Monday, January 12, 2009

Mission Creep and Brutal Nature

Dr. Spouse has a perfect term for what I ended up doing Sunday: Mission Creep.

We had a good bit of rain Saturday and working the soil Sunday was out of the question. I did promise her that I would move a couple of barrowloads of good dirt (store-bought, I must admit) into one of our 4-by-8-foot vegetable beds. Dr. Spouse wanted to plant some spinach and the neglected bed needed more dirt.

(Happy and tasty cauliflower and broccoli in two of the raised beds)

I planned to prune back the muscadine vines; something that we'd never done. In the spirit of our getting more serious and focusing more attention on the productive parts of the yard, I wanted to tame those wild vines. They produced a decent crop last year but I botched the jam making process.

I also wanted to complete the tear-down on the crumbling playhouse. It will be resurrected as 6-by-8-foot hen house. I must complete that in the next several weeks if we are to join a friend in ordering chicks.

(C., our youngest, helps clean up during the playhouse tear-down)

I ended up ruling out moving more dirt into our neglected blueberry bed. The dirt was too wet and heavy to struggle with. I was as much concerned with my back as the rickety wheel barrow.

On the bottom of my list was sorting and bagging the last batch of charcoal. (Not just the latest but the last batch. More on that later.)

But those plans fell by the wayside. Moving dirt into the vegetable garden, I kept passing our huge bed of canna lillies. It's in a crescent about 30 feet long and 6 feet across at the deepest part. When bought the place a decade ago, cannas were scattered here and there. When they got in the we dug them up and either moved them ore potted them.

Several years ago, I used a rented tiller to create that big bed. I stuck down some canna rhizomes and pretty much left them alone. That's been much of our operation around here: you what we have and follow with benign neglect.

Some winters we'd clean up the frost-burnt leaves and stalks before new growth started. Some we didn't.

In passing on Saturday, Dr. Spouse asked me break out the trimmer and whack down the skraggy canna remains. We'll one thing led to another -- the trimmer balked after a fine start, for one -- and I ended up spending a few hours raking out the bed.

... And cutting a trench around the bed to keep the grass out of the cannas and the cannas out of the grass.

... And extending the trench down to a shallow retention pond to ease drainage. (This is South Louisiana, after all.)

... And moving barrow loads of canna debris, turf and dirt over to the compost and carefully forking them into a bin. (That's gonna be some good stuff in a few months.)

(Here's the lawn-canna dividing trench about halfway done with vegetable garden in background)

One thing led to another and we ended up with a fairly tidy canna bed and a bin full of quality compost-to-be. (The pruners never got within 20 feet of the muscadine vines. But hey, I've got a four-day weekend coming up. I'll put that on the list.)

At one point, Dr. Spouse came over to check on my efforts. I puffed out my chest and bragged on my labor. She muttered an appropriate level of appreciation and was about to head back to her toil in the vegetable beds when two of the dogs came ripping through a shady, treed area we call a woodland "garden."

Grim and Lucy were in hot pursuit of something down in the leaf litter. Judging that we'd seen a nearby mole tunnel that had been recently dug up, we jumped to a conclusion. They dug furiously past the leaves, into the soil and under a wrist-thick root. They dug with hackles up and growling at the other dogs who tried to push into the action.

Suddenly they stopped. Lucy, a low-slung bassett mix, quivered from nose to toes. Grim, a tall pit bull mix, had his ears at alert. Just as suddenly, they zoomed in one something a foot to the left. In seconds, Grim won. He had mole in his mouth. We heard the death squeak even before we saw the pink nose and feet.

We find mole carcasses on a regular basis in the yard but this was the first mole hunt we'd witnessed. It carried a certain small thrill, watching those dogs being the predators they are deep down inside.

I felt a pang of sorrow for the mole but it was, afterall, a pest. The pang was fleeting.

On the other hand, as Dr. Spouse pointed out, the grubs were cheering.

(Moles eat grubs, for those of you who don't know.)

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