Thursday, August 18, 2011

From the "It seemed like a good idea at the time" files

It was all Phoenix's fault.

Or maybe it was the toad's fault.

Or maybe it was nobody's fault at all, just the slow progression of time and Mother Nature.

Whatever it was, the 8-foot square hosta bed in one corner of the yard looked like hell. The plants were crowded and overgrown, choking each other out, with the big plants smothering the little ones and all of them competing for limited resources. Their leaves were sunburned and broken. The whole thing was a mess. This was not helped by the fact Phoenix was thrashing around in the middle of it, chasing a toad. I THINK that's what he was chasing. In any event, leaves were flying and great clods of mulch and dirt were being flung about with great enthusiasm. I didn't have the heart to scold him.

It wasn't a great loss. The hosta were in pretty bad shape. I'd set the bed about 7 years ago. I remember because it was the spring of 2004 and Jamie and I were going to a lot of TDX tests that spring. Not only were we going, we were failing to the tune of $100 per entry fee. We had some oh-so-close tests and some WTF tests and my frustration level was running pretty high. You know how people moan and wail about having a dog who's ready to go but they can't get drawn for a test? Not only were Jamie and I ready, we got drawn for every bloody test I entered that spring. Six - count 'em, six -TDX tests. That came to $600 in entry fees alone, not to mention gas, motels, food, etc. And still no TDX. The judges all agreed we were ready. We had two stunningly lovely tests that we "almost" passed. In TDX work, "almost" is still a failure.

It was shortly after that I decided I could pursue Jamie's TDX or his OTCh. but I couldn't do both of them at the same time with any hope of achieving either one. So I opted for the OTCh. and well, the rest is history.

But like I said, it was spring and I was so frustrated I needed to take it out on something (not my poor dog, who was doing his best) so I grabbed a shovel and started digging up part of the lawn. Really, this seemed like a very sensible plan. The Farmer just gave me the hairy eyeball and stayed out of my way. My lawn carnage resulted in the "hosta jungle," a bunch of different types of hosta grouped with columbine and ferns. The hosta jungle was pretty at first. Over the years, it got big. And bigger. And bigger. And started being not so pretty. We did some tree trimming which changed the amount of sunshine the bed received. Tree limbs not falling on house - good. More sunshine beating down on plants that like shade - bad.

Phoenix and his never-ending toad patrol was the final straw this summer. If I dug that mess out, I thought, watching leaves and dirt flying, I could plant something in there next spring that's actually pretty. I do very little with annual flowers because they're often more work than they're worth for one short growing season but I was having visions of colorful impatiens and coleus in this spot. And a fence. A really big fence to keep the toad patrol at bay.

Which is why I spent three hours this morning digging. I had comp time from work and thought tackling the digging when it was still cool seemed sensible. That was about the ONLY thing sensible about this project. For all their charming foliage, hosta are made of iron. They turn the ground around to them to iron. Or maybe that's just because we haven't had much rain to speak of in the last three weeks.

Hosta #1 came out easily. Hosta #2 came out sort of easily. Hostas #3 through 8, not so much. My back ached, my legs ached, sweat was running into my eyes and the hosta clumps got bigger and heavier with each successive plant. I was hoping the spade wouldn't break. Or maybe I was hoping it WOULD, then I could quit.

Three hours later, I heaved the last one out of the ground. I've seen trees with smaller root systems. Seriously. In reality, hosta roots aren't that deep. They just feel like they're anchored to our sister city in China and are very, very reluctant to release their grip on the earth.

I cut the clumps apart with a spade and reset a bunch of them in a new location where there is plenty of space and water. I strategically re-planted a couple of select favorites back into the former bed. I hauled the rest of the carcasses away. I pulled weeds and raked mulch. I went around the yard and picked up all the semi-shredded leaves Phoenix had been entertaining himself with.

Then I took ibuprofen and a shower. Things are good, for now, although I can feel muscles tightening in places I didn't even know I had them. If I need more ibuprofen, someone is gonna have to get it for me cuz I'm not sure I'll be able to get out of this chair.

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