Something so Sweet, so Unknown


Get a good husband. You’ll never regret it. My sweet husband was clearing piles of brush we had lying around way too long. He spent all day running the brush through our chipper. I’d mention the make and model, but I wouldn’t want any of you to make the mistake of buying that chipper. At the end of the day he had a huge tote bag, one of those grain bags that hold a ton or more of grain, loaded with the sweetest smelling wood chip mulch I ever saw.

“What smells so good? What did you put through the chipper?” We went through the list of brush we had: alder, maple, birch, cherry, cottonwood … cottonwood. Yes, that is what made the chips smell so delightful. It’s like wood chips walked on by the angels. Wood chips made from a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, licorice root, and tangerine.

Wood chips made with cottonwood is one of those life altering discoveries. There’s life before good husband, life after good husband; life before dog, life after dog; life before cottonwood chips, life after cottonwood chips. And yet no one ever talks about cottonwood chips. It’s one of those great mysteries in life no one is supposed to know about. I’ve been to countless hardware stores, garden stores, nurseries, and no one has ever mentioned, no one has even whispered, “Check out the cottonwood chips.”


Luckily for me, out in the woods lies the carcass of a cottonwood tree, specifically Populus trichocarpa – black cottonwood, the fantastically tall cottonwood which grows from California to Alaska. They can shoot up to a hundred feet in a few decades. I meant to cut up the cottonwood but had more important things to do, and now a forest of a thousand cottonwoods saplings has sprouted from its many branches.


One fully loaded wheelbarrow of cottonwood saplings will produce one full wheelbarrow of sweet cottonwood chips. These chips are so aromatic that I could see stuffing them into a pillow and resting my head on it. I’m sure I could have the most pleasant dreams breathing the lovely scent all night long. This wheelbarrow is destined for one of the hoop houses. There are ten wheelbarrow’s worth of cottonwood saplings to provide chips for garden paths and mulch around some of the trees. So get a good husband. Every day you’ll be thankful.


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