Monday, August 28, 2006

Changing Seasons

Although the temperatures are still in the 90's on most days, I am beginning to see signs that summer is waning and fall is coming.

Most notably, everyday now there are a few golden and brown leaves slowly sifting down out of the trees, letting go, weary from their nonstop duties of capturing sunlight and converting it to food. The Half Century Fountain seems to attract a fair number of these tired-out toilers, so each morning I find myself skimming out the prior day's leavings.

Having finished their primary job of creating food for their parent plant, now the leaves will slowly decompose. Ironically yet fittingly, they continue to feed their parent through their death and recycling.

An anonymous quote caught my attention last night: "Humans - despite their artistic pretensions, their sophistication, and their many accomplishments - owe their existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains." How much healthier our psyches and our world would be if we'd all realize and remember that fact.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Flotsam and Jetsam

There have been many crosscurrents lately. The flow carrying Prairiewolf and me toward our move appears to be gaining strength and velocity. It begins to look like we'll have the house (and garden) on the market in October. Running almost directly counter to this steady movement is the current that contains my friends and botanical "family" here in Mobile, carrying me towards the shore of the Fall Plant Sale...also in October. And when I've occasionally had the chance to bob around in a few, gentle, backwater eddies, I've been reading a great book on permaculture in the home landscape, entitled (ironically enough) Gaia's Garden,
by Toby Hemenway.

With such conflicting currents constantly pulling at me, it's hard to focus on any one thought, botanical or philosophical, for very long. But a lot of interesting things are happening, and somehow it feels soothing to take note of them and share them.


Two more pine trees became infested with pine beetles. I was lucky enough to find a tree service who could remove them relatively promptly; they came in less than a week and took them out today. Which, unfortunately, was necessary and therefore good. Hopefully we got them out before the "infection" had spread to any more healthy trees in the yard.

Countering the relief at getting that unhappy chore done, though, is the fact that both tree services I consulted recommended taking down a third pine tree that looked weak to them...and I decided to follow their advice and have it taken out. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that after the tree was cut down today, the stump rapidly covered with sap, bleeding over the fatal wound. The beetle infested trees were already dead and did not bleed at all. My heart aches at the unnecessary death that I caused today, however well-intentioned my decision was.

Tree facts from Gaia's Garden:

Planting a tender plant under the canopy edge of an evergreen tree can protect it enough during the winter to allow you to grow a plant that normally requires at least one higher hardiness zone. (p. 115)

A full-grown tree (presumably deciduous, although it's not specified) can transpire up to 2000 gallons of water on a hot, dry day, cooling the air around and beneath it. (p. 100)

The same full-grown tree can have between 10 and 30 ACRES of leaf surface, filtering dust and pollen and spores and pollutants and nutrients from the air. When rain comes, it coats the leaves first, making a "soup" with the ingredients captured on the leaf surfaces. When the rain does finally fall from the leaves, it is essentially carrying the tree's own fertilizer and innoculant with it. (p. 100-101)

Sightings around the garden:

There are butterflies galore right now. Yesterday morning, I saw 2 perfect giant swallowtails majestically feeding on Salvia, along with several pairs of gulf fritillaries flirtaciously chasing each other, a tattered and dull black swallowtail methodically nectaring, and several skippers flipping from bloom to bloom.

Hummingbirds are everywhere too. Just when you least expect it, one will buzz by and make you jump. Like the swallowtails, they are also enjoying the Salvia...although I saw a couple checking out the leaves of an oak tree this afternoon, for some strange reason.

I have recently learned that having your water moving during the day is not enough to deter mosquito larvae least not if that water is still at night. Now my Half Century Fountain sports a debonair mosquito donut bobbing about, and I'm hoping to sport a few less mosquito bites on my ankles and arms.

After seeing quite a few small banana (golden silk) spiders in the garden a few weeks ago, I'm finding almost none now. Discussing with friends who had noticed the same phenomenon in their own gardens, we concluded that the birds have been reduced to eating the spiderlings because of decreased insects due to the drought.

Which leads me to comment that the drought appears to have broken at last. We've been getting our normal afternoon thunderstorms almost daily for the last 10 days or so. It seems odd to be celebrating extreme humidity and damp...but sometimes what you need isn't necessarily what you enjoy!

It's time to drift on to other activities. To mangle a truism, "A time for everything...and everything in its time."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Free Cell vs. Life's Problems

I have been playing FreeCell a lot lately, subconsciously trying to bring order to my life. It's funny how I default to that game when I'm feeling out of control. Knowing that every hand is supposed to be solvable, I feel as if I'm somehow solving all of my life's problems by carefully ordering the cards in descending order, black on red on black on red....

Unfortunately, of course, what I'm actually doing is wasting time.

I've been feeling stressed lately. The formation of Tropical Storm Chris in the Caribbean is a good part of my dis-ease, but not all of it. Three more pine trees in the back yard have gotten beetles and have to be removed now - an expensive problem at any time but really problematic if a hurricane gets here before the tree service folks. Most of all, though, it's time to seriously finish putting the house in order and have it ready to show. Several people have expressed interest, and I'd like to be able to invite them in for a look around at a moment's notice.

Funny, it's not the move per se that has me uptight - it's selling the house. Somehow it feels like my life and my decorating ability (or lack thereof) and simply my general worthiness as a human being are all being judged by a bunch of strangers. If the house sells rapidly, I've done well and I am "worthy"; if the house languishes on the market, I'm being found wanting. (And given the fact that this house had languished on the market for months before we bought it, I feel like the deck is stacked against me to begin with.)

Logically I know that this is stupid and that I am not my house...but it's what I feel emotionally. And it adds a horrible degree of stress to what is already a somewhat stressful situation (i.e. moving).

I know that this too shall pass. We have successfully sold 4 other houses. We will eventually successfully sell this one. But, boy, I will be SOOOO glad when we have come through this gauntlet and have moved on to other challenges.