Monday, April 04, 2005

One person's weed is another person's wildflower

April is high spring in South Louisiana. Apologies to those of you who live in the frozen North and won't see spring for another month. (I went to school in the frozen North and well remember seeing a six-inch snowfall in April. The horror, the horror.)

In the frozen North people look forward to spring because they are so sick of winter. In South Louisiana we enjoy spring while we've got it, because things are about to get pretty awful. By May the lovebugs will be here (they have two seasons, May and mid-August through cool weather, and in the late summer they cover the air like clouds; you can't believe what it's like until you've lived through it), not to mention the mosquitoes (which never completely go away), the gnats, and the big black grashoppers the size of locomotives. And the heat and humidity, which go on until mid-October. And then there's hurricane season.

So we love spring while we've got it. And now that I live in the country, I really appreciate it. I live down a country road on three acres. I'm only ten minutes from my church, four miles, but some of my parishioners think I live WAY far away. Oh well.

Life in the country is a huge change for a city girl like me. I still don't understand much about my well or my septic system, except that when the power goes out, I don't have any water. Don't know much about that big silver gas tank in the side yard either, except that you have to be very careful when you lift the lid to read the gauge, because wasps like to nest under there. (Oh, yeah, I left off my list of favorite insects the wasps and the fire ants. I know God put them on the earth for a reason, but God has yet to reveal that reason to me. Maybe to keep me humble.) I do have some of the big-city conveniences like electricity, phone service, Internet access and cable TV. Good thing. I don't think I'd survive without cable and

At any rate...this city girl knows better than to try to keep three acres mowed by herself. I hire someone with a tractor to cut it for me. Last spring was so rainy that I couldn't get the yard cut until it dried out a bit. (We are on the edge of the swamp, too, which doesn't help matters any.) And so last year I discovered, when I couldn't get the yard cut until mid-April, that it would turn into a wildflower meadow in the spring.

Now, I don't really know the names of the flowers. There are little yellow daisy-looking flowers and white sort-of daisy looking flowers with yellow centers, only not big enough to be daisies. And there are some lovely bell-shaped blue flowers, mostly growing in the ditches on the sides of the road. And these wonderful spiky plants I wanted to call wild artichokes, but I found out they are called thistles. Nasty, stay-away-from-me jagged leaves, but the most beautiful cream-and-purple flowers (that look a little like artichokes) that, I discovered the other day, must be scented or sweet because they are full of bees and what look like chinch bugs that fly up in your face when you get too close to the flowers. So the wild artichokes/thistles are best viewed from a distance.

All my neighbors are cutting their yards. I hear tractors and riding lawnmowers all weekend long. It's a drier spring than last year. But I haven't called my yard man yet. Whenever I look out at my back yard full of wildflowers, I am loathe to see them cut down. I am sure my neighbors think I am nuts. (Wouldn't be the first time. For seven years during the 1990s, I had two red Camaros sitting side by side in my garage, and I considered it a mark of how nuts my neighbors must have thought I was, because none of them ever asked me about them.) Where I see beautiful wildflowers, my neighbors in the country just see weeds run amuck: they probably think I should have cut them down before they bloomed and started spreading seed pods everywhere.

But I am going to enjoy my wildflower meadow for another week or so. People pay money to travel to see fields like this in the springtime. I have it right out back of my screened porch. If this is life in the country, I'm going to enjoy it for a little while.