The Domino Effect

August 22, 2010

Barb pulled a plastic ziploc bag holding a very large, very ugly and very dead bug out of her purse and said, “This is for you.”

I am now officially a geek.

Mark and Barb told us their yard and garage were being invaded by locust and I mentioned that yes, grasshoppers are supposed to be having a big year. Mark said this was different, so when he found a dead one in his garage, he stuck it in that baggie and put it in Barb’s purse. A quick look at the enormous head and lacy wings made me think cicada, although it didn’t have the red eyes that define our 17-year visitors. We looked it up and found it was a cacama valvata cicada. Why they are all over his pine tree this year is a mystery, as I’m not finding anything about emergence cycles of the cacama. I’m also finding them, less frequently, under our honey locust and sitting on the hammock. Perhaps they like to relax and swing too.

Barb let me keep the baggie.

We had a birthday celebration for Greg Friday night, and most of us stayed outside with a smoky fire keeping away the mosquitos, but not very well. I love how people become just voices in the darkness, with the firelight throwing strange colors and shapes on their faces. Tony danced on the patio and we laughed about forgettable things.

Saturday morning, I was in the garden by 9:30, determined to plant the two remaining hydrangeas. Tony asked if we could walk when I finished and I said it would be a quick job, only an hour or so.

I never can estimate time.

See, I had identified the spots where the hydrangeas would be planted, but they were already planted with grasses. When I bundled the grasses with plant tape to clarify where they began and ended, I realized that the bed was sadly untrimmed. Out came the scissors and the edge of the bed got a neat and tidy haircut. The cat mint was cut way back and the lamb’s ear that didn’t seem excited about being there was pulled out and composted. True to the 48-hour rule, I heard a cicada ticking under the hammock and saw him seeming to struggle to buzz its wings, kind of gimping through the grass.

When I propped open the compost bin to drop in the grass clippings, weeds and lamb’s ear, a cloud of no-see-ums buzzed up and out. All the spiders were at the alert, running up and down the webs, encasing those captured bugs quickly and efficiently. What a feast they would have!

Out came three clumps of prairie dropseed and one clump of turkey foot (I love turkey foot) to make room for the hydrangea. So where do those grasses go? I put two of the prairie dropseed on the sides of the chimney in the hosta bed where the long blades and delicate seeds will make a nice contrast to the big broad leaves. Ms. Orchard Spider is on the east side of that chimney, so I dug the hole by maneuvering the shovel nearly horizontal so as not to disturb her webs. I eased the grass in and brushed the dirt over, disturbing the web as little as possible while she frantically scurried up and down the anchor wires. When I was finished, the web was still in one piece, with no threads broken. That made me very happy.

The hydrangea still sat there in their plastic nursery containers.

I cut down and pulled out weeds from the grasses bed, giving their exposed stems and roots a shot of the vinegar to kill them completely.

The turkey foot would be perfect by the water spigot in the Neither Here Nor There bed, but there were hostas in that spot. Ah! The hosta would be perfect in that bed where they hydrangeas are going, in the same spot that I just pulled the lamb’s ear. So one clump of hosta was dug up, thumped against the house to knock off extra dirt (I don’t recommend that with all plants, but you just cannot kill a hosta), divided into seven pieces and planted along the east edge of that bed.

The hydrangea still sat there in their plastic nursery containers.

I stood on the side of the house where the embarrassing lawn care occurs and thought. Then I dug out a section right up next to the fence, coming out and around, chopping and slicing and grinding up the grass and weeds that grow there. I took another clump of hosta out of the Neither Here Nor There bed, thumped it, divided in and put it in that newly formed bed.

The hydrangea still sat there in their plastic nursery containers.

Finally, I started digging the (very large) hole for the first hydrangea. I filled a bucket with dirt, then piled it up next to the hole. When the hole was large enough, I rolled the hydrangea on its side and leaned on the plastic to loosen the plant away from the pot. It was pulled out of the pot and lifted into the hole, turned a few times to determine the best look, and then I put the hose into the hole to fill it with water.

In the meantime, I pulled out another clump of hosta, thumped it and divided it and planted it along the edge of the Neither Here Nor There bed, in front of the new Christmas tree.

I finally had the room where the hostas had been to plant that turkey foot and put the hose on to dribble it in.

Back to the back garden, turned off the hose and filled the hole with the displaced dirt. The bucket of dirt wasn’t needed, so that got dumped next to the fence to provide more new space to plant the other grasses that needed to come out to put the second hydrangea in.

Tony left for a solitary bike ride. Sigh….

The other turkey foot went by the garden entrance, next to the rain barrel and the displaced dropseed went next to the fence, in the dirt discarded from the second hydrangea hole. Watered the hydrangea in that second hole, then filled it up with displaced dirt and the potting soil from the topsy turvy tomato washout.

Many things were moved yesterday, like a game of chess or those dominos that fall one by one. The struggling cicada died while I was planting. I found him with legs drawn up, tickless and still.

The grasses bed now has a whole new look; a little more colorful and a whole lot neater. The Neither Here Nor There bed continues to spruce up, and the new bed along the fence continues to grow in a rather haphazard fashion. By the end of the season,  that should be about half way complete down the fence.

It was after 2 by the time I cleaned out the firepit, put away all the shovels, diggers and my now ever-present vinegar bottle.

When I was getting into the shower, after spending nearly an hour making cupcakes, I could hear the hose still running on that clump of turkey grass by the Christmas tree. Ooops.

This morning, the orchard spider web is gone completely. I am so very disappointed.


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