Face Off Behind Joe’s Pond

The schedule I had for today was light. I didn’t make a to-do list and decided I’d make a day out of it anyway. The only thing I had after waking up was to deliver a package to the UPS store. After a very leisurely breakfast and after reading the final page of a book titled “First Steps, How Upright Walking Made Us Human”. It was time to attach a shipping label to the homemade box that contained my grandson’s old skate board and to drop it off at UPS. With that singular chore completed I decided to attack the overly grown stems of the shrubs behind Joe’s Pond. Every time I walked on that path the spindly stems swatted me in the face. The path is not intended to be a unwholesome activity. It is meant to give the guest another perspective of the pond and its surrounding habitat. Instead it has become a face slapping arm waving experience. Not to mention the many mosquitoes that are awakened at the scent of warm blood moving through their homeland.

I’ll give myself thirty minutes to cut this path free and that is it, I said to myself as I gloved up and lifted my lopper from its cradle on the garage wall. Oh, I’ll take the hand clipper and a kneeling pad too, and so I treked into the garden behind the house to perform the surgery necessary to make it enjoyable again. I stopped about twenty feet short of the target. There are some plants here that I’ve been hating all summer, I’ll just pull those out before getting started on the simple mission. Down on my knees I went to begin yanking the flowers that were weeds. Then there was the unwanted grass that crept beyond the stone border and invaded the perennial bed engulfing the lonely rose bush. I had a pile of detritus within a few minutes and needed to dispose of it. A short trip to the side of the house to pull the yard waste container into service was necessary. Then I headed for the mission target. Instead, I wound up along the stone border again extracting the weeds behind the marigolds. These ugly plants gave the garden a ratty look so I redirected to this target instead.

Eventually, I arrived at the path behind the pond to cut the unwieldy shrubs that impede an enjoyable stroll. Except, there happened to be a huge amount of the same weed that invaded the part of the garden I just finished weeding. This obnoxious plant was making the backside of the pond look horrendous. How can a person enjoy taking this path when all these invasive waist high critters blocked the view of my orderly perennials? They surrounded the boxwood and the Juniper tree behind the waterfall. “Go for it Joe,” the little voice inside my head shouted. I did go for it, and was doing a bang up job too. Then out of somewhere came this damned bumble bee the size of a golf ball whizzing around my head. Like a novice, I began swatting it away from my head. Anyone who gardens knows that bees don’t like to be disturbed, and if they are, they certainly don’t like it when the one disturbing them begins swinging wildly with a vengeance. I made a direct hit and knocked him to the ground. His response was one of immediate recovery and he flew up straight for my face. Again, I swung at him and pushed him away but now he was really mad. He landed on my arm just above my glove and I swished him off, but not before he gave me a stinging sensation that hurt like hell, and felt like fire. Finally, my senses returned and I ran away. He chased me for a short distance and then disappeared.

Now what do I do? I was rubbing my arm at the site of the sting hoping the hurt would go away, it didn’t. I opted to go back to the garage and to retrieve my lawn rake. I thought if I stretched and raked the pile of weeds away from the Juniper I could gently continue my task of clearing the path. Before I could retract the rake he was after me again. That’s not going to work at all I said to myself. We humans have a very large brain and it was time to put it to use. After all the brain of the bumble bee has to be the size of a grain of salt. It was just a nano second before I concluded that I would attack the path from the opposite end and work my way back toward the Bumble Bee residence. The final pile of weeds lay on the path next to the Juniper. I stretched the rake toward it hoping I could finish the job and go in for lunch. Just as I began retracting the rake he appeared again from under the Juniper and was buzzing around the rake. He hadn’t figured out where I was, so thankfully I was safe for the moment. I dropped the rake and will complete the job tomorrow.

Illinois Natural History Survey entomologist Tommy McElrath points out features of a female bumblebee captured at Trelease Prairie. The hind legs of the bumblebee sport bulging stores of yellowy orange pollen.

The half hour job took two hours by the time I faced off with the bumble bee and finished lopping off the spindly long branches that caused my unhappiness. At least thirty minutes were spent cleaning up the mess I made except for the tidy pile behind the Juniper shrub where Mr. Bumble Bee resides.

