This week a group of people from my church went on a mission trip to western Massachusetts to help clean up debris from the tornado last June. I went for 3 days and M stayed for the full week. It was a good trip, exhausting but good. We spent some of that time cleaning up downed trees from a steep hill, for a family that had also lost their house to the tornado. There was a drainage culvert at the bottom of the hill that had to be cleared as well. I had to keep reminding the teenagers not to roll any log chunks down the hill that would be too heavy to lift up out of the culvert at the bottom. But the teens enjoyed log-rolling so much that they got pretty adept at pairing up to maneuver increasingly-large log chunks.
At one point M held up a large branch and called out “Look, Mom! Bittersweet!” E has been battling bittersweet in our own yard so ferociously that we’ve all developed the ability to spot bittersweet at 20 paces.
The homeowner happened to be near me on the hill at that point, and asked, “What’s bittersweet? I always thought those were grape vines.”
So I launched in on my standard spiel. “Bittersweet is an invasive vine that can grow up and wrap around tree limbs and break them, while the roots will spread and strangle the tree roots. Eventually it can kill entire trees.”
I paused, and we both surveyed the hillside, which used to be completely covered in large oaks and maples, but after the tornado there was not one tree was left standing. We both smiled wryly and I finished up rather sheepishly, “Well, I guess that’s not really a problem for you now. Anyway, they’re not grape vines.”
The hill, before clean-up:
Toting log chunks:
Heaving log chunks out of the culvert:
The hill didn’t just have downed trees, but also debris from multiple nearby houses that were destroyed:
Looking somewhat clearer after 2 days of work; another group was coming in the next day with chainsaws to continue the effort: