Ah, May Day: the First of Mowing Season

So for a second year in a row, I decided against hiring a flock of goats to bring the house’s frontal expanse into order.
(Mostly because there’s no fence to hold them in; how do I know they wouldn’t literally find a greener pasture across the street, thus abandoning me for the friendly cow family luring the stupid Caprine family over for fresher grub? Then all the rental money would be gone…my grass would still be thigh-high, and suddenly my willy-nilly, ineffective lawn-eating team would end a year later with a new breed of cow-goat baby. Things just get out of hand when I try to incorporate livestock in my prairie world.)
It would have been so much simpler, yet my ineptitude with the ranching ability leaves me breathless. As it would a flock of goats. Thus, I’m considering myself a humanitarian by not involving fauna in my lawn fight.
Because it IS a fight. The grass grows, the mower blows — in the euphemistic way, I’m sad to proclaim — and still I must either cut the stuff…or move…and I hate packing.
OF COURSE the John Deere is ineffective. Because EVERY SPRING it has turned up its wheels and snubbed its hoodless, non-headlight-lit, battered face — really, it’s an ugly beast, even for a ten-year-old, lived-through-a-tornado mower — and pretended to be dead. The annual death ritual of this machine is more reliable than that rodent Phil “predicting” spring.
(Sorry, that sounded a bit cynical. It’s been a hard day.)
After futile attempts at resuscitation, including the infusion of three heavy gallons of gasoline, I had to concede that the Greene had “bit it” and borrow a mower yet again — fourth year in a row? fifth? — from my favorite dad-in-law, who is ever at  my rescue.
Thank God for generosity and kindness and knowing that girls can do anything, as long as you show them — yearly — how to reverse the trajectory in order to avoid ditches and hills that make me queasy and still not kill the mower.
Those are the essentials.
Fortunately, I had all three of those things.
And for two days, with Sam’s ears a-floppin’ and his claws a-diggin’ trenches into my legs for purchase, we mowed the afternoon hours away. Sure, we swore, we got a tiny bit stuck — no one saw; there were no witnesses — and we bogged down a few times, because the prairie endured torrential April rains that brought May weeds, the kind that grow in protective clumps that require scything and baling, but the lawn tractor would have to do — who needed a dumb ol’ goat? — because Sam looked so cute.
That’s right, I blame my aged, tiny, sweetest-ever dog for the continual backing up, moving forward, backing up, moving forward action required to bring the grass down, severing the stems to a minimal height amongst mounds of shorn trimmings.
How can one scythe, though necessity begs for it, when one has a pooch upon her lap?
She can’t.
Thus, we mowed. Sam’s ears flapped, I swore only a little, and we enjoyed the full throttle action that only Dad’s mower has, as the dead John Deere has no horse, no power, and no speed even if it’s upright and breathing. I really should bury the thing, but man, that sounds like so much work.
As an extra “Atta-Girl” Bonus today, I also gardened. I planted the remains of several unknown vegetable species that once stood proudly within my baby greenhouse, but now look severed somehow, as nine baby chicks found their wings, flew to heights I did not know they could reach, and ate every green leaf of every plant they flapped into.
And then the snake came, for the second time this year.
To sum up:
Lawn: 1, Sam and I, zero; except in the cuteness factor, because in the ability to look adorable, we totally dominated over the lawn. (In fact, the yard looks like a verdant 3-acre expanse of Super Cuts flooring; hundreds of clumps of rolling bits of clippings moving with the winds; unsightly, true, but no longer attached to the parent plant, which is all that matters right this moment.)
Chickens: 9. The odds weren’t ever in my favor. (Geek literary reference there, sorry.) Yeah, they won, but someday I might have leafy greens again, given enough Miracle Gro, and by golly, as soon as I recognize something, I’m pulling out the Labeler and going to town with defining nomenclature: Tomatoes, Brussel Sprouts; Bell Pepper (though frankly, they kind of all look alike at the beginning to me; might have to wait for actual food before I label anything properly)
Snakes: 2. BUT. I did NOT lose to the snakes. It so serendipitous-ly, serpentine-ly, happened that at the exact moment I was through with my current task, a snake slithered by on his way to den for the evening. Twice. And both times, after the initial appearance, it so happened that within fractions of a second later, I needed to make for the inside of the house as though I were on fire and only the interior side of the front door could save me.  All serendipity; the fates at work. Planets aligning, and all that crap.
Goats: However many it would take to shear. But I did consider that if I had the goats do the initial job, I could get a miniature donkey for summer maintenance. (They’re so cute!) But it was a brief, rambling thought that didn’t last long once I remembered I have a Killer Scout the Moose Dog that takes down any living thing deemed valuable to me. (Sad but alas, ’tis true.)
Heroes: 1. Total Dad Hero today. Plus I housed the mighty machine within the bowels of the garage because of even more impending rain. AND filled it with gas. Go, me. Good daughter.
Back Fat: 1…hundred pounds…of new rolls I didn’t remember from last season’s lawn season. Brownies were tasty this winter; now the tractor will have to wiggle them off. It’s a movable Tan ‘N Tone, isn’t it, this riding mower?

So maybe I didn’t score well, but the lawn is cut, the neighbors might concede that it looks better and thus not be ashamed to share a fence any longer, and hey, I still have my cute pup.
I win.

