Gratified by Grasshoppers

September 11, 2010

Rain last night and early morning brings a chill to the air. It’s that time of year when you start the day in jeans and jackets and by noon, you’re wishing for shorts and a t-shirt.

The rain doesn’t evaporate but sits on the leaves and flowers in fat, shiny globules. The garlic chives are drying already, the white stars putting forth their own stars and the centers hardening into green orbs. The bees swarm all over these chives, humming and buzzing.

Someone has thrown a cigarette butt into my veggie garden. How incredibly, astonishing, appallingly rude.

There is an invasive, obnoxious plant in the butterfly garden and I cannot identify it. I put three of them in, on purpose, when I first planted the garden and am now deeply regretting it. I have looked through my notes, looked through the plant list, and cannot figure out what this horrid thing is. The leaves are more yellow and waxy and the stem has thorns. I initially pulled it out (or thought I did) because the stupid things were growing out horizontally, laying on the garden beds and never blooming. The roots were like concrete, one thick strong taproot that seemed to stretch all the way to China. I dug and dug and cut and cut, back never seemed to get it all. I had hoped that I did enough damage for the thing never to come back.

Now, it is like Revenge of The Rejected Plant in there now, with volunteers sprouting everywhere, sticky and ugly. I will have to make a concentrated, sweaty effort to dig down as far as possible and then douse the root with vinegar. This will truly be the acid test. (get it?)

The butterfly bush still blooms, smaller and smaller spears all the time. The lilac bush has had a great first year. It is still healthy and green and full, setting buds for next spring already. It has grown rounder and bushier this year too. The yarrow is back! After the Great Cut Back, I was despairing of every seeing another bloom this year. True, the two blooms are pathetic – about the size of a quarter – but they are blooms nonetheless. There is a flash of coneflower blooms amidst the blackened drying stems, unexpected and more joyful because of it.

The shade bed under the pin oak is now completing its first year, its “sleeping year.” Next year will be the “creeping” year, a year of growth and progress. Then we’ll get the “leaping” year, where everything will truly fill in, bloom and make real the vision I’ve been holding for that spot. I am always overly ambitious for new beds, thinking that a strong dose of compost, lots of mulch and a good shot of organic fertilizer will blast me past that sleeping year, right into creeping. That thinking has yet to work.

The shy grasshoppers, both in front and in back, have apparently gotten very much used to me and my camera. In the front bed, on a butterfly weed seed pod, he sat and sat and sat as I crept closer and closer, making image after image.  I finally had enough to be satisfied and he had never moved, never jumped away. He knows it’s not in the game plan to catch him and watch him spit that brown sticky juice all over my hands. Thankfully, I am past that stage. In the back bed, a huge grandfather grasshopper sat on a hydrangea bloom, his profile towards me. This one was not so comfortable, turned pivots on the bloom as he prepared to leap away. I came around from the other side and managed to catch him straight on. I never completely invaded his space and again, left him on the bloom, his torso-long heart probably thumping wildly. The images I’ve included here are both “oh my god” photos.

Spending so much attention to small things in the garden has enabled me to make quite a few of those so far this year.


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