Invaders and Assistants

march 2015 022

Greetings to all you campers as well as those with a bit more common sense. I’m at 30,000 words, half way to my goal for the month. Yeah . . . That would be great if it was only the fifteenth. Sadly, it’s the 18th and I’m running about 6,000 words behind. Ah well, I do like a little excitement in my life.

Yes, the virtual campout continues, and the camp activity this week appears to be extermination. The April rains have driven the ants indoors and I’m afraid they like it here. So much that they are beginning to make pests of themselves.

Now I am talking about little bitty Ozark sugar ants, not fire ants, barbarian ants, or cow killers. Not the deceptively evil Texas ants, which look like harmless little sugar ants but if allowed to walk across your bare foot will proceed to rip out a nice chunk of your flesh to take home. No, these ones really aren’t a hazard at all. They’re just not supposed to be in the house.

My attitude towards them is usually pretty friendly and tolerant, with a touch of empathy. Cute little harmless things just trying to make their living like any other creature.  Last year, they invaded my windowsills very briefly, then lost interest and went outside as soon as the Spring rains passed.  This year, they started making themselves at home–in my home.

I became murderously irate with them when they set up a superhighway through my house and invaded my countertops.  A bit of research on the internet revealed a recipe for their doom. I mixed one cup of sugar, ½ cup of water and one tablespoon of borax in a small jar and placed little milk jug caps of the mixture in sheltered (so the cat couldn’t get to it) spots around the house where the ant trails were running.

Well, the ants loved it. They gathered around those tiny feed troughs in droves. Then the ant super highway dwindled to a residential street and is now looking like a little dirt road out in the country. I’ll have to take some measures over the weekend to deal with a few stragglers, but it shouldn’t take much at this point to enforce a detour away from my dwelling.  It looks like the worst is over.

Now to catch up on my writing goals. Wish me luck, I’ll need it. This thirty day writing marathon is about to get real.  Fortunately, I’ve acquired a minion to assist me.  I couldn’t resist hiring the little fellow–He plays the ukelele like me.  Every evil genius needs a minion, and having just committed an act of mass genocide on upon an unwitting insect population, I like to think that qualifies me.   🙂

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Camp Activities: Gardening

Harvest home 145

As I scribble madly through some two thousand or so words a day, it occurs to me there may be more to life than writing. Spring is happening just outside my window. What better way to reward myself for all this sedentary effort than a little fresh air and exercise afterwards?

Actually I could think of lots of better ways, but most of them cost money.  I’m a cheapskate with a lot of seeds, courtesy of several years of dreaming and very little follow through.  The nice little flowerbed in my backyard shriveled and died the summer I moved here and has since sprouted more grass than the actual lawn.  Ah well, the Spring rains have been softening the soil and I’ve decided to give it another go.
I got out in the yard a few days ago to make a beginning.  It was . . . educational.

Lesson number one: Do not wear a red Hawaiian shirt with big bright flowers and a blue floral hat while working outside if you have any bees in your yard. On my first day digging in the yard, a big fuzzy black and yellow bumble bee wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t figure out why it was harassing me until I went inside and happened to see my reflection in a mirror. Changing into gray and brown clothing and swapping out my blue flowered hat for a plain straw one brought the harassment to a stop. Whew!

Lesson Number Two: Red clay is not wonderful garden soil. It’s hard to dig in and inhospitable to anything other than weeds. The pretty flowers that populated the garden when I moved into this house some years ago shriveled and died for a good reason. When I pulled out the dead plants, I learned they hadn’t grown beyond the little blocks of potting soil that had come with them from the store.

Lesson Number Three: A butter knife from the kitchen can succeed where a flat edged shovel will not. Thanks to some time and patience with this digging tool, I now have a nice 6×6 square of excavated ground, free of weeds. Tomorrow I will mix sand and compost into the soil and place a bedding plant there. Just one, because I’m talking about six inches, not six feet. Once that’s done, I’ll move over and dig up another six inch section. That’s probably the only way I’ll be able to make any progress.

Lesson Number Four: Weeds are devilishly persistent.
My garden is framed by brickwork. There are weeds growing up between the bricks. The roots stretch underneath looking for any outlet. In a few instances, I tunneled beneath adjoining pavement, still couldn’t get the roots out and finally snipped them off as far back as I could. It’s all a matter of buying time anyway as they WILL come back. It’s the nature of weeds. I can only hope to weaken and slow them down while I seed the ground with what I want to grow there. Hopefully the new plants will prevail long enough to have a fighting chance by the time the weeds return.

Lesson Number 5: Gardening really is Good Therapy.
My muscles ache from the unaccustomed exertion and there will likely be insect bites and other hazards as the season progresses. I have dirt under my fingernails and no real sense of organization or landscaping. Still, it’s exciting to be out and doing something different.

It’s good for me as well. I’m getting exercise and a little vitamin D from sun exposure, breathing all that oxygen from the plants and possibly picking up friendly bacteria from the soil, those probiotics the health enthusiasts talk about. These are said to be good for depression, digestion, and just about anything else that might ail you. It’s claimed too that merely by sitting there on the ground, I may be receiving a therapeutic effect by the earth’s natural electric field.

To me, though, gardening is about reconnecting with nature and maybe with myself. It’s tedious work, but there are wonders to be found and wind chimes and birdsong to orchestrate the search. There are tiny blooms among the weeds, insect friends to be made, and the miracle of seeds sprouting forth into plants. A garden is filled with simple magic.

I’m enjoying this opportunity to get out in the sun and play in the mud. It makes me feel like a kid again. My mind wanders and invents stories about insects and imaginary little people clearing tiny fields in the wilderness that is my weed infested flowerbed.

Does it help my writing? I sure hope so. There are still three weeks of Camp NaNoWriMo and lots of scribbling yet to be accomplished. If you’re reading this, please wish me well. I need all the luck and inspiration I can get.

Good Morning, Campers.

PICT0100

It’s the first of April and the beginning of my own personal idea of Spring Break. Since I’m self employed, as it were, and a glutton for punishment, this vacation does not involve relaxing in front of the television or laying on a hammock in the sun. Nope, I’m going to virtual summer camp, where I’ll attempt to double my writing production while participating in virtual swimming, virtual canoeing, and virtual arts and crafts.

Yeah, I’m virtually out of my mind.

Seriously though, today is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, a more free form challenge for those who couldn’t get enough during National Novel Writing Month in November. There are two sessions, one in April and a second in July, and participants are encouraged to set their own writing challenges rather than feel stuck with the madcap frenzy of scribbling a fifty thousand word first draft. It’s a good time for editing those rough drafts or for working on writing projects that don’t fit the standard novel format. I’ll likely be attempting to get my first e-novel out.

One could argue the virtual part of this is a bit silly. Since November, I have done pretty well at maintaining a continuous writing habit. Still, there is a lot to be said for stretching one’s boundaries. I’m on unfamiliar territory and a little camaraderie and friendly peer pressure helps me find the courage to keep exploring.

The addition of it being an opportunity to join hundreds of people on the forums in a big game of pretend summer camp only seals the deal. It may well be the main reason I’m doing this.