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I’m often amazed what country life wanders into my slice of suburbia. Mind you, our subdivision was born ten years ago from the corn and soybean fields of the old farms where the owners had finally cashed out and moved on. Centex Homes came in to scrape the ground clean of farm detritus, together with all nutrient topsoil. Sod was applied to lots by vanload of efficient and diligent workers, and we were left with green, tree-free, yards.
By now I have either personally planted (or written checks that make me weak to Oakland Nursery) dozens of trees, bushes, flowers, and groundcover. It’s been trial and error. I had such hopes for the redbud I’d proudly planted; it would greet each spring with its delicate glory. I must have missed the part where I wasn’t supposed to locate it in the exposed northeast corner, subjecting it to a cold, cold demise, and no flowers to follow winter, only a doleful stump.
But bunnies nest in the mulch surrounding the stump. And the other plants are thriving, and tall, and now invite a surprising variety of critters to visit. I’ve seen robins and cardinals and finches, and even red-tailed hawks. The other day I hung a new feeder from my ash tree. It takes a minute for the rumor of free grub to broadcast on the bird wireless, but the word is out, and one of my first customers was a species I’d never seen in my yard before: the downy woodpecker.
Squirrels haven’t moved in to our enclave yet. However, I spotted my first one this past summer. He must have been a scout. I haven’t seen him since. I suppose the birds have a fighting chance at the feeder for at least a little while.
Here in Columbus, we’ve had snow on the ground for nearly two weeks straight. Inches of it, quickly turning into piles as our neighbors shovel their driveways and walks, and the snowplows blast their way through the streets. And then the piles are topped by more inches of snow. In fact, it’s snowing again as I type. Which is fine with me; it’s January in Ohio, so it should be snowing.
When I see all this snow, and the neighbors with their nicely shoveled (or snow-blower-cleared) driveways, my fingers start to itch. I want to sled, and make a snowman, and do all those fun kid-like snow activities. But what I want to do first, before anything else, is clear out my driveway. Not because I like it, but because it has to be done. And if I don’t do it, no one will, because I’ve never gotten my husband to appreciate the value of a shoveled driveway.
(Mind you, my husband does lots of things around the house. And in the fall, he’s the one who usually ends up raking most, if not all, the leaves from the big gum tree out back. He’s not a slacker or anything. It’s just for some reason, shoveling snow isn’t that critical to him, whereas I barely step in the door from work before I’m back out there with the shovel. I just can’t let it lay.)
There are all sorts of good, solid reasons to shovel a driveway, which I list here in no particular order:
1) If the snow is unshoveled, you could get stuck trying to get your car into or out of your driveway. (Especially if the snow plows have pushed a wall of snow from the street across the end of your driveway, which they tend to do.) Getting stuck in your own driveway is always embarrassing.
When I stop by the airport post office occasionally, there are two ways I can go home: the main roads with stoplights and freeway exits, or the back roads that take you twisting and turning behind the runways and through a tunnel under the crossing airstrips.
I like to take the road less traveled. When I take this road, I get to see big planes taking off and landing. I get to see administrative buildings that people don’t normally see. I avoid traffic and construction. And I get to see wild animals.
Slight exaggeration. I’m not talking about bears or anything. But there are patches of open field and trees and hills, the sorts of things you don’t want to build on because they’re at the end of a runway at a major airport. And the other day, driving past, I saw no less than four deer and two groundhogs.
When I lived on the West Side, I took a different set of back roads to get home, and discovered Groundhog Hour. (Unrelated in every way to Groundhog Day, either the holiday or the movie.) This is generally between about 6-7pm, or sometimes 7-8pm as the summer goes on, and it’s the time of day when all the groundhogs are out having dinner. The most I ever counted on the West Side trip home was six groundhogs. Being who I am, I named them according to where they lived (Jack Kerouack by the train tracks, Chief Wiggum by the police training grounds, Tampopo by the flower shop…) I always figured if I ever got hit by a train crossing those tracks, it would be because I was too busy looking for groundhogs to notice the flashing lights.
I was very sad when I moved to the east side of Columbus, because I was not able to find groundhogs, except the one random hog up by the fire station. Now I realize that I just had to find their secret hideouts.
This entire experience makes me wonder: am I a little more city, for being so amazed and delighted at a fuzzy, grass-munching groundhog and a couple of deer? Or am I a little more country because I look for them even so close to civilization?
I’ll have to ponder this. In the meantime, I’ll keep watching for Roger and Victor, who have been named after the characters in that classic movie, Airplane.
I have found the bane of my existence, and its name is “Sweetgum.”
This refers to the towering tree in my backyard. It’s a nice, shady tree, that turns a brilliant shade of yellow in the fall. It’s a large tree, but it’s the only tree on our lot that loses its leaves, so raking the leaves isn’t too bad. It has decent enough branches that I’ve even climbed up in it once or twice (although not very high up.)
But then there are the seedpods. Or “gumballs” as they’re called. Yikes.