July 10, 2010

Things That Prickle and Bite

Esperando and I are in Denver for the next few days for various appointments and we can’t overlook the necessary tidying of the yard. In addition to all the trimming back and replacing of plants that froze to death this past winter, we have serious weed patrol. Unfortunately we seem to have our share of daytime and nighttime mosquitos which made a meal out of me while I was trimming our rose bushes.

It also seems our yard has been overwhelmed by these giant horrid prickly thistles trying to take over the lawn and the garden. They are worse each time we come back; it is obvious that they are putting out runners, because they cluster together and grow like aspen trees in a grove.

Nasty thorns and indominitable growth habits

Our neighborhood rag, Front Porch recently ran an article on them, “Canada Thistle Requires a Weed War on All Fronts” which is pretty discouraging for people who live here year round, let alone folks like Esperando and I that are here so infrequently. Apparently they reproduce by runner and seed. Once established they put down 15 foot roots! Just a ¼ -inch piece of root is enough to get them started. If you start pulling them out and chopping up the roots that just stimulates more plants to develop. They recommend a combination of stressing them by mowing them and applying 2,4-D combination herbicides. Then in 2 years they may go away. Yeah good luck, last time I was here I carefully squirted a spot where they were coming up in the lawn with Roundup because I was tired of bending over and pulling them out and by the time I was back to California the lawn service was calling me up to ask if I had sprayed something on the lawn as I had killed a large patch of grass. Yip, that would be me, lawn killer par excellence. The thistles just thumbed their collective noses at me and grew taller.

Denver is rife with hornets in the summer. My mother called them buzzy-whizzies as a child.

Talk about not giving up--in addition to hardy thistles we have obstinate hornets. I noticed hornets flying in and out of my antique watering can’s nozzle. I decided they must be building a nest and figured if I opened the closed hatch on the top of the watering can maybe they would abandon hive to move somewhere else like a bird might. The can was right next to some lawn chairs we were wanting to sit on. I opened up the watering can, but added daylight didn’t seem to bother them any. Finally from a distance I used the hose to start pouring water in to the can. Seven or eight hornets came roaring out of the can and hovered by the stream of water coming from the hose. They were unhappy with the water entering the can but fortunately didn’t seem to realize that I was the one directing the flow. Once the can was filled they kept hovering over it wanting to rescue the infantile hive.

I figured after 20 minutes they would get discouraged and go away, but oh, no, they were hard-wired. I never saw such righteous mothers. Finally I went into the house and returned armed with a can of Raid and sprayed them. The fumes were scented and I inhaled a lot of them. It didn’t seem to have much effect on the hornets, but I am sure I poisoned myself. When I directed the spray at them they would fly away, then came right back again. About 5 pm they began to settle on the lip of a nearby flowerpot to spend the night so they could take up their vigil the following day. Then I really nailed them with the Raid. A couple escaped but didn’t return again. I felt like the General George Armstrong Custer of wasp killers, except I was still standing. I had drowned their nest and murdered all the moms except a couple who escaped with their scalps. And you wondered if the Wild West still exists? I tell you here in Denver it really does. We have lots of things that prickle, sting and bite.

General Custer--he bought his lunch at the Battle of Little Bighorn

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