The ants have bloomed.

I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Deluge after deluge and then a pause. I could escape! The tomatoes need to come out as they stopped earning their keep weeks and weeks ago. 

I stepped into the garden and the ground was moving. My skin was on edge. There were multi lane freeways and block parties of ants in every bed, in every path, on every post. 

My husband had read about a new bait he’d been wanting to try: peanut butter and borax. He whipped up a batch and I set about with a spoon.

This was two weeks ago now. They nearly disappeared for a week. Today was round two. 

I think I’ll stick to a three day cycle to try and truly banish them for at least a little while. Between the ants, mosquitos, and poison oak, outside is a little more vicious this year than most.

But then there’s this …

My storm drain has never looked so nice.

Where I’ve been.

I’m just starting to get back outside (aside from trips from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office and back again.)

For the first time in a month. 

Why?

Well, about a month ago the baby went to bed and I knew it wasn’t for good, but I needed (needed) to get my hands dirty. It was a race against the baby clock. I ran downstairs as quietly as I could. Shoving tied shoes onto tired feet. Mind spinning – what to do? What to do?

I head to the front bed, overgrown with weeds and grass and getting worse the longer I leave things to seed. Rip. Tug. Puuuuuuull. Weeds and grass flung out of the earth and onto the walk. Faster. Deeper. 

There.

The weeds were gone. The grass was gone. I loaded the bundle into my arms for the bin and wandered back to tackle the roses. 

Screech…

I look up to see two heads pop out of the upstairs window. “He’s up.”

I race inside. Shedding my shoes and shirt and launching up the stairs into bed with the baby to try and nurse him back down before he’s too awake to settle.

Whew.

Fast forward two days later and I’m nursing him in the middle of the night and…That’s a killer spider bite on my pinky. 

Fast forward to the next evening. You guessed it. 


Ooze. 

It’s not even that I didn’t see it. It’s that I didn’t even look. I didn’t realize I’d been exposed. I’d just spent three days spreading the oils all.over.the.house.

I’ll spare you the pictures of my pinky trying to swim away in a sea of ooze. Or the crawling dime-sized blister on the back of my hand. Or the 8″x4″ map of seeping Australia on my stomach…

I got a new patch every few hours for ten days straight. It took washing every.thing.in.the.house.every.day for five days to stop the cycle. I covered head to toe, sitting on sheets, everything else was molten lava.

It had been ten years (just) since I’d last gotten poison oak. I used to get it every summer growing up. This was the worst time. I’ll be ok if I can make it at least two decades before i get it again. And you can bet your raised eyebrow I’ll be weeding so very carefully going forward.

I still look like I’m recovering from a motorcycle crash without enough gear. I still hear, “Mama, bad rash. That’s a bad rash. Skin hurt?” But I can stomach standing outside now without raging my way into a miserable fit. So there’s that.

Slugs in June.

“I’ll make you a deal,” I plead, cheerful optimism forced upon each syllable. “You go to sleep and stay asleep before the sun sets so I can have some garden time, and I’ll give you three extra kisses.”

It’s dim, but not dark. Just before eight o’clock. I rush outside. I want to dig the rest of the garlic before it rots where it’s buried. I see an ant sipping the wine of the Mexican Oregano.

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The fading light leaves a squash blossom alit.

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I check on the carrots, long shaded by last year’s hidden sweet potatoes.

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And the leek’s getaway is complete.

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I hear the backdoor creak open. My heart sinks.

“He’s asking for you. Do you want me to bring him down or do you want to go back up?”

I go back up. The irrational emotions flare with each step. I take a deep breath, lower my shoulders, and swallow them down until I’ve softened.

It’s nearly nine o’clock. I haven’t finished my dinner. I nearly sprint out the door, snatch up my trowel, and make a bee line for the garlic. Surrounded by liquefied chard leaves the garlic is doing its best to thwart the hunger that crawls around it, along it, but hopefully not through it.

I send the blade deep into the soil and pry. Each root gives one by one and at once. The soil clings heavy. The roots ching greedily. Tap, tap, tap – some falls. I drape the shoot over the edge of the bed and move on. Another. Slice. Pry. Tap.Tap.Tap. Drape. Again.

The pill bugs scatter. The slugs hold tight. An earthworm seemingly launches from the earth and frantically races toward blind freedom. I watch it a moment. Dropping soil gently down its length, I bury it.

It’s dark now. Ration has yet to return. Dinner is three hours cold. I’m depleted. Unable to find enjoyment in the moments of daylight spent outdoors, alone, I step past the dinner bowl discarded to feed others, tend to others, love on others.

An apple, a knife, and a jar of peanut butter usually does the trick. Here’s hoping.

Shadows cast.

