Weed this and reap

This summer has been an unmitigated disaster, yard-wise. In fact, I’m pretty sure my neighborhood association is on a vicious crusade to make me feel really, really bad about myself, what with all the talk in the newsletter of “grass needs to be no more than 8 inches high” this and “don’t obscure your front windows with wild untrimmed hedges” that.

Please.

It’s not my fault the weather this year has caused an explosion of plants and weeds of nuclear, if not Biblical, proportions. Thistles as thick as my arm. Queen Anne’s Lace that I could actually use to make an epic wedding dress, including veil. Morning glories adrift in the middle of the front lawn, if you can believe that.

Hot damnI lay the blame on the super-hot temperatures we had in late June and early July. It was, honest-to-God, 105 degrees in the Fahrenheit one Saturday afternoon, and that pretty much killed any grass-like foliage I had growing both in front of and behind my house. Thus ensued Bare Spots, in which the dormant weeds, awakened by the monsoons rains which followed the HtG 105-degree weather, flourished.

My yard, ya see, until about 2003, lay in the middle of a large pasture, undeveloped and uninhabited — unless you count the gophers. They’re still here, by the way. Groundhog Central. Anyway, this pasture land, ungrazed by any animal and untended by any farmer, fostered the growth of the aforementioned thistles and Queen Anne’s Lace undisturbed for centuries. I mean, Indians trod on my wild thistleland. Cave men tripped on my morning glory’s forebears. So when the grass gave up the ghost, the dormant seeds, undeterred by a couple years’ worth of sod laid atop it, sprang forth and stormed across my lawn like conquering warlords.

Matters were made worse by the absence of my yard boy for part of the summer, who also is known in some circles as my son Christopher. He was away quite a bit, and when he returned he had to go to band camp … eyeroll … sheesh, kids these days. So despite the fact that the drought made mowing unnecessary for most of the summer, when he returned — and then vanished as a mowing entity — the weed warlords saw their opportunity and set themselves upon world domination. Er, make that the domination of my yard. This whole matter had made me think quite apocalyptically. (Is too a word.)

But he did return, and he did mow, so the pampas grassland that formerly was my back yard now has settled back into its normal state of resembling the shorn head of of marine recruit. (See photo below; scrutiny of airborne progeny and boyfriend of eldest optional.)

Up up and away!

Another interesting phenomenon is the planter on my front porch, planted with some sad petunias, some subdued greenery, and one whoppin’ big example of a forage plant.

This big thing here, which sprouted and took off during the monsoon portion of the summer’s proceedings, I believe to be an example of the millet plant. Its arrival isn’t too much of a mystery; last summer this particular flower pot sweated it out in the brutal conditions on my back deck, near the bird feeder. The untidy birds, as birds are wont to do, scattered about as much seed around the deck as they ate, some of which accumulated in the planters. Last spring I just dumped in a little fresh potting soil along with the new plants and went about my business. If some of last year’s birdseed sprouted, I just plucked it as I always do. But this whopper escaped me, and it charged out of the planter with astonishing energy, resulting in the vigorous crop of one plant you see before you today.

I find it amusing, as a peculiar addition to the wild crop of everything I’ve got growing in my yard this year. Oh I could be weeding and tidying every waking moment that I’m not working or feeding my hungry huddled masses, but something tells me it wouldn’t make a vast amount of difference. So I embrace my embarrassing yard, and the neighborhood association can just get over itself. If the apocalypse truly does come, I’ll be able to feed my family! I’ve got a crop of millet!

I wonder if morning glories are any good on toast.

A bumper crop of bunnies

This morning I was up early. I drank my coffee, did my internet duty (did you know mandatory surfing is now the law? It’s not.) and hopped into my Sauconys for a hour-long walk.

An hour later I’m back at the computer, driven indoors by the rain. It’s been a dry couple of weeks, but earlier this spring it rained. And rained. And rained. And the most visible result of all this precipitation, in my yard at least, is a bumper crop of suburban bunnies.

The wet weather, it seems, with the attendant abundance of vegetation, has caused the cottontails to multiply. Multiply like rabbits.

Oh they’re cute. Cuuuuute. We love to watch them out back about an hour before dusk, when we’ve spotted as  many as five to seven of the darling things, bunnin’ around and generally being adorable.

See? Adorable.

But they’re also, you know, pests. They eat the aforementioned vegetation, which would include my sunflowers — if I’d planted them yet. They’re still on my windowsill, paralyzed by the fear of bunnies.

I’ve nurtured these shoots, and I’ll be damned if I let the rabbits chow down on them. Not to mention the chipmunks. If there’s anything more populous in my yard than bunnies, it’s these adorable little bastards, who have taken over not only my front yard, but the dank region below my deck. This steamy place now reeks like the monkey cage at the zoo, the result I am positive of a thriving colony of Tamias striatus that would rival the meerkat lodge.

All this might be about to change, however. Upon discovering the below-decks reek, I’ve about decided that it’s time to become a mass murderer and thin the population around chez Soileau.

Image via WikipediaI know. Look that that darling little face. From someone who was hell-bent on becoming a veterinarian (ages 9-18) it’s startling news that I would go from self-appointed guardian of the animal universe to slayer of rodents.

But there is one last-ditch effort that I’m willing to make, which may save the bun and munk populations from certain death.

I’m going to fight hares with hair.

In my garage right now I have stored away, next to the warfarin-laced rat poison, a bag of hair. It’s handy, you know, whenever someone announces that their coworkers are dumber’n a bag of hair, I can just trot out there and check.

