Hidden Cities and Overwhelming Concepts

July 10, 2010

Walking around the butterfly garden is like being in a Disney movie. These flashes of color bob and swirl, land and flutter, flap and fly. I actually had to dodge them this morning, feeling like Briar Rose (aka Princess Aurora) or Snow White in the forest. It is just lovely and almost unreal. Isn’t that charmingly scientific, how you can plant the flora that are known to attract butterflies and they will really come – and in droves?

While I was out there this morning, helping along the trumpet vine, brushed by the butterfly bush, blue azures, viceroys and red admirals fluttered all around me. There was also a huge yellow butterfly, but it swooped away before I had a chance to get a good look. Hopefully, it will be back and bring friends.

The trumpet vine is climbing and climbing, but stupidly between the trellis and the house where it can’t be seen. I am trying to get out there often to pull stems and branches through the trellis to train it (Sit. Stay. Roll over.) but it is proving a daunting task. Even talking to it, explaining the benefits of full sun, is not helping much. Now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder if I could scooch the whole thing around the trellis instead of trying to pull it through. Hmmmm…. have to see if that’s a possibility tomorrow.

I tied up the watermelon with the leg of an old pair of panty hose and gosh, does it look dorky. Kind of like an old woman in support hose and orthopedic shoes. Well, sometimes we have to give up the hip factor for safety, don’t we? I will try to think of it as a motorcycle helmet – that is a cooler protection device. (although it really looks like support hose).

Looking through my ever-present rose-coloured glasses, I seldom really notice weeds. Yes, I know that they are there, but I think I keep on top of them with a stroll through the garden most days with my bucket and gloves. I did notice a few on the berm this week, so this morning I went out and starting pulling. And found that I needed to keep pulling and pulling and pulling and pulling. Seriously? Under the privet, what I thought was anathera spreading like wildfire were weeds, spreading like wildfire. Trimmed back lamb’s ear, pulled out chives and chives and chives, trimmed and pulled catmint. Spread about 7 bags of mulch and need about 12 more to really do the back gardens thoroughly. I moved the big containers on top of the berm to the back, after shoveling the area level and clear. This way, if we ever need to turn on the sprinkler system, the containers won’t block the spray.

I edged the pin oak garden on our lot line with my transplanting shovel (I LOVE that shovel – got it at Sid’s Garden Center) and pulled sticker bushes out of the brick wall that supports the berm. A wolf spider was annoyed at my cleaning and darted in and out of the bricks. Checked the area between the berm and the neighbor’s fence which is also lined with a brick wall to keep the berm from eroding, and that is clean and clear to keep the rain water flowing to the sewer.

The flagstone path needed to be weeded (again) so I started at one end with my bucket, the weed tool (long flat blade with a forked end) and my digger. I stood and bent, but was quickly uncomfortable, so within minutes, I was sitting and bumping backwards, scanning the path to and fro with each new position. As I got to the portion that’s in the bright sun, I saw the stones on the north side of the path were covered with dirt and that chives and catmint were growing too close and in some instances, now right on the stone. When I scraped the dirt off one stone, I opened up an ant hill and hundreds of ants starting scrabbling around the path. There were also suddenly quite a few birds very interested in that path. I couldn’t get all the plants I want pulled out, so I lifted the stone and found that I had uncovered the colony.

Wow. The architecture was absolutely beautiful, like sculptures in the dirt. The ants did not appreciate the intrusion, so I made a few photographs and covered them back up. Each stone that I lifted had ant architecture under them. That first stone seemed to be the center of the city, with ants and ants and more ants, climbing on my shoes and socks and my gloves and arms (I was no longer sitting on the path). By the sixth stone, we were seriously in the suburbs, with few sculpted hills and very few ants upset and scrambling.

Isn’t that amazing that thousands of lives are being lived, working and building and reproducing, right under our feet and completely out of sight? Completely unknown! From the extensiveness of the structures, this has obviously been going on for years and I had no idea. How mind blowing, don’t you think? Just think, I discovered this under the path, somewhere we can see. Think about all the insects in the grass, in the dirt, in the clay, under leaves, living between the bricks, up in the trees. Some scientists think there are about 200 million insects for every human – EVERY human! There are millions just in my yard! Millions in yours! Millions in my neighbors! (About a dozen in the yard across the street because he is pesticide happy) The enormity of this makes me want to lay down with a cool cloth on my forehead. Isn’t it just – just – just – too much to imagine?

The middle hosta from the hosta bed needed to be dug out to make room for the compost bin. I put the transplanting shovel into the hosta bed to remove it and with one push and one lever, it popped out in a beautifully neat circle, heavy and about 18 inches across and a good 10 inches deep. I was pleasantly surprised because I expected quite the fight. I set that hosta aside and started to move the compost bin, which has been collecting food peels and scraps, grass clippings, yard waste and deadheaded plant waste since mid-May. Yes, it’s heavy.

The bin slid easily across the patio and then had to be hitched, one side then the other, through the grass. I was doing so well and then, while lifting one corner to put it into the bed, the bottom popped right off. What had been a simple plan was now a disaster. In retrospect, I should have slid it onto a piece of plywood, got it properly into position and then removed the plywood – or maybe even left it in place. Well, I had to dump all the rotting waste onto the grass to empty it out, put the bottom back on and then get it into place, sitting evenly in the bed. It came out in layers and really didn’t smell that much. It was very slimy though and at one point, I nearly fell right into it. Gracious. I finally got it all out, got the bin into place and started putting it all back in. A shovel was rather useless as it was in clumps and kept sliding off the blade, so I had to just use my hands (gloved of course). It is now full again, all the rotten stuff back in the bin and it’s placed off the patio, in a much better spot. I would imagine that the compost tea which drains out of it with have those hosta eating the whole back yard next year. I think I’ll start calling that the Audrey bed.

I divided the big hosta into about 10 pieces and planted them in bare spots on the berm. I hosed down the patio where the bin had been and then cleaned out the big garbage can (oh ick. Soooo glad I didn’t have lunch yet, because I would have lost it)  It is now neat and clean on the patio, neat and clean in the back gardens and neat and clean in the garbage can.

A mystery too – for the second time in just a few days, the blue gazing ball has been taken out of the stand and lays on the ground. It’s not that windy and it never happened last year. Is it the squirrel? Is it birds? Is it Dominic?

Spiderwebs in the grass, a sure sign of hot and dry July weather. And a sign of more insects.

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