 

Midnight in the Garden of Pure Upheaval

For a month, I’ve had a plant swap scheduled at the library.
For four weeks, I’ve badgered garden club members with oh-so-important reminders: plant swap!; Saturday — this Saturday! 9am sharp! not a single moment later than 9 in the morning of the Saturday of this very week! — bring plants, bulbs, seeds, anything that will grow; bring fungus, I don’t care, just bring something to trade for other greenish tinted things that other grow-minded people wish to share. I might have even thrown an, “I’m not kidding, people!” in one of those emails, just to let them know: Hey, there’s a swap, and you’re gonna be there, and you’re gonna have stuff, and it’s gonna be fun!
And this last week, I made final preparations: seasonal handouts of information pertinent to our growing zone as well as season; memos about upcoming seminars/classes/sales; lists of reminders: next month’s meeting, a where and a when. I was ready!
Friday I spent the afternoon arranging tables, shuffling papers, moving things from left to right; lengthy preparations for the next morning’s early arrival/prompt meeting time.
Friday night, well after the sun has set, leaving the prairie in the black; long day; about to head to bed, and what should I hear? A tiny, wee, little (yes, I see the redundancy, but this sound was that of a Disney creature, it was so microscopic, made even more annoying by its “cuteness” factor) voice rings in my head: THERE’S A PLANT SWAP TOMORROW AND I HAVE NOTHING TO SWAP!
Adrenaline takes over and I shuffle into my slippers, gather my shovel (located handily outside my front door, for those of you curious as to where I keep my gardening/potential burglar repellent supplies, for just such an emergency; fortunately I know it is there; otherwise I would have tripped over it) and beeline for the front flower bed where I’ve been growing items — nurturing them, really — for just this very opportunity: swappage.
It’s a word.
I near the general area of flowers and I dig up lilies like they’re on fire and one second more aflame will ignite a bomb beneath the roots of those bulbs.
Handfuls of sedum, the world’s easiest plant to propogate, practically pull themselves out of their comfortable pot-o-dirt and fly across the darkened sidewalk into the vicinity of a waiting tray readied for travel to the swap meet. (Next morning, I discover in my flight from the house that indeed, not all of the sedum was as self-propelled as I had hoped. One quick scoot with my sneaker, though, returned them to their bed to grow another day.)
And as I’m shoveling the last bit of earth from around yet another clump of what-I-hope-was-lily, I trip over a flat of periwinkles I’d forgotten about entirely.
“I gotta plant those!” I thought for the jillionth time, and yet it was then, standing in a sweat drenched t-shirt, yoga pants and a pair of hopefully-machine-washable slippers, that the compulsion arose to indeed set the new plants into their permanent home, my flower bed.
Five minutes later: DONE!
New Plants: in the ground.
Share-able Plants: shoved unceremoniously to where I hope the front tire of the truck sits, so that in the morning, when I can actually see, I will pick up the tray of love I hope will find good homes and store it properly for safe travels to the library.
Shove: returned to its proper housing: the front door.
Pants and slippers: stuffed into the washing machine.
And I’m in the shower.
Two days later, plant swap was a major success. Love and abundance to all who arrived and left with packets of delight to plant and enjoy.
And I returned to my own flower bed, to water it, to fawn over it, and to inspect my new arrivals for signs of transplant shock.
Blink.
Blink.
I’m almost sure they were somewhere in this vicinity…
Okay.
So now it’s Monday, and I am planning another Plant Swap, because I need something to put in my beds. I have giant holes where once attractive flowers sat minding their own business. General signs of chaos abound — dirt amok, leaves littered, roots of questionable lineage strewn about — as though I’ve cut appendages from the body of my yard and left the dirt to ooze out.
And my brand new plants?
Well.
I’m sure they’re in there somewhere.
I just need for them to grow a bit — emerge from the soil graves into which I hurriedly threw them — and I’ll find out about my placement. I hope I chose good spots for each of the…oh, twenty or so…new souls to my loving garden.
And my house shoes?
Yeah…who knew they weren’t amenable to a good scrub in the Maytag…

Look at this Shirt…but Not this Jacket…and Don’t Look at My Neck…wait, Does My Neck Need Work?

I once overheard in a dress shop dressing room, “What do you think?”
Since I didn’t know of anyone else being in the area, I peeked out my flimsy curtain and saw a lady in a pair of shorts, white socks, and a blazer over a white blouse standing in front of a chair full of her husband, obviously lulled by hypnotic somnolence.
Hubby roused for a second, then glanced up at his wife, who asked again.
“What do you think of this shirt? But only the collar. Don’t look at anything else. And I’ll have a different color jacket, probably navy, maybe black. And a necklace…”
No response.
“What do you think?”
One more beat, a quick shrug, and hubby said, “Yes.”
Ah, I thought to myself as I tucked myself back into the dressing room. He’s a pro. Well done, sir.
Why do I tell you this story? Because I have friends coming from Wyoming, to a house not Spring Ready or Spring Cleaned — or maybe even Winter Cleaned, but March is probably too late for that, I guess.
Having given up on the home’s interior, I’ve been working in the front yard. And the parts that are pretty are really, really pretty! I truly considered calling an emergency meeting of the Garden Club so that they could see I can actually have a pretty, living garden for five minutes every spring.
For my poor visiting friends, I’m hoping that after four back breaking days of labor in the front yard, the collar of the shirt will dazzle them to the point that they won’t notice the awfulness of things like the guest room. (Ooo, better yet, maybe they’ll want to live outside for the duration of their stay! I have a couple of comfy chairs, surely. Well, one needs to be re-webbed…and the other has a wonky leg; it rocks; but rocking motions, they can be soothing, right?)
Except, like that half-dressed woman’s request, I need my friends to look at one half of the front flower bed, the west side…and don’t look around the corner of the house…or the back yard…or even the east side of the same flower bed…
That’s it. I’m taking them to a hotel.