Gardens of the Cross Timbers: She got me

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Gaura blooms

Our two cats were hissing and growling on the sunporch. Sammy and his tail were twice his normal size. Tailless Cleo had to make do with being a puff ball. The plant lights on the sunporch focused on the ivy, revealing nothing beyond the glass walls. Flipping on the porch light clearly illuminated a small raccoon standing in front of the sun porch. It was chewing on something. There was nothing edible on the porch. The raccoon then reached out and snatched a bug on the screen. The plant lights were attracting moths and insects that clung to the outside screen. This had not gone unnoticed by the masked bandit. Two nights before, the front hummingbird feeder had been plundered, and was now moved to a safe location after dark. No dumb critter here. It simply switched tactics and shifted to another food source.

Before I knew it, she had nailed my hand. She was upset. The female red wasp was protecting her plastic owl on a pole and, at 2 p.m. in the afternoon and 99 degrees, was a bit hot and bothered. All I was doing was sweeping the leaves off the walkway. As she zoomed in for another hit, the broom was lifted into the air to become a battering ram. Swinging wildly in all directions, I looked like a poorly trained Samurai warrior while the wasp deftly dodged and flew in tightening circles. I hurriedly back-tracked into the house and walked into the sunporch to see where she was. The wasp had again parked herself on the owl pole.

My hand was swelling and quite painful. How dare her. Armed with Mrs. Meyers Geranium scented natural cleaner, I walked back outside and approached the owl. She saw me and took aim. I sprayed the air while she advanced and withdrew, but never abandoned her owl. As I quickly turned to go back to the house, the intrepid wasp dropped to knee level and followed me until I was behind the glass storm door.

My throbbing hand was cooled in an ice wrap. Other than red, puffy and sore, the reaction was localized and minimal. An hour later I daringly walked the path by the owl to go to the mailbox. No wasp. No wasp on the return trip. If I did manage to give her a small Mrs. Meyers bath, that wasp will be the cleanest most fragrant red wasp in the area!

September is coming in hot, but as the sun drops lower in the sky, temperatures should begin to drop as well. Tell that to the cattle huddled underneath the small tree complex in the field in a valiant effort to be cooler. When the heat builds into the upper 90s every day, it’s miserable out there. Typical county and state fair weather!

Keeping Cool

The year has been a series of extremes. Satellite imagery shows shrinking sea ice and the world’s glaciers melting at elevated rates. Sea levels are rising. Some parts of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, one of my favorite spots, are losing up to 14 feet of beach a year. The temporary ‘paid by taxpayers’ solution: Go further into the ocean, dredge up sand and distribute it along the coastline. The sands should stabilize the ocean’s edge five years, barring high tides or powerful hurricanes. What a gamble.

I somehow missed the emergence of the Monarch on the screen. One day it was there, the next gone. If all went well, it only took a few minutes for a Monarch to climb out of the chrysalis (eclosion), pump fluid into its crumpled wings, let the wings dry for another half hour or more and flutter away. Being so hot, it probably took the short track and was done in record time. Soon, more Monarchs will be coming through on their way to Mexico. I hope.

The trees are taking on bronze tints. Autumn is coming. Nature reads the signs and is preparing for winter. Late blooming flowers not only offer nutrition but splashes of color throughout the landscape. Purple thistles, yellow sunflowers, goldenrod, species of Gaura, Compass plants, Liatris, the return of green milkweed, tall Evening Primrose, Snow on the Mountain, cockleburs, ragweed, and sneezeweed herald the transition from hot to cooler weather. Harvest time is in full swing. We’ve got perhaps 1½ months or longer before the first frost. Plan for Jack to come early November, but watch the weather from the end of October on.

De-construction of Henryetta

The transformation of Henryetta into Red Fred occurred just in time for the Pottawomie County Free Fair. Her torso was re-secured on the metal pole in two places. Bubble wrap was placed around middle. The thick red locks of hair were trimmed and leftover yarn sewn on the face. The Fu Manchu mustache didn’t look right and was severely pruned into a bristly red mustache. A ballcap covered part of the flaming red head. With a small struggle, on came the flannel shirt. The jeans were another matter. A hole in the crouch was necessary for the support pole to come through. Linda came to the rescue with an old pair of worn out capris.

Construction of Red Fred

The capri jeans were put on and belt buckle fastened. The belt buckle pulled the jeans down to the floor. Attaching the jeans to the shirt with safely pins didn’t work, but two shoelaces tied to belt loops front and back hoisted the jeans back up. A vest covered the white shoe strings. White acrylic teeth were added. Henryetta’s red Sharpie ink lips bled through the white acrylic tooth paint. Fred’s teeth turned pink. I fashioned white paper dentures which were glued under the mustache. Sam now has a cheesy grin.

With handmade blue ribbons (by Linda) tucked into vest pockets and a pair of boots on his feet, Red Fred was the epitome of “Blue Ribbons, Buckles and Boots,” the Multi-County Master Gardener scarecrow entry. Now if all of him holds together through the fair!

Becky Emerson Carlberg

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