Images from Brant Lake: The Juniper Bush

juniper

 

 

Have you ever hunted juniper?

Those unfamiliar with giant juniper hunts might conclude that in contrast to hunting wild game on the densely wooded savannah of Africa, a juniper bush in the meadows of Brant Lake would be easy prey. Wrong!

A giant juniper grew in a field off Palisades Road where, I assumed, it had reigned for many decades. My goal was to uproot the juniper and replant this magnificent specimen on the sandy hill between my house and the lake—part of the reforestation project that began with a row of white pines. One massive bush, with a wingspan of almost 10 feet, would cover an extended empty space and become, for generations to follow, a green toupee.

We set out in my friend Henry’s Jeep. I wore my Serengeti Safari shirt and Kudu hunting trousers ordered for the occasion from Orvis. Bouncing over the rough terrain we halted near the evergreen, careful to be on the lookout for any vicious chipmunks or rabbits participating in the spring migration. With shovels in hand we worked our way between the long trailing branches covered with berries that some distillers use to flavor gin. Then we attacked. In full light of day. Noisily. Our shovels assaulted the juniper and excavated an extensive root system. Deeper and deeper. Sweat trickled down my forehead. I groaned. The juniper remained cool, anchored in the ground.

 Undaunted, we dug. Finally, we discarded brawn for the analytic powers of the mind. Close examination revealed that although we had loosened many of the exterior roots, the life-giving tap root resisted. It was time to shift from simple artillery to heavy infantry; time for Henry’s massive 4×4 SUV, the white Jeep Cherokee with a 5.7L, V8 engine and weighing in at 6800 lbs. This would be the end of the juniper’s tenacious grip on the earth.

Equipped with thick cord we endured an army of bristling needles as we crawled between the branches and tied one end of the rope to the juniper. The other end of the rope we knotted around the back fender of the Jeep. With a furtive last look at the trophy juniper I whispered to the bush, “Sorry, but you asked for it,” and we positioned ourselves in the Jeep. Henry turned on the motor and shifted into low gear.” Don’t worry,” Henry assured me, “This Jeep has a 3.09 rear axle ratio.” I wasn’t sure what that meant but I felt a sudden surge of confidence.

Henry released the emergency brake and gunned the engine. Nothing happened. The juniper would not budge. More gas. Same result. Over and over. Then, after some minutes, the Jeep raced forward. Victory! But, when we turned off the motor and left the car to inspect our adversary, we noticed, to our dismay, that the juniper remained firmly grounded. As before. With one exception. The green juniper now claimed a gray bumper embedded between its branches.

That juniper still grows triumphantly off Palisades Road and is the only bush in the North Country adorned with a gray bumper. Other bushes are jealous.

Lesson learned: junipers look strange wearing Jeep bumpers.

Moral: Sometimes it is best to leave matters where they stand, or at least grow.

Especially junipers.

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