Building A Wall

Yesterday I took a break from the never-ending battle against the onslaught of dandelions and built two walls in the down yard.  One is intended to screen off an area where we’ll be composting yard waste, dead and dried weed carcasses, and other assorted debris,  The other one, pictured above, will mark the edge of what will be a little flower bed in a narrow crevice between two huge granite outcroppings.

I used stones for the walls, because we’ve got a virtually inexhaustible supply of them, and thought about Robert Frost the whole time.  I learned that trying to craft a stone wall can be a very enjoyable project.  It’s messy and muddy, and you get to see what kind of crawly creatures cling to the undersides of big rocks, which adds to the overall experience.  You get to lug stones around, too, so it’s pretty good exercise.

From an engineering standpoint, the key seems to be a create a level base for the wall, then find the right stones to fit into the right gaps, using the weight of the stones above to hold them all in place.  After some trial and error and experimentation with different stones in different places, I ended up with two walls that seem to be sturdy and level — at least until the next big rainstorm.  In the meantime, it was satisfying to actually do some manual labor with my hands, and see the immediate fruits of my effort.  For white-collar workers, that’s not something that happens every day.

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Needy And Weedy

Weeds are needy things, when you think about it.  They pretty much demand your attention, and if they don’t get it they grow even more.

Turn your back on them for a few weeks, and suddenly they’re so enormous and intrusive and ugly that you just can’t reasonably ignore them any more and you have to do something about it.

But therein lies the real problem for those needy weeds.  Because they can’t help but but call attention to themselves with their ever-growing, obvious, sprawling unsightliness, eventually they’ll provoke the lazy but self-respecting homeowner into significant action.  And that action is not good for the weeds, long-term.

I’m going to attend to the monstrous, needy weeds shown above today.  They want attention?  They got it!  And they’re not going to like it.  But in deference to these attention-craving weeds, I might just give them a polite round of applause after I dig them out, roots and all.

Why Opposable Thumbs Exist

Why do opposable thumbs exist in humans and other primates?  Scientists generally agree that the appearance of the opposable thumb was a key evolutionary point in the development of our species.  It is what allowed primates to grip and climb and move into the trees, away from the realm of large predators looking for a meal.  Opposable thumbs also proved to be pretty handy from a toolmaking and tool using perspective, whether the tool was a stick to be manipulated or a rudimentary axe.

All of this is true,  Curiously, however, scientists haven’t fully explored whether the opposable thumb was developed in anticipation that modern humans who are too cheap to buy a nozzle for their garden hose might need the thumb to water their yard and plants on a beastly hot summer day.  Sure, the opposable thumb might not have been evolved specifically for watering and hose wielding, but it sure works well for that purpose — whether you want to generate a gentle sprinkle or a high velocity jet to reach the side of the yard beyond the length of the hose.

How do we know for sure that our distant ancestors weren’t big on watering?

White Birch And Birds

There is a white birch tree growing from the rocks at one corner of our side yard. It’s a beautiful tree — who doesn’t have a soft spot for trees with white bark? — but it’s unfortunately lacking any avian occupants.

Stonington is home to lots of birds; in the morning you hear their many different calls. In hopes that one of the birds might call the birch tree home, I put up a nifty birdhouse that a good friend got us as a Maine housewarming gift on the birch tree. it’s freshly painted, has a solid roof, and is in a safe neighborhood. Now we’ll just keep our fingers crossed that a discerning bird will decide it’s their dream house.

Freed To Weed

Today I’m celebrating my freedom — specifically, my freedom to do whatever I want on Independence Day. In my case, that means weeding the side yard garden and lawn. Judging from the sheer number of weeds that have made their home there, I’m guessing it hasn’t been weeded in years. We’ve got friends coming next month for a visit and I want to give the grass a fighting chance, so now’s the time for some serious stooping and pulling..

After I dispose of a few hundred more dandelions and broad-leaf invaders, I’m going to celebrate my freedom to drink an ice-cold Allagash White.

Backyard Morning

It’s a beautiful morning in Columbus — crisp and clear, with powder blue skies and a few cotton candy wisps of clouds far above.

Our house faces due east, so in the morning the backyard is a place of deep shadow, save for a shaft of sunlight from the space between our house and the neighboring house to the north. The cool, shaded air feels good against the skin and is a perfect complement to the hot coffee. The birds are singing and the leaves of the trees are gently swaying in a mild breeze.

Sometimes the time, and the place, are perfectly matched, and when that happens you need to take full advantage of the happy confluence. This morning is made for the backyard.

Redefining “Clingy”

Spring is the time for growing things. In our back yard, the fastest growing thing — by far — is a flowering vine next to the fence. It was supposed to stick to a wooden trellis built by our landscaper, but it’s long since outgrown that. I put an iron support for a birdhouse or hanging flower basket next to it, and the vine has eagerly embraced that. Now, its tendrils are venturing out, eagerly seeking other things to latch on to, wrap around, and grip tightly. This plant is clingier than your first high school romance.

I like to go out in the morning to marvel at how much the plant has grown since the day before and try to redirect it away from our neighbor’s yard and the little tree nearby. In doing so, however, I’m careful to keep moving. I’m afraid if I stand still for too long I’m going to find myself wrapped in those clingy green tendrils, too.