Shawnee News-Star Sunday May 6th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg It had to be done.   The cellar was never used last year and kept to itself as the seasons came and went.   With May comes greater chances of severe weather, as we well know with Tornado Bob who came roaring through May 19th 2013.   My neighborhood […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday May 6th 2018

The Mother Fern

Becky Emerson Carlberg

It had to be done.   The cellar was never used last year and kept to itself as the seasons came and went.   With May comes greater chances of severe weather, as we well know with Tornado Bob who came roaring through May 19th 2013.   My neighborhood still shows the scars of his visit.

It was time to see what occupants had set up residency in the dark concrete bunker.   I lifted up the heavy door and peered inside.   The canvas chairs were upright and the floor appeared relatively clean.   The odor of musty dank air met my nose as I stepped down into the hidey hole holding my broom and dust pan.   As I swept the area, a pile of deceased roly polys formed.   When the camp stove was moved, there on the wall were 3 brown recluse spiders.   I scooped them up in the dust pan and threw the arachnids out the door into the bright sunshine.   Four more poisonous spiders were soon discovered as well as 3 scorpions (one very much alive) and one dried tree frog (very much not alive.)   The candles and lanterns were checked and jugs of water replenished.   Ready.

Warning:   Graphic nature in action paragraphs.

Yes, spring has sprung.   Either the wildlife or the people seem not to be paying attention to the roads.   Down the hill from my house a female doe was slammed by a truck.   Her body was thrown forty feet, so the vehicle was barreling.   They left her in the middle of the road.   The two small babies she was carrying laid next to her.  The deer and her offspring were move off the road.   Scavengers would find the carcasses.   The next few days I walked that stretch of road to see how nature would handle the accident.   The turkey vulture colony that lives in the area took no time to zero in on fresh venison.   They had help from the coyotes, bobcat, hawks and other predators. The babies soon vanished, the soft parts were removed and one night the entire body disappeared.

The dead beaver laying on the side of the road I suspect was killed at some farm or ranch and dropped off.   Part of its tail was missing. The poor animal was gone by the next day.   The frogs, snakes and small birds hit or run over were each tossed from the road when I encountered them.   The Canadian goose had been killed and someone had the decency to drag the large bird from the road to a fence. One small turtle, a red eared slider, was not fast enough to cross the bridge.   This is the beginning of warm weather and already too many casualties. On a happier note, I stood back and watched a mother armadillo cross the road with 2 youngsters in tow.   Be careful out there when driving to who knows where.and this is why I do not write poetry.

The Multi-County Master Gardener Plant Sale will be held Saturday, May 12th from 9 am to 3 pm at the Pottawatomie County Extension Center, 14001 Acme Road Shawnee.   Our gardeners have been busy sprouting, sorting, digging, transplanting, labeling and potting up an assortment of plants. In addition will be a garage sale (no clothes.)   One just might discover a treasure while shopping for just the right plant.

Last year I donated red sage plants.   This year I figured my Boston fern needed to be repotted and my contribution will be some lovely ferns. How difficult could this be.

Fern Divided

Turns out, it was crazy tough.   The potting soil and several small pots were lined up.   The bucket of water and my favorite digging trowel stood at the ready.   The fern had been removed from the greenhouse and was sitting patiently on the concrete pad.   A few bounces on the firm surface while the pink plastic pot was being rotated should do the trick and release the root ball.   I gently tapped and rolled the pot.   Nothing.   I apologized to the plant and pounded the pot a little harder.   Did not budge.   The pot was then dropped from a foot up, which was no small feat since that darn fern weighed over 30 pounds and was as tall as I.   The fronds waved wildly as the pot hit the surface. The pot was intact and the plant still tight in the pot.   I began to pry around the edge to loosen the roots and discoveredanother pot, a thin black plastic pot.   Holding the fern between my legs I wedged the trowel between the pink pot and black pot.   The pink pot popped off.   Hey, I could use this pot again.

Fern Nodules

No way would I be able to remove the black pot. It adhered like a second skin. Grabbing my clippers I began to cut the potand found yet another black pot within.   This was turning out to be like a Russian Matryoshka doll full of smaller and smaller dolls.   I cut off the next pot.   Fern roots had threaded themselves between these two pots.   Time for the woodzig, a tool similar to a rugged hacksaw.   The zig and I furiously began sawing.   By the time the last pot came off, the root ball had also been dissected into two halves.   Untangling the leafy fronds I began to further saw apart the roots and found nodules.   Translucent tough large marble-sized spheres.   Boston ferns form nodules as their roots absorb water and nutrients.   The energy solution is stored in these cool orbs to help the fern cope in drought.   Well, there were dozens of nodules in the root-bound fern.   Poor baby had been working hard to survive.

Eventually the dense root mass was cut into five sections five large slices of roots each topped by 3 foot long leaf fronds.   Notice I did not mention soil.   It appears my plant was somehow living hydroponically inside its three pots by making nodules for water storage.   I gazed at the little six-inch pots.   Who was I kidding.   No way could the roots fit in these teeny pots.   My other option was to use the 5 gallon pots stacked in a corner. After collecting a bucket of pine cones, the pots were forced apart.   Into the bottom of each pot were put cones and several inches of rotting leaves, stems and anything else organic.  A root segment with accompanying fronds was inserted, and moist potting soil was firmly patted around the roots.

The five newly minted ferns line the sidewalk to the house.   They frequently get water, so by the time the day of the plant sale arrives, my ferns will be presentable (alive.)   If something unexpected happens (tornado or hail storm), I know where the dewberries grow.

The Four Amigos