Weekend Daylight

Just after Thanksgiving, we had a massive downpour. The little creek behind my house usually runs a little trickle or less, fills quickly with any rain, and recedes again quickly. So, when the rain paused for a moment, I went out and took some pictures and video of it running high and quick, just for fun.

Then, I went inside to do some work for awhile just as the skies opened back up. Out of curiosity, after about half an hour, I opened a second-floor window to see how the creek was doing (there is a privacy covering on that window). That’s how fast a creek or a river can jump its banks. (Additional note: flood waters always flow fast. Always be careful.) I kept an eye on it the rest of the day.

Just like the rest of the backyard, I have plans for that little creek. Replacing the footbridge with one that arches higher above the creek is one plan. (It is submerged in the photos.) Removing a sapling growing in the middle of it is another. I want to do some studying on habitat-friendly creek maintenance, so if you have recommendations for resources, let me know in the comments. This is going to be a long slow project that will never really end.

Today, I braved the backyard again so that I could go pull up more English ivy along the row of black inkberries. After spending the entire month of November dealing with weeping skin from poison ivy contact and then finally learning that I am allergic to prednisone (this was my first time being prescribed prednisone), I set up a primary decontamination “warm zone” every time I prepare to go out there. The water spigot is just out of picture frame. Then, afterwards, I count the days, waiting to see if I am safe. Eventually, I will eradicate all of the offending plant. I hope.

Brick wall and window with items arranged on window sill: soap, scrub brush, spray bottle, and pink hand towel.

I also cleared out one haul’s worth of leaves from the creek and took them up to two of the inkberries. I will catch the other eight another day.

Small green bush with pin oak leaves mulching the ground around it. A lot of English ivy growing to the left of the bush.

Note neighbor’s English ivy to the left. I have been working hard to the right (and only have a small swath to show for it, so far.)

And, I started pulling English ivy away from this old rusted clothesline pole that is such an eyesore (especially in winter) and that I hate. I figure that is the first step in preparing to dig the concrete footing out. It did cross my mind that there are people out there who shoot up power substations . . . but if I am desperate for a clothesline, I will just string it between trees.

Lower half of rusted metal pole rising out of a matted sea of English ivy with a very small area cleared around the base of the pole.

Wish me luck. I have a feeling this is going to be a beast. And, there’s another one.

The long hours of darkness long into the morning and returning early in the evening, resulting in the only daylight existing while I am sitting in an office, are hard on me during the week. I want to be outside and work in the yard and am thrilled for any weekend day that does not rain.

Little Maple’s Fate

I think I have decided to plant a native-species hedge along the western edge of the yard. At first, I wanted trees, but there are power and utility lines that run right along that line.

So today, I started pulling out English ivy, right in the midst of a sea of it. I don’t know that I will be able to plant anything there this winter, but this is a long project anyway. I worked from the utility pole to the little maple volunteer sapling. What a tangled matted mess!

(Any maple identification experts out there? Do you know what type of maple this is? I have a book and have been Googling – but I am not sure.)

As I worked, I wondered about that little maple.

  • It couldn’t stay where it was, directly beneath the power lines.
  • I really didn’t have anywhere to transplant it. There were some tiny spots of sun that I was hoping to use for persimmon trees and maybe a few more paw paws.
  • I wasn’t sure to whom I could give it away and wasn’t sure it would survive being dug up anyway.

It grieved me that I should lose this little tree, even though I had done nothing to care for it up until this point. It had beaten out the English ivy and every other competitor all on its own — which, in fact, endeared it to me all the more. (Which, in fact, may point to it being an invasive type?)

Then, I realized I was thinking in a binary: it either had to be transplanted to hopefully survive and grow into a large tree or it had to die outright. But, what if I just kept it pruned to a small tree and let it stay where it was?

Of course, this is not the life it was imagining for itself. It would not reach its full potential of majesty. But, perhaps it would still thrive, just on a smaller scale? Or, was I dooming it?

Speaking of doom, the squirrels uprooted and flipped the final woodland pinkroot. I am so sad. Perhaps the newly freed up patches from pulling ivy will distract them away as an easy acorn hiding spot and keep them from doing the same to my milkweed. The milkweed and pawpaws are not looking quite as glorious as when I panted them, but they are still alive. I am hoping it is just the stress of transplanting and cooler weather, although one of the milkweeds does have signs of squirrel digging about it.

Native Planting Undone by Native Critter

One of my projects for my little home is to incorporate native plants and simultaneously rid the property of English ivy, learning along the way and taking it slowly.

One of the first steps, last Saturday, was the purchase of two paw paw saplings,

three milkweed plants,

and three woodland pinkroot plants.

I busted my butt the rest of that day buying a garden hose (nope, had not bought one yet, at that point) and getting them all planted and watered. All night Sunday night, it also rained.

Every morning this past week, the first thing I have done as soon as it was light enough to see outside, was peer out the windows at the saplings and the milkweed. As I have been leaving for work/coming home, I have walked over and checked on the pinkroots in the front of house. I checked on the one pinkroot down by the creek bed whenever I went down there (usually daily). It was kind of humorous how much I cared about them, especially when my daughter cracked last week, “Are you planting these outside so they at least have a chance of surviving when it rains?” (I haven’t done great with houseplants inside this house yet.)

So, when I came home from work one day and walked over to check on the pinkroots, I was stopped cold when I saw that one little plant was cut at its base and had carelessly been tossed aside. How could this happen? Some kind of worm? None of the leaves had been munched. It was a mystery. I quickly checked on the other one that was nearby. It was fine.

The next day, I came home for lunch and was enjoying the beautiful weather from my front porch. Looking forlornly at the sad location, I saw a squirrel quite obviously burying an acorn in the exact spot where my poor pinkroot had been casually murdered. I was so shocked that I audibly gasped, “It was you! You meanie!” He scampered up the nearest tree. Apparently, my starting to clear away the English ivy, pulling up whole runners, and digging a hole and refilling it back with the freshly dug dirt, made an acorn stash spot that was too inviting to pass up. The squirrel’s little digging claws must have sliced through the stem. I checked on the other pinkroot. So far, it was untouched (and still is fine, as of now). Today I discovered that, unfortunately, a different squirrel (I am quite sure) apparently came to the same conclusion about the patch of loose dirt (+ pinkroot) down by the creek bed. So, two of my three woodland pinkroots did not even make it a week.

I am wondering, if I try again in the spring, if the dirt will have time to compact back to the same density as that in the surrounding area before acorn-burying season comes around again and the young transplants won’t become squirrel winter survival collateral damage. Obviously, I am not going to purchase more woodland pinkroots for sacrifice this fall.

The milkweed is not in such an inviting spot (as you can likely tell from the photo above), so hopefully will be left alone. Even though the paw paw samplings are larger in size, I am just hoping the dirt around their roots will remain undisturbed.

The whole aim of incorporating native plants was to learn to work with nature rather than against it. I guess that includes the meanie squirrels, too.

I have discovered a few volunteer asters making a brave attempt to out-compete the English ivy. I am trying to protect and nurture them along, too.