I hate yew.

Ever feel like a hamster on a wheel?  Me too.  Especially this past weekend.  My husband and I have a real knack for making more work for ourselves when there’s already plenty to be had.  We spent Saturday out working in the yard.  We planted, and laid drip hoses.  We put down sod.  Round about knocking off time (for normal people) we decided IT WAS TIME.  We got out the sawzall and put on some gloves, we gathered our daughters and then, one by one, we took out four bushes.  WHY?  Because I hate yew.  My husband hates yew.  And truth be told, our daughters hate yew too.

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The Garden Project.

Sorry for the lack of posting, my husband & I have been chained out in the garden.  HHAHAHAH – no I am serious.

This is what our side garden looked like when we moved in.  It’s a little hard to see, but there are flower beds and a brick path under there.

Our goal?  Make it look pretty.

I know people hate it (and BOY do I), but if you want a beautiful garden, you have to pay the love toll.  And the love toll = WEEDING.  So put on those work clothes and get out the tools, because digging up umpteen years of rooting doesn’t happen in one breezy hour.  And remember, it is crucial to be thorough.  B/c if you aren’t – it’s ALL GONNA GROW BACK.

WORK Kids Work!  They were actually quite helpful.. until they spotted the spiders.

After that I weeded solo, while John repaved the sides to give everything a nice clean edge.

In this pic you can see the weeds are mostly gone.  I’d put in a couple perennials in the fall, which thankfully survived the mild winter.  The path is paved.  So far, so GOOD!

All DONE?  Not quite.  That was just the one side.  I then got to weeding on the other side.  The spiders kept me company.

I got a wicked sunburn that weekend.  Plus two ginormous (and bleeding) bites on my neck and shoulder from I still don’t know what.  Which I watched vigilantly for days thinking they might “do something.”  Thankfully, they healed just fine.

Time to plant!

Given the amount of time & labor we’d invested, I wasn’t keen on doing this again next year.  So we chose a mix of perennials & herbs.  Plant them once and they do the work themselves, over & over again.  We filled in everything with rich organic soil, reconnected the drain spout extension and VOILA!  Good to go!

Lastly, John laid a new path (still to be sunk) from the rear garden round to the side.  (Note to John: Flip #3 before sinking..)

NEXT UP.  Front garden bed & path.

Here’s what it looked like when we started.

A couple lilacs and some lily of the valleys.  The flowers smelled nice, but they were blocking the light and obstructing the view of the house.  So after several more hours of grueling labor, digging up roots that went down seemingly forever, this is what it looked like.

John & I repaved the bed with bricks, put down more rich soil and then planted.

Here’s what it looks like now.

Pretty goal – ACHIEVED!

The best news of all?  After all that grub angst – our grass is growing back!!

Now. Must Rest.

Mantid Love.

We have a large butterfly bush in our front yard which attracts a huge variety of insects.  Butterflies (of course), as well as all types of bees, flies, – this year we even had a hummingbird!  Pretty darn rare in the city.  Anyway. b/c of the number of butterflies, this bush is also home to a large cadre of praying mantises.  Mantids LOVE butterflies.  Their tender juicy middles in particular.  After gobbling them up, they drop the butterflies’ colorful but otherwise unappealing wings to the floor below.  So all summer long, while I’m weeding the garden, my daughters are gathering up the wings like so many discarded petals.

When I was a kid I never saw a praying mantis.  But I clearly remember people saying they were endangered, and telling me never to kill one.  I believe it was illegal at the time (the 1980s), but I haven’t been able to confirm or deny that.  All I know for certain is that mantids are thriving in 2008 – at least in our yard.  If a postage-sized stamp of a garden in the middle of a city is any indication of the greater picture, I’d say they’re doing fine.

And yet each time we find a praying mantis, you’d think it was the very first time.  We drop everything.  Holla to each other.  COME QUICK!  B/c we all want to see.  Their thoughtful eyes and slender grace are fascinating.  My daughters found a small one several weeks ago – of all places, beneath a checkout in Trader Joes.  They scooped him up, and carried him out of the store.  He seemed happy to be free.  But rather than hop off outside the exit, he rode for blocks on my older daughter’s hand.  Only once we reached the Market Street bridge did he fly off, soaring stories into the sky.

We’ve been fortunate enough to capture several others over the years.  Not in any box, but on film.  My skillful husband took these photos a couple weeks ago of a pair mating, and I just had to share them.  They are beautiful.  The text is excerpted from the North Forty News.  Many thanks for sharing.

PS: We now have a large egg case on one of the branches.  Here’s to next year’s offspring!

This brings us to the delicate subject of mantid love – or, more precisely, mantid sexual behavior.

Slender adult male mantids, smaller than the female, usually feature brown tones in contrast to the female’s greens. They display rather slow, deliberate care around prospective mates, often approaching from the rear and leaping on the female’s ample back when close enough. Females warrant this caution, even though their substantial weight keeps them grounded while males can fly, because a female may hunger for a substantial meal more than sex.

Sometimes she wants both.

Even attached and fully engaged, a male may literally lose his head servicing his chosen female. The female can swivel her head in a disconcertingly human-like gesture and decapitate her suitor. This may not even interrupt the act at hand. One author states that “removal of the male’s head, the bit which the female eats first, releases the male’s genitalia from nervous inhibition from the brain and leads to incessant copulatory movements.”

The smartest–or the luckiest–males avoid this circumstance, however, leap off their temporarily groggy paramour and run quickly away. Such mortal danger may insure that only the smartest males live to mate again.

Once inseminated, a female searches for a plant stem or fence post suitable for making an egg case and laying her eggs. Usually she selects a location 1 to 4 feet off the ground and constructs a case that resembles tan foam with the texture of a roasted marshmallow. Chinese mantids build round cases; the Europeans flatten theirs on one side.