Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Weeds Are Asshole Plants, and Other Things I've Learned Since Moving to the Country

You may recall that in March, the Moo Cow Family moved from Brooklyn to Riverdale, a swanky-by-Bronx-standards section of the Bronx. So, you know, not exactly "the country." It barely qualifies as a suburb.

But it is such a world away from my Brooklyn existence. Like, there are trees and birds and such. Also, no highway out the window!

Anyway, for this woman, who doesn't know a cattail from a cat's tail, the country is the country no matter how small.

#1 Weeds Are Asshole Plants

Our little house came equipped with a slightly neglected (by its dead owner, so I am not judging or anything) landscaped garden out back. Rayne and I looked at each other and immediately put our fingers to our noses. NOT IT.

"The outside of the house is your department," I argued.

"No. I don't like gardening. I never said I would garden," he responded. "We will hire a gardener."

The previous owner's gardener came and surveyed the property. He couldn't resist pulling random weeds out of the ground, muttering Eso no es planta. Y eso no es planta. Eso es malo. This is not a plant, this is bad.

I emitted a high-pitched non-laugh. Ha-ha! "Gracias. Lo que pasa es que no sabemos nada, pero nada." Thank you. We don't know anything at all.

"Yo sé." I know.


Alright, then. Far from being in my husband's department of responsibilities, gardening has fallen squarely into my realm, mostly because our gardener speaks 5% English and my husband speaks -10% Spanish. He throws in all these random Italian words he's picked up from listening to me and Henry and some Japanese he learned when he did a semester abroad in Tokyo, just for good measure.

The gardener returned on Saturday morning, bright and early, to rid the garden of our ignorance and apparent neglect. He tried to show me which was a plant and which was a weed. Esa es plantita. Esa no es plantita. But they all looked exactly the same to me. I could not tell a weed from a plant, it turns out, if my life depended on it.

Later that night I asked Rayne to explain the difference. What I gather is that weeds are native plants that take over the area and choke the other, mostly non-native plants out. So I wasn't crazy not to know the difference. They can look the same. Weeds are plants that are assholes, and sometimes it takes a while to realize someone is an asshole. They seem fine at first, but then you realize they don't know how to share with the other plants.

I also found out that English Ivy is a weed, an "invasive villain," no less, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where Rayne is from, but also on the eastern seaboard. English Ivy is a selfish little asshole that wraps its viney tentacles around unsuspecting trees and feeds off them. This discovery brings new meaning to the term Ivy League, don't you think?

What I still don't understand is why we don't simply tidy up the existing weeds and let them flourish in their native habitat.

#2 Bugs Are Everywhere

Killing bugs in our abode is also in Rayne's department. But since he is often at work or even away on business, it falls to me. I'm 49% a Buddhist who thinks all life is sacred, even that of bugs, and 51% scared shitless of bugs, so I usually just pretend I didn't see them and run in the other room.

I am not sure what else to say except to include these two posts from my Facebook feed earlier in the month:

Which leads us to...

#3 Natural Bug Spray Only Works in the City

I research everything and buy the least toxic version that works in the category, especially where Henry is concerned. I abide by the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen; I use castile hand soap. So of course, I bought "all natural" California Baby Bug Repellent Spray.

But it didn't work. At. All. That's because natural bug spray only works in the city, where there are seven total bugs, who are lazy because they don't have to fight hard for food.

I got slaughtered every time I went into my backyard any time of the day. (Note: Burt's Bees Outdoor Bug Bite Relief does soothe the itch. Score one for au naturel!)

I read the EWG's guide to insect repellent, and even they are skeptical about so-called natural repellents. Apparently one should not expose children under three to Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, the most natural-sounding option, so I settled for a few products with Picaridin (less likely to cause irritation) for the skin and low concentrations of DEET (7-10%) for the clothing.

#4 Haikus Happen Spontaneously

I posted this gem earlier in the month:

And someone commented: #haiku.

Because it's an effing haiku, and I didn't even realize it! GUYS: IN THE COUNTRY, HAIKUS HAPPEN SPONTANEOUSLY. I had only ever written one haiku on this blog ("Requiem for a Shower") and before that not since seventh grade.

I can't just leave my special haiku in that boring, one-line format. I have to write it here again, proper-like:

Dead supine sparrow
Directly outside the door
To my patio.

#5 Feral Cat Colonies (and Cat Ladies) Are Real

Which brings me to my last realization. How do you think a dead sparrow surfaced face up on my patio? If you said Hudson, my neurotic corgi, you probably haven't been paying attention up until this point, because my dog is afraid of water and nozzles. He sure as hell hasn't been running around killing birds, Dexter-style.

So who was the mystery murderer?

When we first moved in, we noticed a black and white cat hanging around our garden. Hudson would bark himself apoplectic, and the cat would move along.

I wonder whose cat that is, we naively said to each another.

Then we noticed the cat had a big gash across its eye.

Hmmm, I wonder if that cat got in a fight with a squirrel or something. Still totally naive.

Then we noticed a crazy cat lady feeding a pack of 20 cats in the woods near our house.

Oh, no.

Being me, I confronted the cat lady one evening while out with my dog. It turns out feral cat colonies exist across the city as part of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals. Yes! They neuter/spay them so they don't reproduce, vaccinate them and give them annual physicals. They have a little shack for bad weather.

Yes! This is a thing!

I am less concerned now, since I know the cats are vaccinated. They are too wild to be pets, so the only other option would be to euthanize them, which I am squarely against. Plus, these cats are so well fed, they border on chubby. A cat will see a squirrel or other potential meal walk past and do the cat equivalent of a shrug and "whatevs". Meow.

As for the sparrow, it was just a little "Welcome to the Nabe" gift. So thoughtful.


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