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A Tall Weed

The EarthBoxes showed up yesterday evening, after a two-hour window where I panicked they were misplaced by the post. It turned out the FedEx guy delivered them to our neighbours upstairs instead, who told us about it -- problem solved! The boxes are a bit bigger than I imagined, even with careful pre-measurements. I had hoped they would fit on the deck rail, but these are definitely ground-level planters. Thanks to my mother-in-law's advice, I looked up our hardiness zone. Apparently, our planting season starts around mid-February. However, we've had an unseasonably warm and dry winter, with temperatures averaging in the mid 50s. This tempts me to sow some seeds directly in the planters rather than germinating them indoors first to see what happens.

This past weekend, I tried my hand at weeding the common garden of an ivy that had overtaken a couple of the climbing jasmines. I'd noticed that a weed ivy had grown fairly invasively over the jasmines in the backyard, and volunteered to help remove them, as I was worried they might eventually harm the flowers. The first afternoon, I cleared a 5' x 2' patch of wall, which was a disheartening experience, not only because what I'd cleared seemed so little, but because the ivy looked to be far more invasive than I could have predicted. Firstly, the jasmines themselves were deeply overgrown, thickly blanketing one back wall, choking nearby trees and climbing onto the roof. Back in October, I'd tried untangling all the vines I could reach from the backyard's trees, which was when I discovered the ivy. One of the trees I'd been able to help was a dwarf lime tree growing next to our porch, and with a little pruning, I am happy to say it's been flowering quite merrily, and has just put out three little fruit nibs. My point is, the jasmines were thick with old canes and new growth that had climbed up and fallen back in on themselves. Since the ivy is a parasite that follows the jasmines' branches, this presented the problem of removing one plant without somehow severely damaging the other. But I learned a lot about the way our garden walls were set up in the process, which I found fascinating. It turns out that hidden beneath the greenery, we have a lovely red brick fence that runs around the perimeter up till about my height. Wooden trellises were attached to this wall, which scaffolds the jasmines. Even though I'm sure the trellises are quite old, they seem to be in relatively good shape. A little brittle around the edges, but that looked like normal wear. It's hard to tell if the jasmines are holding up the trellis or vice versa. I like to think they are coexisting just fine.

The ivy had not only covered a patch spanning half of one wall, but had effectively climbed along the outer wall of our house, against our neighbour's unit upstairs, and followed the jasmine onto the roof. When I pulled back the ivy specifically growing against our wooden outer walls, the shallow roots left noticeable treadmarks and unremovable dried trunk roots behind. The good news was that the roots were shallow, which helped a lot on the second day of weeding. I realised that I didn't have to worry too much about harming either the jasmine or the trellis if I was careful and concentrated on just pulling out the ivy. This made the work a lot faster, so that by the end of the afternoon, I had cleared most of the ivy growing up to my height. We will probably always have some kind of ivy problem. I found two large roots, each about the size of a sweet potato, one embedded about 5 ft. up on the trellis, and another kind of wrapped around the base of the jasmine closest to the house. There was no way I could clear either of these without either removing a section of the trellis or poison, and I'm not willing to do that. I was also able to uncover the two old jasmine plants all the vines on the wall closest to our unit stemmed from, which will be helpful in pruning the plants. I think this might be my project this upcoming weekend. The areas of jasmine previously covered by the ivy are bald patches, which suggests that the ivy was probably killing segments of the plant. Part of the jasmines' generous overgrowth up top was probably also a result of not being able to compete at fence level. As pruning continues, I think the jasmine might actually be healthier all around in the long run.

In other news, life with two cats continues to be an educational and heartwarming experience. It's slightly surreal to view the world through the eyes of a younger cat. Dorian is curious, lively and helpful. Since Sif, my pet decorative pillow, is the benchmark by which I measure all other cats, the overall time I've had has been more than a little bizarre. He follows me around the house, investigates everything and will endeavour to forage for his own breakfast if I do not wake up at the necessary hours. Mind you, smarties, glutinous rice and bits of dried pasta are not cat foods, but he is certain he will one day find that one shrimp-flavoured smartie. He just has to open all the smartie tubes until he finds it. He's also talkative. Sif has a wide vocabulary of squeaks, mrrps and variegated purrs, but she's always been rather quiet. When she was an only cat, the most wailing I'd get from her is right before breakfast and dinner. Dorian loves to play hiders and seekers, and wants us to know he will play hiders and seekers at 11AM, 3PM, 10PM and 5AM and he'll bounce off the walls of our hallway right outside our door while he's at it. He's not much of a wailer, thank goodness. More like a curious little asker of things. Well, if young Dorian says he's happy, he must be happy, he must be happy in his work.

Sif, of course, is deeply unhappy. She dislikes competing for food (Dorian eats everything, why, it will go to waste otherwise). She's displeased about sharing me, and her living room, and her couch, and her water (it's the same water in both bowls, why they think each other's water bowl tastes better is beyond me). To her vocabulary has been added a loud and mean repertoire of growls. Dorian, being a good natured sort, merely assumes that growling is Sif's normal mode of conversation. He is very keen to be friends. Sif has no concept of normal cat communication skills, so anything the little guy does is read precisely as a threat. She barely had any notion of playtime for all three years I've known her. Dorian, who just assumes she's playing tag when she's running away from him in terror peeing herself, er, really doesn't know any better. Hiding in her fort? It's hiders and seekers! He even has this adorable little power up bum wiggle when he's about to chase something, including her. Power up! Power up! Extra wiggle to let the mice know he's coming. Pat on the bum. DEATH-INTERLOPER-ENEMY-CAT. We still blame patriarchy for that last part. I'm told this is all a phase and they'll grow out of it in about two months. In the meantime, I'm working out of my office in the afternoons, hoping a certain cat does not ask me to play, and then I feel guilty for days afterwards because he's a growing boy and might die of under-stimulation.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2012 02:32 pm (UTC)
I want pictures of the earth boxes (when things are growing), the jasmine, and the cats.

Feb. 2nd, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
Certainly! I actually have cat photos, in fact, many years of cat photos. They're just unsorted. The jasmine will be a little trickier. I don't want to make my neighbours uncomfortable by taking photos in the backyard, and frankly, I'm a little embarrassed because the jasmine is also a wreck!
Feb. 2nd, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
Dorian's little "Yowlp? Yowlp?" at 4:30 AM in the morning could definitely go away and I wouldn't mind, though.
Feb. 3rd, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
As annoying as it is, I admit to finding the questions rather adorable too. But y'know, I don't really want to get out of my warm bed to swat him away outside either. If only Sif would learn to play with him...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )