Gardens of the Cross Timbers: The going away gift
The car went rogue. My son shared a video taken by a Nest Cam last Sunday. The blue Ford Escort pulled up in front of the house. The delivery lady got out, sack of hamburgers in hand, and walked up the driveway. While she stood waiting at the front door, the car began rolling backward down the steep hill, accelerating at an astonishing pace. After finishing the transaction, she turned and walked back to the driveway before noticing her car was gone. Stolen? Looking down the hill, the lady realized no one was in the moving car. She tore off running as fast as she could after it. The car rolled nearly to the bottom of the hill, went off the road between two trees and spun around, returning back to the road before continuing its downward roll. The Ford somehow missed a delivery van and three cars before stopping on the road. No damage. No one was hurt.
Hot spot of spring activity here. Organic strawberries, organic sugar, sterilized jars, lids, and sure gel were all combined to make fresh strawberry jam. Jars sealed with a pop except one. Several pieces of buttered toast later, no problem.
Time for my annual pre-storm cellar check. I peered into the murky depths. Was that a small cat curled up under one chair? Gingerly descending the metal ladder, I discovered a dead rat. Another was curled next to it. The wire screen on the turbine vent was fine, but two holes had been chewed in the wire cover of the stationary vent. Curiosity killed the rat. Cellar is now clean.
On the path was a dead June bug teetering back and forth. Interesting. Bending down I saw the black ant underneath the bug working hard, determined to haul it back to the hill. My one and only wild native rose is blooming!
Early Tuesday morning I got out of bed and gazed out the window. Outside stood a perky toy sized gray German shepherd puppy with sharply tipped nose and face, pointed ears and fluffy tail. It took off like a flash, racing through the trees before climbing up the boxelder. Another small gray duplicate appeared and clambered up after the first. They both scampered down and continued playing chase. Soon a third joined in. Was I dreaming? Were these giant gray squirrels? Mama arrived. We have a family of gray foxes.
Gray foxes are monogamous but lead solitary lives unless breeding or raising kits (baby foxes). These members of the dog family have the complex Latin name of Urocyon (tailed dog) cinereoargenteus (silver or gray) ocythous (swift runner). Ocythous is the subspecies name for the gray foxes that occupy our central section of the U.S. It is also the name of one of Actaeon’s 79 hunting dogs. Who is Actaeon? A Greek hero trained in the art of hunting by the centaur Chiron (famous man-horse known for wisdom and medicinal knowledge). Actaeon upset the goddess Artemis and she turned him into a stag and was torn apart by his own dogs. You know how fickle those Greek gods can be.
Gray foxes are the only members of the dog family that can use their claws to climb trees and can create dens high up in tree hollows as well as in the ground. These foxes are ecologically important animals in Cross Timbers. In winter they dine on rats, rabbits, and other small mammals. Spring and summer diet include fruits, veggies, crunchy grasshoppers, moths and other insects. They themselves must be careful of cars, bobcats, coyotes, large hawks and owls. The circle of life.
During my companion’s morning bicycle ride, he rode up on a deceased skunk being visited by a turkey vulture. The huge bird rose up and flew along with him on bike at eye level for 50 feet before circling and returning to its breakfast! Vultures are an enigma.
A woman in Los Angeles drove five miles where she would walk her dog. A vulture flew above her as they ambled along. Months later she broke her leg and was on crutches, unable to do her walk. One day she looked out the window overlooking her backyard. There, sitting on the fence, was the vulture. The bird found her miles away!
Wednesday morning the amazing wildflower field in full bloom with prairie larkspur, Indian paintbrush, daisy fleabanes and other natives had been cut down. All those beautiful flowers chopped in their prime. Ignorant and thoughtless people with their preconceived notions. Did the simpletons even think about the many bees and butterflies? Don’t they realize a nature teeming with life keeps them alive.
Keeping alive is the name of the game. The dwarf Chinese Elm was brought inside and placed on the dining room table covered in newspaper. The bonsai tools were assembled. The organic bonsai soil ‘made with love’ was opened. The roots were tethered apart by my fingers since the teeny bonsai rake fell apart. In the bonsai book they show a root hook that could have been on the arm of Captain Hook. Believe it or not, that would have been quite handy. The roots were freed and trimmed. Attention then turned to the little tree quaking in my hands. This elm was multi-trunked. Do I cut all but one to function as the main trunk or limb them all up. Seemed less painful to leave the root sprouts and trim each one with the sharp miniscule scissors. One cup of roots and ½ cup of foliage were removed.
A mesh patch was placed over the drain hole, moist soil was spread across the bottom of the dish, the tree roots were spaced out and topped with more soil. Living Sphagnum moss was placed around the tree to give the appearance of growing in wild in nature.
Unknowingly, I had fashioned the elm in ‘Sinuous Style’ utilizing suckers that have surfaced from roots, as in quinces and elms. The Chinese elm now has four itty-bitty trunks. Hope it likes its new look!
Monday is Memorial Day, a somber observance honoring the military killed in action. The first Memorial Day resolution was passed in Georgia and sent to southern cities. Both Union and Confederate graves of the dead were decorated on April 26th 1866. The first official national observance was renamed Decoration Day and set for May 30th 1868.
In 1968 the date was reset to the last Monday in May and the name changed back to Memorial Day. In 1971 it became a federal holiday. In 2000, Congress passed a law requiring Americans to pause at 3:00 pm to remember and honor the fallen soldiers. Did you know this?
Fly the flag on Monday, May 25th. Stop and think about those who gave their lives for our country. Many people have sacrificed so much. It is time to respect and appreciate what a gift we have been given.
Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.