Garden of Joe’s Eden

What the hell, why don’t I share something personal for a change? This blog is about me and my life, and not about generating huge readership numbers. Although I enjoy seeing stats that indicate that people read my writing. Most of the visitors and followers are interested in doing business. They join me just too generate numbers that will move them into monetization and money. Nothing wrong with that, but my aim is to generate catharsis from my own life decisions that back fire or worse yet don’t even make a dent. At least when I make a decision that sets me back I know I made change. It is the decision that doesn’t yield any form of movement that destroys me. They are wasted ideas and cost energy and time.

Today, I opened an email to myself which contained a group of photos that I took randomly about my garden. I love the colors of nature, they inspire me. Just a few evenings ago I looked out the kitchen window and saw a unique lighting situation that produced some really intense colors.

Two days ago I looked out and saw a sight that I will probably never see again. There was a swarm of dragon flies flitting all about the yard swooping, diving, soaring, and looking like purple martins having a feast on mosquitoes. One never knows what nature will gift me with next.

Here are some of the photos that turned me on:

Not Anxious To Get Out

Close up of female hands pull out weeds from ground garden.

A few months ago a day like today was considered fabulous. After six weeks of warm weather this morning feels like the middle of January. My agenda calls or a day in the garden yanking native perennials from the annual beds. As I have said before, there is something special about neat and prim flower beds. After this post it may be warm enough to head out into the back yard and do the job. When I awoke the temperature outside was sixty degrees, Oh me what will I do? Put on a sweatshirt and stop complaining like a wank.

The idea of sitting in the house today while reading a book sounds very appealing, but that is not to be. I know that once I finally shoe-up and head outside I’ll stay out until the last evil weed is in the big blue yard waste bucket. I’ll be out by ten and in by noon. Oh yeah that could mean more food! and coffee too!

I love the garden, but hate the work. When it becomes I love the work but hate the garden I know I will have achieved a new level of consciousness.

Yesterday, I fell completely off the KETO wagon at the OASIS Twenty-fifth anniversary cook out celebration. OASIS stands for Orland Area Sight Impaired Support a group of people who are blind, partially blind, or going blind who band together to discuss the trials and tribulations of living in the dark. The Frankfort Lions Club has adopted OASIS as our project to help the sight impaired of the community. Back in 1926 Helen Keller (blind, deaf, and mute) at a Lions Convention challenged the Lions to become the “Knights of the Blind.” Lions accepted the challenge and it remains a pillar of our service. Since then we have added several more pillars to keep the house from falling down, Hunger, Environment, Sight, Diabetes, Childhood Cancer. These five are in addition to the pillars of community, disaster relief, and world-wide disease. There is never a time when we don’t have someone or something to be helping. Sometimes it is monetary assistance, and at others like this OASIS event it was with our presence and hands-on assistance. COVID slowed us down a bit on the hands-on assistance type projects but requests for monetary help kept coming. At the same time we were stifled in our ability to raise money. Thankfully, all that has changed and we are ramping up activity to one hundred percent of normal. In other words, if you see a Lion in front of a store with a bucket, please drop a few bucks in. If you see an ad for a Lions pancake breakfast, please go have breakfast.

Time to go pull weeds.

Lake View-Monet Vision-Durango Gold

It is pouring rain today, as it has been doing on and off for the past week. My wife called me to fix a TV which did not have a signal. I was pushing buttons to get the signal back when a very loud bang on top of a flash occurred right outside our window. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I thought the TV blew up, but it was thunder and lightening. It must have struck the trees behind our house. Being startled like that certainly woke me up.

I spent two and a half hours in the yard today pulling weeds and trimming shrubs. I came in soaking wet from sweat. The house was cool and I was cold. I like working in humidity but it wears me down quickly. After a shower and some clean clothes I’ve been spending time at my desk processing raffle ticket returns. My annual appeal letter is working and I am at ten percent of my goal to sell 200 tickets.

Why is it that gardeners must have flower beds that are as neat as a pin? We must attack any natural horticultural matter that we didn’t plant. Natives just don’t belong in a cultured garden. I must be careful for I will raise the ire of some radical group like Green Weeds Matter (GWM) who will demonstrate in front of my house carrying signs that say Stop Killing Natives, or Native Perennials are Flowers Too! I would love to dump the contents of my 90 cubic foot container of garden waste on them, but It won’t happen because I’m too weak to lift it.

