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Chad Erpelding

Most mornings I tuck my pants into my socks and walk to the back of our small acreage to the canal. The banks have been taken over by hemlock from a few years of neglect, but this year I’ve felt an overwhelming need to reclaim them. So with my pants in my socks to avoid ticks, I take the spade and start digging up one plant at a time.

The similarities are not lost on me. I’m trying to eradicate a dangerous thing that quickly spreads and has the potential to kill. If the plants go to seed the growth is exponential, so there’s true urgency. Since they have already spread the full length of the canal, it’s a daunting task. Oftentimes the coverage is so total that once I’ve removed the plants, large stretches of ground are completely bare. Other times the banks are so steep and loose that I’m convinced I’ll fall into the canal and scare away the ducklings. Their chirping is one of my favorite things.

The “pop” sound when the hemlock root gives way is remarkably satisfying. I don’t always get the whole root and assume that a broken one will soon become another plant. But when I hear that pop and know that it’s the whole root, I feel a small victory. It feels like I have some amount of control. That I can beat this thing.

And then I see my neighbor’s huge hemlock patch.

So yeah, I’m ok, I guess.

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