The roses have buds. Branches glow, casting brisk lines. Cranes blot the sky as the earth sheds the day. The seasons have changed and the world feels crisp, crunchy.

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The sog battles the snap underfoot. Giving with one step, resisting the next, I feel the transition dance through my soul.

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My timing is off. The beat, I’ve lost. I am not the only one out of sequence.

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It’s time I pause to join once again in the rhythm of things.

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Put your feet up…

I had many plans for today. Beans and peas in the soil. Brassica family starts from the farmer’s market into the shady new bed…

Plans are funny things. I like plans. Perhaps as much as I like surprises. (I make sense. Promise.) I do well with plans or surprises. I do not do so well with plans that change or fall through or are otherwise lost. In becoming aware over the years of this facet of myself, I’ve found ways around it, or through it, or on occasion, standing straight up in it until it passes overhead like a thundercloud threatening that never delivers. So today is not full of digging in the earth. Nor is it full of getting ready for a short work week. Or making a blackberry pie as planned for a Labor Day Feast.

Why?

Well, let’s just say that instead, I’m holed up on the sofa, crutches close at hand. My ankle lost last night in a soccer match against a leg stronger than mine. Thankfully it wasn’t broken. I went down this same road almost fifteen years ago now. Air cast. Ice. Elevate. Aggravate your other leg’s knee with your hopping about because I’m-only-going-right-there-and-don’t-need-crutches-for-such-a-short-distance.

So instead, I’ll say hello to you all. I’ll draft the plans for the brassica and other winter garden tenants, maybe. I’ll see if there’s a leftover Premier League match on the internet, maybe. I’ll poke at the swelling, definitely. And I’ll ponder on how a work week will look with only manual transmission cars at my disposal…

I did manage a few things before becoming a one-legged-stubborn-hopper…I made a sidewalk.

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When we first moved here, the 6″ wide strip between the sidewalk and the house was full of St. Augustine. Mowing and edging 6″ of grass seemed silly. Out it came. The grocery store had soft fuzzy sage specimens for $4. I picked up two. One went in this strip of soil to be baked in its concrete confines and watered rarely. It housed an Anole (who has since moved to the compost pile) and provided shade to the toads. It also grew from about 6″ tall and 3″ wide to about 3′ tall and 5′ wide. Oops? DH has been missing the sidewalk (that leads to the back patio, that houses the grill, that rains down delicious food like mana from the sky) so I figured it was time to make a sidewalk.

In so doing, I found a few things. I found another melon growing on the vine that gave me this delicious morsel.
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I found a spinach bouquet where I had forgotten I’d sown spinach.
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And then I realized I needed someplace to put the large cubic volume of sage. The garden could use a little mulch…but I’d lost the battle against the mealybugs for the tomatoes and didn’t want to mulch them in for the winter…so out they came.
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And in went the sage mulch.
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I’m hoping the strong smell of the sage will confuse any leftover mealybugs enough that they don’t move in on my peppers (hiding in the sage). I feel like each August is a battle against the mealybugs. Last August I won. This August I lost. Year before I won. Year before they did…perhaps next year will be mine again.

Seasons are as seasons do.

On my trip this week to Houston I couldn’t help but notice the corn was higher than my head, with the tassels starting. Where I grew up there were corn farmers (and grass seed farmers, Christmas Tree farmers, cherry and peach and berry farmers…) and those farmers are just sowing their corn for the season now. 

Some years I have tomatoes by now, and this year I don’t. Some years the strawberries don’t have a chance to fruit well for the early onslaught of heat, this year they did (and continue to do so.)
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Seasons in Texas are measured two ways – in the classic four seasons (which are measured by what the calendar says it should be) and in the Texas weather way (Not Hot, Beautiful, Hot, Thunderstorm Season, Beautiful, repeat.) 

Depending on whether the storms come, or the heat is early or late, the plants do as their coding dictates. This keeps us gardeners on our toes! Not for late frosts or lack of sunlight, but for baked seedlings or flooded fruit. 

 

The backyard this year is the usual mixture of expectations met and seasonal surprises. Like finding more strawberries this morning. Or finding that this fern, so lush and happy in March…
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…is now gone without a trace.

Or that these plums just setting fruit in March…
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…have started to turn.
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Then there’s the Monster Chard that has been keeping you in gigantic leaves of green since October was discovered by the hungry hundred caterpillars.
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And the Forgotten Beet that made the most delicious “french fries” (thanks to DH’s talents.)
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Which reminds me, I need to not forget about the Onion Rope. The instructions on the internet conflicted with those in a book, which weren’t terribly clear. We’ll see how it goes, but it may just be that DH eats them all before they reach a questionable storage age anyway. (Onions being yet another food I enjoy growing but do not enjoy eating.)
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