Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Flashback: Mother Nature's vengeance is swift and terrible

Originally published on Machinations of a Wandering Mind - April 22, 2005:

I have recently taken up gardening. The allure was simple: watch things grow, tame nature (to some degree), and make the jungle of my Dad's backyard into something that looks just a bit neater.

I also love plants (a key to gardening, I hear). And for most of my life I have sorrowfully been like death running a scythe through a glass shop. I have killed every plant that ever found its way into my grubby fingers. Even things you didn't think could be killed.

To name a few on my list of plant-murders:

African violets

And some ugly plant that no one knew the name for. My mother got it from some friend who didn't want it any more, my Dad tried killing it by hacking it away. I got it, under the faintly veiled assumption that it would eventually meet its demise under my well-intentioned care.

It grew... just one stalk and one about six feet tall. And then, not so suddenly it died. To be honest, I wasn't quite so upset. It really was an ugly plant.

So, back to gardening. With glee in my eyes and a sigh of resignation and wonderful support from my husband, we went to a nursery and bought a bunch of lovely flowers and herbs for my new garden.

I then proceeded to spend the weekend pulling weeds, yanking vines, churning soil and arguing with roots. After much sweat and tiredness, I now have a lovely garden of Alyssum and other things. (I went for simple)

I love it. I take a look at it every day and smile. My hard work seems like it paid off...and I am hoping that fate doesn't go the way it always done and the flowers live for the summer.
However, fate it seems, has a strange sense of humor and the plants have avenged their fallen brethren by giving me...poison ivy.

Yup. Despite the fact that I have lived near a forest almost all of my life, I'm still terrible at identifying the pesky plant. I probably ripped it out with the rest of the anonymous weeds lurking in the back of the house.

I wore gloves, but due to the heat I wore a short-sleeved shirt. It started with a few tiny my arms look like the elephant man - tiny replicas of John Merrick attached to my shoulders. It's hideous. I have bumps on top of bumps.

In total frustration I have looked poison ivy up and learned that the stem has enough oils to infect 10,000 people. I bet that's what I touched.

I have learned my lesson though. No more short sleeves for gardening. Plant-killing however, I have no control over.

I have now tried tons of stuff, but presently I'm on a regimen of washing the areas with dishwashing soap, patting dry, dabbing on witch hazel and hydrogen peroxide, and then topping it all off with toothpaste. (It draws out the oils and dries the area well as having the added benefit of smelling minty fresh.)

So, as the summer goes by I will take a look at my beautiful garden, knowing that I'm happy that my plants didn't die. My plants will be happy for their revenge against my herbicidal tendencies. I will sip lemonade and smile as I inhale the aroma of flowers and perhaps the minty fresh memory of all this will make me smile.

Or itch...I'm not sure.

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