I should never venture out into the yard this time of year without taking along a pair of gardening gloves.
When I walk near a flower bed, I see chickweed or its neighbor, catchweed, also known as stickywilly, waving in the breeze. Weeds that a few weeks ago were low growing are now taller than the daffodils — almost as tall as the iris. They call out to me, even when I’m in the house looking out the windows.
I can’t resist pulling weeds. Though it seems an odd character quirk, probably a character flaw, I enjoy weeding, especially so in April when the soil is loose from winter freezes and spring rains, when roots yield to the slightest tug and the ill-placed plants come free in my hand.
I’m happy to walk by the beds and pull whatever catches my eye. I’m even happier to crawl through the beds and ferret out any and all unwanted plants. There are plenty of plants in that category.
These past few weeks I’ve been ridding the beds of a lot of honeysuckle. At this time of year it’s possible to get my fingers under a knob of honeysuckle root and dislodge a length of root that stretches several feet. It’s an immensely gratifying experience, especially given the knowledge that in another month or so, getting rid of honeysuckle will demand yanking and jerking and otherwise expending sweat and energy.
Because a bed of periwinkle near our front walkway abounds with honeysuckle, it has been the chief recipient of my efforts recently. Even after weeding in that bed for several days, there are sufficient vines remaining to satisfy my desire to weed for weeks to come. Honeysuckle and periwinkle resemble each other just enough that I fail to notice the invasion until it has become a full-blown occupation.
Unfortunately, another invader, poison ivy, has also taken up residence in the periwinkle.
Though I recognize the three-leafed pest, I don’t always notice when my glove has brushed against a sprig. Given my habit of swiping at my perspiring face, I often in warm weather sport an itchy, red, unsightly rash. The first such rash of the season has spread along my jawbone. I find myself scratching at it even when I know I should leave it alone.
A doctor friend gave Dick and me good advice years ago on dealing with itchy rashes. He suggested putting hot water compresses on the area, as hot as we can stand without burning our skin. It works wonderfully. The heat pulls the histamine to the surface, and the itch vanishes for a short while — long enough sometimes to allow me to fall asleep.
Our dog Ember, being low to the ground, is another bearer of poison ivy oil. She runs through thickets at the edges of fields, up and down vine-covered banks, and in and out of ditches. Because poison ivy grows with abandon all over the farm, she comes into contact with it numerous times a day. Dick and I try to remember to thoroughly wash our hands after we’ve played with her.
I expect the cats, Olivia and Kaycee, get into poison ivy as well. But they’re such meticulous bathers that I don’t worry about oil transferring from their bodies to ours. Being older animals, they aren’t as persistent in demanding playtime with its rubbing and patting and petting, though they certainly get their share of attention.
Kaycee, in particular, likes to put her front paws on the arm of a chair where either Dick or I are sitting. If we ignore her, she gently pats us with one paw and then the other. Who can resist stroking the soft fur along her back when she so politely entreats us to pay attention to her?
Cats do little damage to growing plants, but I’m trying to teach Ember to stay out of the flower beds, a lesson I repeat several times a day. She’s an extremely smart dog and knows many words already, but she’s also sufficiently impish that I’m glad the vegetable garden is fenced. I can forgive her occasionally digging up a zinnia or even a salvia plant, but I wouldn’t be as unconcerned if she uprooted the broccoli or cabbage.
She is welcome, however, to dig out all the chickweed, stickywilly, lambs-quarter, honeysuckle and Virginia creeper she wishes. I’m happy to have her companionship in those delightful chores of the season.