowing. So, I’ll hope for better luck next year.


    • Oh Helga! Thank you so much – for the encouragement and for the links. They are wonderful. Women Owning Woodlands sound like and interesting group. Are you in Alsea too?


      • Barb, I am right here (almost) in your neck of the woods – rural Rogue River! I hope someday to meet up with you and see your garden! I’ll let you know when I start up the local WOW subchapter here (some time this year). Helga


  2. That is such an excellent maple! It is only one of two that is native here, besides the box elder. Not many people know it as a sugaring maple. It really is rad!


  3. I was surprised at all the different trees you could use to make syrup… This will be a great one – and practically out the back door! We have another really nice native tree – the dogwood. There is a huge beautiful one that hangs over the chicken yard and is quite glorious in the spring. We are very fortunate in all the beautiful trees we live with here.


  4. What a great philosophy you have to keep gardening/get the job done. No point in being laid up when being outside should be enjoyable. I hope you will see some of your own maple syrup.


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