I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love to mulch. But I particularly love mulching with cats. And ducks.
I also love to prune, though not as much as mulching. Pruning takes more thought, more muscle and no cats. Or ducks. As sometimes branches are on the heavier side and having wee ones around you when felling is simply not a good idea. (Such are gardening issues when you have pets.)
Mulching is so therapeutic. It’s a bit like knitting in that you have to sit, sit still and concentrate a little, but also allows for just taking in the world around you. (Or in my case with knitting, usually a sappy Hallmark movie. Hey, what can I say, sometimes I’m a girlie girl.)
In the case of mulching I get to watch the antics of the animals, of any denomination. But mulching with cats is the most fun.
First I should probably explain, in case you are new to my musings and not up on what mulching is. It is the cutting of garden detritus into small pieces. Tinier the better. Things to mulch: leaves, twigs, vines. Little, thin stuff that is easy to cut. Why? A: it gets rid of garden waste in a green way. B: even better it can be put in your garden to keep weeds down. And C: even, even better, makes a good home for worms and other (good) insects who break it down into mulch, and whom the ducks (and other birds) love to forage for.
Mulching can be done by machine. It’s really quite impressive. You stick branches in one end and this lovely fine mulch gets sprayed out the other. It’s particularly great to use some form of machine for mulching leaves, given their papery thinness. (And leaves are a b#$%ard to cut up by hand.) I personally add loose leaves to the compost, and this next autumn will be making Gardener’s Gold.
Here at P&P we cut by hand. I have been asked quite a lot why not buy, or rent, a machine? Two solid reasons. Cost and Quiet. As we are due diligently working on restoring our house and garden, and both are on the large side with a serious amount of work needing doing in both, we have to way up costs and prioritise them. What must be paid for, like, say insulation, because we can’t make it ourselves, becomes a priority cost (and then gets added to a list and put in priority order depending on the priority list of jobs to be done. Make sense?). What can be paid for with time instead, gets done without money.
Mulching is something that takes time by hand, but costs no money. Well, except for my wonderful birthday present a couple years ago of a great pair of secateurs. But they were a top priority on the list when we bought the house given the state of the garden and have had much, much use ever since, including grape harvesting.
And quiet. Although we live in a pretty good sized village, with a, at commuting times, busy-ish road (well, at least by French driving standards), it’s on the whole a beautifully tranquil place. We have lots of birds in the garden that like to sing, and I like to listen to them. Mulching by hand makes no noise, except for the odd snip and rustle of twigs, letting me simply soak up my surroundings. (It’s the slow mindful thing going on.)
You can probably guess I save mulching for good weather. And as there is generally a giant pile to mulch, when spring starts to make itself known with sunshine and warming temperatures, I try to spend at least an hour a day mulching. More than that and even I would go a tad doolally.
So back to mulching with cats. And ducks. Depending on what I am mulching depends where I base myself. Prunings, shoots, and suckers in the enclosure stay in the enclosure. I simply plunk a stool by the mulching pile, grab a handful of twigs and start snipping at one end. Then as I get down to where my hand is holding the bunch, I turn it over and start at the other end, until I am left with a hands width of twigs. Then I cut those in half and let them fall.
It’s a sort of moveable feast. I let the tiny snipped bits collect around my feet until I can no longer see the ground beneath. Then I move my stool to an unadorned area and begin again.
The cats love when I mulch because the twigs are generally quite long and thin, so they sort of wave about. (You’re starting to get the picture?) Now picture lots of the long thin branches waving about and you are in cat heaven. Let the games begin!
And the ducks? They actually like to play too. Maggie doesn’t quite chase and pounce the way the cats do, but she does like to try and catch the ends. And even more, she loves trying to catch the snipped bits as they fall around me. So when I am mulching I often have Maggie, and/or others, around my feet whilst a cat bounds around us in circles.
And so even though cost may be a reason I mulch by hand, it’s being able to mulch with cats and ducks that makes me choose to mulch this way. It is simply so much more fun, for all of us.