Summer in a Nutshell: Outacontrol, But Sorting Itself Out

Somehow, it’s August. Not only that, l spent last week, one of two between-semester weeks off, cooking, paying bills, catching up with my accountant, weeding, mowing, rearranging a few plants, and having meetings with mixed success. I did get a few things done towards a drawing that is, so far, a year in the making.

I knew that my garden was fraying, but it really didn’t sink in fully until I realized that I had completely forgotten about an empty spot right by the back door that I would have to deal should have dealt with in the spring—of 2020. Last week I realized that spot had taken care of itself. It’s not subtle in bloom.

Rudbeckia hirta, self sown and in bloom. Photographed on August 12, 2020.

Excuses, Excuses: Why I Haven’t Posted Since May

I teach at a nearby university part-time; I had eye surgery in March, just before our spring break. First, our break was extended by a week, then we were told we would teach online and the students were sent packing.

To say these fledgling adults were stressed and distressed would be an understatement. Some of my students are “nontraditional,” which means they are full-fledged grownups who have returned to school; they are also suffering from stress and distress. There has been illness, death among family and friends, sudden moves, unemployment, and work-scheduling mayhem. And somehow they were supposed to learn in the midst of all this. It was a very rough semester for many of us.

That’s the elephant under the rug: COVID-19. I had hoped that between semesters I would be able to nap when I felt like it, eat out, visit with friends, and perhaps go for walks somewhere interesting and different. This all falls into the “You Wish!” category. A couple of short naps took me—rather too late in the day to be of much use, and a friend did come by last Friday afternoon for a gab and a garden stroll—a very short stroll in my small yard—but it was lovely to see and talk to a human being live and in person, even if we were masked and I could not give her a hug.

What’s Going On in the Yard

Meanwhile, things got a wee bit out of control in the yard. Not just mine—all over town! It wasn’t the hottest July ever, but the lawn was too juicy when the temperature was moderate and the temperature was too high by the time the lawn was dry enough to mow for at least a couple of weeks. I kept the edges more or less tidy by just pulling and plucking overhanging plants, except for one plant, which I could not resist. It kept getting caught in a sunbeam.

An ostrich fern colonizes the lawn. Photographed on July 15, 2020.

I kept after the weeds, but the lawn was pretty shaggy when I got to it on July 28. Despite the shagginess, my push mower was going along just fine, until suddenly it wasn’t. The right handle fatigued right off in my hand. Who knew? Apparently this is a thing that happens to old mowers.

The lawnmower handle suffered terminal metal fatigue. Photographed on July 28, 2020.

I took it to my lawnmower man, who it turns out, has a stash of handles that he saves from dead mowers for just this sort of occasion. He checked the mower over to be sure it wasn’t about to have other serious problems and put a new-to-me handle on. Back in business! And he sharpened it too.

I mowed around the fern, which had put out a second leaf.

The same ostrich fern, a month later. Photographed on August 12, 2020.

I’ll move it next spring; that’s the safest time to move ferns. Right now, I am admiring its resilience, as my own is rather overtaxed.

I also caught up with the pawpaw bed, which is surrounded by crested iris. The edge wasn’t too bad in May, and it looked OK from the street, so I left it alone. You have to look closely to see that the lawn and the irises are infiltrating each other.

Crested iris in bloom. Photographed on May 23, 2020.

Worse, by late June, the pawpaws decided they wanted to become a stand rather than just a pair of trees.

Pawpaw sprouts—most likely from the roots, rather than from seed. Photographed on June 20, 2020.

These little trees had to be dug up—there were over two dozen. All but one seemed to be sprouts from existing roots.

At this point, the crested irises and lawn were getting quite intertwined. I finally got around to edging the pawpaw patch a week ago or so. This time the irises were moving out too far, so they got pushed back. Oddly enough, to push them back, you have to pull them straight out—not up.

Edging the crested irises involved mostly pulling straight out from the bed. Photographed on August 7, 2020.

If you grab an iris right where the leaves connect to the rhizome, it comes out easily. Despite the apparent lack of roots, these are what you would give to friends for their gardens.

The ragged lawn edges are best dealt with using a spade or edger, but not a powered edger.

Crested irises and lawn back where they belong, with a nice shadow edge. Photographed on August 12, 2020.

Oddly enough, the yard is looking a little better than usual for August, although it is getting quite dry. Storms keep either fizzling completely before they are halfway across the state, or splitting in half sending one half on a track slightly north of us and the other on a track slightly south of us. We missed out again today.

What About the Lost Months?
What About Fall?

I am hoping to post some articles to fill in the interstices between May and August within the next week or so.

I am also hoping that this coming semester, which starts on August 24, will be a little calmer, so that I can post at least a couple off times a month. We shall see.