No, really. It’s reputed to be a rabbit and rodent repellent, and my hairdresser, April, kindly provided me with a whole bag of mine, plus that of her previous four customers.

So, for the time being, at least, I’m not going to have any blood on my hands — figuratively speaking. When the rain lets up, I plan on getting those sunflower shoots in the ground before it’s August and I’ve got a forest of sunflower seedlings obscuring the view in the breakfast nook.

But if the hair doesn’t prove hair-raising enough, mass murder it is. Just don’t tell April. She’ll cut me off, for sure.

Prayers for Alabama

After yesterday’s post dealing with my completely non-dangerous non-encounters with tornadoes, I’m feeling a little ashamed of myself.

While I was thinking up the most humorous way to describe the tornado warnings here in Kentucky, the people of northern Alabama were dealing with a real, actual tornado that has killed upwards of 200 people and destroyed, from what I can tell, pretty much the entire city of Tuscaloosa.

I know my tens of readers will join me in offering prayers for the people there. Donate to the American Red Cross, which provides relief to those hit by natural disasters. Offer help personally, if you are able.

It’s not much of a sweet home in Alabama this morning. Here’s hoping for better days ahead.

A plethora of tornadic activity

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog today for an update from the National Weather Service. There is a tornado WARNING in effect for the area directly above your head.

Well, maybe not directly, but that’s just what it feels like when you’re in the middle of a storm and suddenly herded into the basement. In my case, the basement in question was beneath the Cathedral and I was surrounded by about a thousand middle school students.

OK, so it only sounds like a thousand in a basement hallway after we’ve been sitting on the hard linoleum floor for 45 minutes.

But yes — this morning Tras and I were innocently attending Mass, which incidentally was the day that the middle schoolers at the parish school also had Mass. Blissfully singing along, we were — when abruptly the piano trailed off and Father announced, “There’s a tornado warning — let’s all head to the basement!”

When a Man of God speaks, you listen.

So we all trailed downstairs, speaking only in hushed, are-we-gonna-die tones. The children were instructed to sit in the hallway along the wall and, being a good Catholic school veteran myself (although my experience was directly with Catholic School Nuns) I did obediently sit along the wall with them. I yanked Tras down to the floor with me; he, being a newly minted Catholic, wasn’t quite as responsive to instructions from Catholic-school teachers.

It wasn’t our first foray into the basement this tornado season. Last Friday, the first Tornado Warning was issued for our county — a situation about which we were blissfully unaware until I received a telephone call from my mother.

An Aside

This wasn’t the first time I’d gotten a Tornado Warning from Mom. About 15 years ago, the phone rang around 11 o’clock at night. I was already in bed, exhausted from spending the day at the Oaks, which is (for the non-Kentuckians among us) the race for fillies the day before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Oaks has become a tradition in Louisville as a more sedate day at the races than the Derby, which brings out millionaires and mouthbreathers alike for a day of partying at the Downs. Still, I’d spent a day dressed up and drinking mint julips; I was whipped.

Then, the phone. It was my mother’s voice, and when you hear  your mother’s voice when you’ve been awakened from a deep sleep, it sounds something like the Voice of God. In this case, the Voice said, “Get in the bathtub, Ellen. There’s a tornado headed right for your house!”

The bathtub instruction was added because, at the time, I was living in a house without a basement. But no matter, The Voice had instructed me to get to the bathroom, and get I did. Springing from bed and grabbing baby Claire (now 16) from her crib, I launched myself toward the bathroom. I don’t think I became fully conscious until I was almost in the tub itself.

Back to Last Friday

So anyway, Friday evening Mom again calls, this time with less panic-inducing instructions, which were to turn on the TV and listen to what they were saying. We were again under a tornado warning. Still the dutiful daughter, I complied, and we all sat around listening to the weatherman tell us about the incomprehensible radar information appearing on the screen, which was indicative of tornadic activity.

Now, I’ve heard the word “tornado” and experienced “tornado” first-hand since I was a small fry; I did, after all, live through the Super Outbreak that occurred throughout the midwest and southeast in April 1974. But in all that time, I’ve never heard it referred to as “tornadic activity,” and the term strikes me as frighteningly hilarious and ridiculously verbose.

Indeed, why have a tornado when you can have “tornadic activity”? Tornadic, tornadic, tornadic. My son Christopher remarked with a completely straight face, “I can honestly say I have never heard that word until today.” Me neither, son.

So when Tornadic Activity Weatherman announced Friday evening that the hot-zone for the aforementioned tornadics was between the two very roads which bound my subdivision, I herded my offspring, plus one visiting friend, down to the basement for some quality time with the basketball hoop, toy cars and swing.

No such luck this morning, when all I had to entertain me was Tras, the iPhone and some random middle-schoolers. As Tras and I updated the moving weather map on our Weather Bug apps, the girls sitting next to me wanted to know if I liked to shop. (What is it, tattooed on my forehead or something? Sheesh.)

They also asked if I had any cool apps — a rather non-so-subtle hint that they’d just love to get their textie little fingers on my phone, I’m sure — so I showed them the face melter.

They are cute girls, as you can see, even before I melted their faces. They quickly became bored with making polite chit-chat with somebody’s mom they didn’t really know, and went back to drawing on the paper the teachers provided. After a bit, they trooped reluctantly upstairs for school; we rejoined Father in the church after an hour-long gap in morning Mass. Soon we were back outdoors, which still seemed to contain most of Lexington.

Looking at the weather systems brewing west of here, I have a feeling this isn’t the end of the week’s tornadic activity. But maybe if I just say it repeatedly, I’ll scare all tornadic everything away. It’s scared me enough already.