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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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The Weed War - From My Window 6/29/22

Issue Date: July 5, 2022

Janie Thibodeau Martin

Our garden and I are both behind schedule this year. We had a very cool spring in Central Wisconsin, and right after a safe planting window finally opened, flooding rain. I ended up re-seeding corn, cucumbers, zinnias, beans"then the wait to begin weeding started again, lest I inadvertently uproot baby garden plants. (The weeds were totally unfazed by the weather.) Once you have cleared the weeds from the baby plants, you can mulch, making the rest of the summer's garden maintenance much easier. Unfortunately, I lost another week while we were away, and I am paying the price now.

I've spent hours shuffle hoeing and hand cultivating; patiently trying to uproot thriving weeds from among the rows of garden plants. What works best for me is sitting on the ground to do the work, getting filthy and pondering the fact that I could buy vegetables and herbs at a farmer's market easier and cheaper than raising my own. I persist, knowing someday I won't have any choice because my body won't take the work of gardening.

Yesterday's challenge was being strafed by deer flies, who coordinate their attacks so one of the savage biters is making my life hell at all times. Several died during our combat, but survivors redoubled their efforts. Deer flies have shark-like bites ?? I had a welt on my forearm that was nearly golf-ball sized for a few hours, it almost looked like I had fractured the arm. Deer flies are not tiny; it is amazing how imperceptible their landings on exposed skin are. Even a diminutive mosquito's landing is easier for me to detect. Deer flies are evil, and sneaky. I see why deer stand on roadsides or in fields now; to escape the torment. I have to be desperate to use insect repellant, but I was contemplating it quickly.

Ease of weeding is dependent on variables. Soil too dry; hard to uproot the weeds. Too wet; soil clumping makes shuffle hoe use near-impossible. As I move down a row, I know from experience which species uproot easily, (my "favorite" weeds,) and which I will need my hand cultivator to dig out. (The ones I curse.) It is remarkable how hard it can be to spot weeds among a row of green onions. Weeds should be totally obvious as the diversity in this monoculture, still I spot some I missed as soon as I finish a row. I am too stubborn to let them live, I backtrack and kill them.

Monday mid-morning I was in the "messy garden," our secondary garden due to its use for plants that become unruly, like pumpkins. I was sitting on the ground, working my way down a row of dill. Our horse Betty was companionably near the fence a few yards in front of me, and my back was to the woods behind me. As usual I was deep in thought, solving some of the world's problems I yanked, slapped at the flies, and dug.

Betty got my attention, because she was pressing against the fence, stomping and looking intently past me toward the woods line. I assumed she saw some deer, which I call "forest horses" when I talk to her. (Yes, I do talk with the horse.) I stood up, since I needed the stretch anyway, and turned around, expecting to see one of the deer which frequent the woods.

Imagine my shock when a very large bear, apparently as startled as I was, sprinted out of the end of the woods trail and ran across the lawn at a remarkable rate of speed across a field. While it remained in sight for at least a minute, I was so befuddled all I got when I finally thought to take a picture was a big bear butt at a considerable distance. Because the ground was wet, Mike was able to track the bear back along the trail, leaving footprints as it traveled from the west and headed east to the yard. The last visible footprint was right at the edge of our lawn"..about 100 feet from where I had been sitting.

Wisconsin black bears mate between June and mid-July; while they do a lot of roaming just to find food, they may wander more during mating season. My guess would be that was what led to his foray here. He was clearly more scared of me than I was of him; an encounter like I had is amazing, and I do not take it for granted that I am lucky enough to live here.

I eventually went back to my task, and while I waged war on weeds and deer flies, I kept an eye on my "watch horse." Had it not been for her, the bear would have soundlessly passed behind me and I'd have been none the wiser. Some have asked me if I am worried to be outside because the bear might return. I am not. I am, however, dreading my next encounter with my winged tormenters the deer flies, and the weeds.

From your friendly animal shelter volunteer: If you have a dog or cat you care about, please keep them safely confined during the fourth of July "season." A collar, tag, and microchip are wise investments; many animals are terrified at the explosive celebrations that will be going on for a week. People fire things off day and night, in a totally unpredictable way, and some even toss lit firecrackers out of car windows. I can sadly predict there will be thousands of people looking for lost pets soon ?? prevent the heartbreak by putting together a plan now so that you aren't one of them. Keep them close, keep them safe.

Happy, safe Fourth of July to you.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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