I crept out of bed slowly today. Unlike when I get up at the crack of dawn to go walking, or I head out with a full agenda of items to tick off, I knew I had to go out in the yard – with them – those demons that exist in my backyard. I know they are out there hiding, and, yes, probably more afraid of me than I of them, but still they are there and it terrorizes me. But, I had to just put on my big girl panties and get out and prune and deadhead my roses and give my flowers their first dose of bloom fertilizer this season. It sure seems inconceivable to me that it is the 19th of June and I’ve not used the hose yet. I usually multi-task in the yard, by trying to use the sprinkler to water and simultaneously pull weeds or tug out, or at least tame, that &^%$ choke vine and purple nightshade which threaten to overtake the garden every year. This growing season, we’ve had way too much rain to even think of watering, so I’ve not tackled the weeds either.
The alarm rang, I rolled over and got up a tad late in apprehension of my chore. I watched the sun filtering through the slits in my metal blinds in the kitchen as I sipped my still-steaming coffee. I blew on it to cool it off so I could drink it down and get dressed. I had on sweats and my green vinyl gardening boots and headed outside while it was in the low 50s. While men sweat and ladies perspire, (or merely glisten as the saying goes), I was already sweatin’ bullets about going outside without getting myself further fizzed and hot and bothered when the sun came out; yup, I had already whipped myself into a frenzy about dealing with the outside critters. I hate spiders and centipedes but our backyard bouts with rats off and on since 2006 leaves me somewhat paranoid every time I go out back. My neighbor Marge reported lots of baby rats in the early Spring this year and that tempered any enthusiasm to get out and work in the yard.
My friend who lives in Richmond, Virginia e-mailed me last weekend, and attached a picture of a five-foot snake shown slithering along her porch railing when she got home from work Friday night. Her husband Tim was terrified of it and called Animal Control, (they are still waiting for them to show up), but Evelyn was cool and calm about it (a helluva lot calmer than I’d have been). She waited until the snake struck a pose on the top of the railing and promptly grabbed a camera and a measuring tape. It posed prettily for her, and turned out to be five feet long! Tim and Evelyn found a burrow at the side of the house and given the size of the snake and its home, they figure it’s been there awhile. I’d never go out of the house again. Evelyn offered to box her snake up and mail it to me to help with the rodent population, but I declined. I forwarded the snake picture to a friend who lives on the cusp of a woodland area near Rochester, New York and told her “this was hanging out in the Richmond ‘burbs – OMG” and she replied “it’s so small!” — Right.
So, out I went this morning, my over-active imagination in tow, and knowing that any form of backyard demon that crossed my path was sure to cause me consternation, a heart attack, or, at the very least, to pee my pants. I’m happy to report that I knelt, stooped, hunched down and stuck half my body into the seven-foot tall row of prickly rosebushes and there was nary a critter – with legs or without, that threatened me. I filled up half a waste bag with that obnoxious, scraggly, purple night shade, and more than a few tall thistles, plus I put a stranglehold on the choke weed which clings and winds around every stem so quickly that it looks like a National Geographic time-lapse photo from one day to the next.
Well PDQ, those gardening and fertilizing chores were dispensed with and I hurried in to reward myself with a big glass of chocolate milk, then got cleaned up and ready to attend to the rest of the day. Gardening used to be a favorite pastime, then my little paradise became a private hell with the onset of rats in 2006. They went somewhere else in 2007, resurfaced in 2008 and thereafter. In 2010, we had days and days of torrential rains and I ended up with slugs everywhere. Every morning I went out to find slimy trails where the slugs inched along the sidewalk and over the leaves of my hostas, butterfly bushes, daisies, Black-eyed Susans and coneflowers where they subsequently munched away to their heart’s content. I even bought soapstone toadstool ornaments that get filled with beer to guarantee the slugs would enter, drink up and drown, but it never worked. All it did was cause my yard to smell like Michelob every time it rained or I watered, and there were lots of drunken slugs from slurping up all that beer by the time the sun came up. I pressed copper pennies around each perennial to give them an electric jolt when they slid over the copper, then the birds started flipping them out of the dirt and onto the grass. Gallon jugs of Sluggo® pellets sprinkled around the base of the flowers nearly put me in the poorhouse but the slugs slunk around that congealed mess as well. As of 2011 they disappeared forever – Shhhhhhhhhhhhh, I don’t want them back.
In 2010 and 2011 I also battled black spot on my climbing roses and doused them daily with disease control potions –the black spot won and I acquiesced one day when the roses looked sickly and in frustration, I trashed them and their special umbrella trellis. The neighborhood scrapper was happy – he had lunch money that day. But black spot was not a pest per se, though I’ve conquered other perennial issues, including the loss of two butterfly bushes this Spring. Alas, the butterfly count will be way down this year. Now, I have only perennials and roses in the backyard and have “potted” artificial plants in the front and side; no muss and no fuss … no more endless deadheading, fertilizing, pruning and twice-daily watering and no one is any the wiser they are artificial, even up close. How I wish I’d done that years ago!!
We get too soon old, and too late smart. ~~(American proverb)