8 Days a Week

Although not a chauffeur, I recently experienced the “Oh, working hard” sentiment expressed to Paul McCartney by his driver back in 1964. We got home last Wednesday and are heading out this morning, Thursday — a span of 8 days.

Neither of us recall how this short of a turnaround period was created, or allowed, but we have promised to not repeat the past week! All is well, do not fret dear reader, but it has been a week+ of nonstop decompression and preparation, so that as I write this blog post in the early morning before departure, I feel both grateful, and relieved, for getting through my ToDo list relatively unscathed, but for a few moments of overwhelm…

These iPhone photos will not do it justice, but I have a fabulously wild yard. We have converted our once perfectly manicured, classically Midwestern yard filled with non-native ornamental plants and chemically-treated grass (read: prissy) to a native wonderland. We had the lawn removed from the front yard, replacing what had turned into a weed bed with river rock. Our friend Paul drew up plans for a large raised bed, in which wildflowers and native plants are thriving.

This is the front bed in all of its glory, later in the summer (last year’s iPhone photo)

The backyard still has grass–also weedy–but we have cut the size of the lawn substantially by having large beds built, planting two dwarf oaks and a fig tree, as well as having a small pond and patio added.

The small pond, filled with Swamp Iris, Milkweed, and volunteer Hibiscus is surrounded by potted natives (iPhone photo)

I call our yard “haphazard beauty”, particularly the back yard, as over the past 8 years, I have planted many native perennials with minimal guidance from books or experts; hence the term haphazard as an apt description of the beauty. Some of the plants grow to be too large for their beds, spilling over or climbing up the fence, or covering up a later-bloomer that happened to be planted right next to or under it…Our native yard is a wondrously colorful and gorgeous place, both in the front and the back, but for many folks, it’d be too wild for their liking. We are definitely the outliers in the neighborhood; not only do we not have routine yard service maintenance (chemicals!), but our natives are tall, unruly, vividly colorful, and not at all similar to the emerald green, ornamental, prissy yards of suburbia. Oh well.

Coral Honeysuckle (one of two native honeysuckles in the Midwest), Common Milkweed, and Hibiscus (iPhone photo)

I share this with you to provide context for the brief overwhelm I experienced upon arriving home around noon last Wednesday. The backyard “grass” was over a foot tall, with several outcroppings of Daisy Fleabane as high as my hip! The rain and heat of the Midwest encourages growth–generally a good thing–but also requires a lot of maintenance to keep the yard tamed. This yard is not meant for absentee homeowners, as it turns out, particularly in the early spring when the warming temps encourage new growth. Not only were the grass and flowering weeds unruly but the weeds growing in the flower beds were abundant! After mowing, I spent time every day pulling weeds from the beds and also cutting back several plants that had already grown leggy. It’s tough work on my back–although I find having my hands in the soil to be so very therapeutic. Thankfully there are wonderful pros who come to help: a native plant landscaper who can tell newly greened and early blooming plants from weeds, and a hardy fellow who works diligently to remove leaves, branches from trimmed bushes, and weeds in the cracks of the patio.

Anyhow, there was virtually no time to socialize with missed friends and we were unable to attend the always-fun First Friday at Haynie’s Corner, but we did vote in the primary election, as well as volunteer at the Afterglow event to pack up used-once eclipse glasses. Those few outings, along with a deep clean of Vanda, and the yard, pretty much was what we had time for in 8 days. We did take one hike at the beloved Lincoln State Park to look for, and find, Green Dragons.

We also experienced two huge spring storms, both of which warranted tornado alerts complete with warning sirens. Spring is both lovely and volatile here and it is particularly ambitious to be traveling during this time of new growth and natural beauty. April and May are fabulous travel months for nesting birds in the South and migrating warblers to the North, and we see now that being gone from home during these months is both a gift and a challenge. Life is like that.



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