Publisher’s Corner: Walk The Yard

For an escape from the day-to-day drama unfurling before us on the national and international stage, Niki and I simply have to get out and “walk the yard.” It’s a great way to retreat to what little nature we have in suburban St. Louis. But even just 1/8 of an acre can be a sanctuary for us. We comically call our front yard the South 40 and the backyard the North 40. Guess we are counting the number of dandelions in each patch of pasture. Having an organic yard means sharing space with weeds. And boy do they, well, grow like weeds. Seems crab grass likes the hot weather and the milk weed plants are growing everywhere this year, no doubt springing up from the many times I enjoyed setting their seeds aloft in last Autumn’s wind. We take many of them out of the flower beds and vegetable garden. They can grow a foot in just a day, snaking their way up and around anything in their path. No matter how many we pull this summer, there will still be remaining pods producing squads of paratroopers come fall. We marvel at how big the blue spruce, we affectionally call Prickles, has grown since Niki got it for me when we moved into this house 25 years ago. And for the first time ever we see pinecones forming up at the very top of the tree. Many birds like Prickles for nest building and humming birds like to lick the sap from limb tips. We dress Prickles up with hundreds of tiny white lights each holiday season and she stands as a beacon in the neighborhood. The Butter & Eggs plants have overtaken our little bed next to the driveway since the azalea died. There was a rose bush there, too, but it slowly passed on and my grandson Jackson misses the playful tossing of dried rose petals. Our home is always protected by a number of colorful Gnomes standing guard on the porch and among the walkway greenery. I could swear each time I go out there, a few have moved since last I saw them. The boxwoods have grown so much that the old walkway is all but covered over. The newer flagstone path has allowed some grass and weeds to creep into its cracks which Niki quickly plucks after a soaking rain when the soil is softer. Only one of the sister redbuds, we transplanted into the western bed near the wrought iron bench, has lived and grown to be a beautiful tree. The Irises have gone by now but they were as beautiful as ever this year. I can see why Van Gogh chose them to paint so brilliantly. And on the west side of the garage our Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea) are now in full bloom. These have got to be my favorite native flower. So colorful, so strong, so functional. And the butterflies, bees and goldfinches love them, too. This is where we often find a praying mantis lying in wait for an unsuspecting meal to come along. The tomato patch in the North 40 is starting to burst with fruit. The squirrels have figured out that my plastic owl has yet to grab one of them in his talons, so part of my harvest is being snitched by these sneaky s.o.b.s. The pumpkin plants are growing wildly out of the raised bed and are beginning to take over the neighborhood, so hide your pets and small children. The herb pot is doing quite well with basil, thyme, chives, sage and something I forgot the name of. Another Blue Jay scouts the backyard for an unattended nest and an egg or two for lunch. Cardinals dart from tree to tree, often in pairs, nesting in the cedar. Robins hop the yard peeking at the ground after a rain for a nice fat juicy worm. The Japanese Maple, we call the Ojii Tree in honor of Niki’s father, is aging and its time to practice the art of pruning I learned from Ben Chu at the Missouri Botanical Garden. At dusk we watch the bats dart about thinning the mosquito population. When darkness comes we look skyward and talk about planets and stars with 5-year-old Jackson. No matter what drama goes on in Washington or around the world, there will always be the opportunity to regain our sanity by “Walking The Yard” and surveying our little piece of happiness in the universe.

The Suburbs Primeval, J.B. Lester