I keep staring into the water of my pond searching for a glimpse of any of the twenty-five fish I dumped in there last week. To date, I have only spotted one small school of four cruising along the shore. I did spot a very large frog right under my nose as I savagely yanked the out of place natives from the ground. Froggy was out of the water and migrating into the Hosta bed to hunt for some delicious critter to eat. I slowly moved my gloved hand toward him to see if he would jump, he dd not. I had to gently touch his hind leg to get a reaction, and then he only moved about a foot before resuming his motionless posture. He does move fast when he moves, but mostly he plays dead until it is time to strike.

There is something soothing about a garden that has a manicured look, and neat flower beds surrounding a freshly mowed lawn, and a patio overlook from which to admire it all. I love summer! My garden does not look like that vision I just described. I have a scenic pond surrounded by flashy flowers backed up by a wall of fancy shrubs to add a colorful backdrop, and fresh cut lawns on either side. I sit on the patio and spend time thinking about how good life is as I listen to the birds singing from yard to yard. I have discovered that the loudest bird is one of the tiniest, a wren. If he sang in a choir he would be the one voice that rises above all the others. This is the fifth year the wren family has rented the middle bird house in the Bird-Tower apartments. The view from the entrance is Lake Joe. A low hanging branch from the huge poplar tree at the back of the yard affords them a hidden approach to the front door.

Just When I Thought I Was Out of the Woods

I set a goal this year, that if I were still living in the same house as I have for the past fifteen years that I would plant an award winning garden, I neglected the Monet Vision for two years and have been paying the price in tired muscles, weary joints and the latest, cellulitis. What I forgot over those twenty four months was that the same plot is loaded with sleeper cells that get angry when I don’t provide them with luscious annuals to feed on.

This year’s trip to the nursery to buy flowers was a joy, but very short. The instant I walked through the door into the green house I spotted a flash of color at the furthest point away from where I stood. It was the color I wanted in the Monet Vision. Before I knew what the flower was I saw the theme for a picture outside my kitchen window. The two colors were a flashy bright golden orange and a very deep bright sunny yellow, and they were marigolds. I will suffer looking at yellow just to deter the rabbits, I thought to myself. There is nothing I hate more than declaring war on rabbits. Rabbits look upon my annual plantings like I do looking at a box of Fannie May chocolate cremes.

To add spice to our lives, my beautiful wife planted a large pot with a spike, encircled by yellow marigolds encircled by moss roses. It sits boldly on our front porch next to our front door. A couple of nights ago, she called me out to see something. “Look,” she said, “what is digging in my pot?” I wanted to laugh, but knew better. What I saw was a trail of rich black dirt scattered all about the porch leading to a very round and pronounced hole at the base of our spike. “This not a rabbit,” I said, “it looks more like the work of a ground squirrel.”

“We have to put something around it,” we meaning me, she said. I took the watering can from her hand and poured the entire two gallons down the hole. Nothing came out. I expected to see a drowning stripped squirrel come out gasping for air. Nothing happened.

A couple of days have passed during which time I spotted a rabbit in the middle of the Monet Vision. I jumped out of my easy chair and chased him out of the yard. Upon returning from the chase I saw what he was coming for. I planted a single Black Eyed Susan almost ready to bloom next to our new rose bush. I had pictured this one plant seeding into a large mass of yellow with dark brown centers backing up my Stella Dora lilly patch. This is not to be because the mature plant had become a stub poking out of the ground. Now I am mad, I said to myself. I have two different adversaries to fight at the same time, as well as a very unhappy wife.

In past years I posted a series of garden stories titled “Wabbit Wars.” In these stories I picture myself as Elmer Fudd of long ago cartoon days. Elmer constantly battled with Bugs Bunny who raided his carrot patch often. Elmer had a lisp and couldn’t say “rabbit”, he said “wabbit.” Therein the title “Wabbit Wars”. I try to use my wits to outsmart the rabbits, while Elmer used his shotgun, but he always missed the mark.

My mind will go crazy in the next few weeks as I begin the battle on two fronts. One against Osama Bin Wabbit, and the other against Mohammad Squirelsalam. Two sleeper cells who have been awakened to the odor of newly planted fresh delicious cuisine that I have named squirrel-rabbit food.

It is not fair that I should finally open my wallet to a rush of moths flying out to pay for plant materials that are the dashes of color on my garden palette to form the “2021 Monet Vision- Durango Gold,” only to find rabbit scat in place of my beautiful Black Eyed Susan. Perhaps if I catch and kill these terrorists and place their heads on a spike at the entrance to my yard they will hop around the perimeter and not invade the heart of the scene.

Tracey J Boothe Publishing Blog

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