Francine and Clarence Have A Party

September 19, 2010

I pulled on my shoes, but didn’t change into working clothes because I was just going to pull a few weeds and clean the turtle. Oh, how foolish I am.

The front bed, where that iris is now planted, was the perfect place to start. I wanted to get rid of those volunteers from that “cinnamon” plant (that really isn’t) but ended up thinking about how much prettier it will be next year if the drift of coneflower reaches all the way to the drive. So I headed to the butterfly bed to dig up the coneflower that crowded out the scabiosa this summer. When I started to dig in the perfect spot near the irises, I did what I do every fall and then curse myself for immediately – I dug up a cache of daffodil bulbs. SIGH. Did I get them all back in correctly and happily? We won’t know until spring now!

A single milkweed bug watched me while those cinnamon volunteers were dug up, cut out and the broken roots sprayed with vinegar. I asked where his friends were but he did not answer (For that, I’m actually grateful). I’m hoping all this pulling is going to eliminate this cinnamon plant, but I have a feeling I’ll be digging the blasted things up next summer and the summer after that. Years ago, I planted perennial dusty miller, a gift from someone, and it spread like wildfire, choking out everything else and not being attractive into the bargain. Just greyish green toothed leaves. I’ve pulled and pulled and pulled for years since, and even found another plant this year, right on the berm. Those invasive plants just don’t give up or give in. They are the herpes of the garden.

I began feeling the urge to  cut down the balloon flower, just one pink bloom left, divide it and transplant it around this new iris bed but fought it back. Today was not the day. I also fought the urge to do the same with the gaillardia. I gave in to getting a few clumps of coreopsis planted at the corner of the bed.

I trimmed around the elevated bed and hear the tick of leaves as grasshoppers moved out of my way. One of them, a very massive hopper had only one leg. I told him I hoped he finds it comfortable and safe in my butterfly bed as he moved slowly and awkwardly into the zinnia. Again, I got no answer.

I called Dominic to move the 40 lb bag of dirt over to the side of the house. He let Griffey out, brought the bag over, then ran after the dog near the Fitzgerald’s fence. Their dogs were out, huge labradors; Griffey is the size of their heads. A frenzied bark fest ensued, with Dominic picking up Griffey and bringing him home to end it. I spread the dirt over the grassless circles left by stepping stones removed last year and then scattered grass seed over the dirt. It’s supposed to germinate in 5-28 days and they are calling for rain most of this week, so I might just have some grass success.

I pulled out the chives in the peony/hydrangea bed and stood by the Neither Here Nor There bed for some time, trying to decide where to plant them. A million things went through my mind, including the shape of the new beds by the fence, moving the hostas into a border, dividing the coral bells and in general just ripping up that side of the yard. I am proud to say I resisted and threw the chives into the compost bin.

My goal was to pull some of the weeds out of the flagstone path, but I found myself trimming along the edges, making it neat and clean and clear. As I dumped the bucket of weeds into the compost bin, I saw not one but two mice, literally dancing on top of the compost. I drew back in alarm and they jumped into the air, like it was a party in this black box and they were rocking the mosh pit, then scurried out of sight down the sides. I got the hose and started running water into the bin.

Nature is lovely and all, but mice?  No thank you.

I took down the panels on the veggie garden and trimmed around the bricks, ripping out the long grass. Then I ripped all the runner beans off the support, finding a good handful left on the vines, hidden by the brussel sprouts. I did not eat them, as the last batch I picked was tough and chewy when cooked. I  dug two trenches about 1″ deep and unearthed 3 potatoes the size of marbles. Just adorable.  I sprinkled the pea seeds (amazingly, they look just like peas!) into the trenches, covered them with the dirt and then sprinkled the grass trimmings on top for mulch and water retention. I made sure the soaker hose sat along those trenches, adjusted it around the brussel sprouts, now about 2-1/2 feet high. Putting the panels back into place, I gave some thought to redoing those hooks for next year, using one hook for two panels, making them easier to take apart and reassemble. Yep, for next year.

When I turned around, I saw the hose had fallen out of the compost bin (really? what is it with me and watering?) so I held it above the bin and soaked the whole top until I saw brown compost tea trickle out of the bottom. I then grabbed my pitchfork and turned the top layer, slicing into the rotting mass, trying to disturb those mice and scare them out of the bin.

I cleaned the turtle and the brass sprayer nozzle kept shooting off of the hose. One more thing to look at next weekend when I really get into the garden (are you laughing? because I am). Naturally, now that the turtle is working, the waterfall was reduced to a trickle. These two have nothing to do with each other, they merely sit next to each other under the bridge. I could hear something rattling in the fall pump, maybe a small acorn now caught inside. Yes, I should take it apart and really give it a thorough cleaning, but it’s coming out for the season in a week or two, so now is not the time.

There is an acorn perfectly suspended in a spider’s web above the edge of the pond.

I picked some green pepper for dinner and then picked up the acorn squash for a little festive decoration inside the house. Throwing the vine into the compost bin, Francine and Clarence were there again, seemingly less afraid, even after the deluge and the aggressive piercings. Perhaps they were celebrating their recent triumph over water and steel, thumbing their pointy little pink noses at death or disbursement.

Tony and I talked about the Mouse Issue. His immediate thought was to get rid of the bin entirely. No mouse around the house for Tony. The song “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes” could be his theme song. I talked him down and explained how we’ll need to get metal, closely meshed wire. We’ll have to empty the bin (gawd, what a mess that will be!), spray it out, caulk it all together and then line the inside of the box with the wire.

When I went to the compost bin to throw in dinner vegetable peelings, I banged loudly many times, which struck me as very ironic. Why am I knocking on the door of my own bin? Then a great thought! Seeing as they love to dance on top of the pile, I left the top open, thinking that this will be a great opportunity for neighborhood hawks (are you singing “The Circle of Life? because I am!). If they see these cocky little mice, prancing and dancing in bacchanalian delight, they’ll fix their wagon. Imagine the sudden dive, the shadow of death (better than my pitchfork), the squeak! Imagine the mousefree compost bin!

I have a feeling Tony won’t be taking out the compost until we have this solved.


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