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Barry, Barry, Quite Contrary...

Was able to do a good bit of weeding yesterday, cleaning up the main flower-bed, planting our latest seedlings and small potted plants and putting down some mulch. It's been about two years of neglect, between Cara Sposa and I being injured, and having to do too much for-pay work to be able to spend any time in the garden in spring.

Partly it's because I'm feeling better physically. I've reached a new goal with my M/W/F workout wherin I broke the 7 faux(bogo?)-miles on the speed-skating-cardio-thing, and I'm moving with more fluidity and strength than I have in some time. Which helps, because I'm trying to get weeds also out of the compressed-ancient-gravel driveway-with-no-car-on-it. Probably a good time to record figures, since my memory of when and where is not so good.

  1. 30 mins on speed-skating-cardio-thing (7.1 bogo-miles/525kcal)
  2. 3 x 10 x 255lbs on the push-levers-away-from-chest-thing
  3. 3 x 10 x 120lbs on the push levers above-head-thing
  4. 3 x 30 x 400lbs on the 45-degree-chair-squatting-thing
  5. 3 x 10 x 220lbs on the grab-levers-and-pull-them-out-thing
  6. 4 x 10 x 250lbs on the grab-levers-and-push-them-in-thing
  7. 3 x 30 x front/left/right on the reverse-situp-rig-thing
  8. 12 x 10 x 35lbs in the grab-levers-and-scrunch-down-thing
  9. 3 x 10 x 195lbs grab-levers-and-row thing
  10. 60 x 25lb barbell-swing-arms-like-you're-drumming flail-about-like-a-fool
  11. 10 x 35lb barbell-more-sedately-curl-arms flail-about
  12. 3 x 20 x 60lbs grab-handles-and-pull-down-thing
  13. 15 mins elliptical-ski-thing cranked all the way up (4.3 bogo-miles/400kcal)

But cut to the cool part: While weeding, I came across something I'd never seen before. At one point, I was breaking up soil with a shovel and pulling out the weeds and grass that had infiltrated the plot. I pulled up a dandelion root and found a set of what looked like a herd of 20 or so aphids, only bigger, pale, and fat, sucking away on the root near the surface of the soil. And tending them was a tiny yellow-gold-amber coloured ant, about 3mm in length. I wish now, that I had run in and got my camera. I've seen carpenter-ants herding aphids on roses, but I'd never seen this kind of yellow ant herding aphids underground. Has anyone seen this before?

But I didn't take photos, as I said, so you'll just have to imagine it. Very odd looking, like stumbling on a hidden culture, or a spare room in your house you'd never seen before.

But here's an example of the neglect we've had of our plantings these past two years. Here's before and after shots of our city plot/allotment. Note the precise clean work of the German organic farmer in the foreground. Note the solid expanse of dandelions and weeds in the middle. That's our plot. I offered to resign the plot because I hadn't been able to take care of it alone, but they handed back the resignation and let us stay. Anyway, that was two weeks ago. We've trenched and levelled and planted. I'll get a photo of the current state when I next go out there.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 3rd, 2012 07:46 pm (UTC)
Your discovery sounds pretty unnerving.

Great that you guys are back at the gardening. It's one thing that fell somewhat by the wayside for me when I started getting involved in online things, though I still do make a passing stab at planting things each year (nothing like as organized as you guys are though).
Jun. 4th, 2012 11:37 am (UTC)
More innervating than unnerving, it turns out. Apparently, the ants are citronella ants, and little is known about them, but they are HERDERS. Like the traditional Masai, the bulk of their nutrition derives from their cattle. Which happen to be underground aphids!

The things you learn. This has been going on under my feet for the past 10 years, and I had no clue. I don't think I'll look at the flowerbed in the same way. More like imagining tiny cows underneath, hoofs resting on the surface of the soil.
Jun. 4th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
That has intriguing story possibilities...
Jun. 6th, 2012 09:25 am (UTC)
fell somewhat by the wayside for me when I started getting involved in online things

So true. There's never enough time for everything you want to do, and the sacrifices are always a bit difficult to choose. I've been sacrificing my long fiction too much lately, but I've also had to work more intensively on for-pay work and spend more time recovering garden and domestic industry. I think I'm going to have to dial back online things in favour of fiction soon.
Jun. 6th, 2012 09:34 am (UTC)
Ack.... please don't disappear too entirely. Your thoughts and posts are a bright point for me. (OTOH, I also like your fiction, so...)

Jun. 6th, 2012 12:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, God, no. I'm too much of a blowhard to disappear. I regret, though, that I'm not going to be able to spend as much time reading and responding online because my offline reading and writing is going to demand more of my time.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )