Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Originally posted and written in 2011

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about some of my trials and errors when it comes to gardening (and nature in general) so in light of the fact it is not a good day (and probably not a good week) for planting, bird watching or outdoor activities otherwise, I thought I’d share a few words of wisdom I have learned the hard way. Gardening is a continuous learning process, and there will always be a time when what you’ve been doing will no longer be as effective as it once was. It’s in cases like this, that you have to start looking for something else to try. There was this one time when my friend was so fed up with walking to and from the house to get her gardening tools, that she decided to build a shed foundation to make room for an outdoor building, giving her the opportunity to store them where they are closer to reach. She found out about this idea from her sister who had mentioned it to her once in a conversation. You see, gardening is always a learning process, and you should always welcome these changes if it means that your experiences will be better. Now, do you see why I want to share some of these thoughts? I actually started working on this post some time ago and set it aside to write about timely plants instead. However, the timing is good today for several reasons, among them, I wanted to take an opportunity to let you know that although I love and respect plants, animals and nature in general, I have just as many challenges in my endeavors as I do successes! I remember one time in particular when I was trying to plant some edging pond plants. Well, I made a total muck up of it and damaged quite a few plants but with some perseverance, I managed to plant the remaining plants, and over time, I watched them flourish.

I am what I call a “moderate” when it comes to just about everything. I don’t have the best yard in town, but I admit it is pretty good. I don’t have all the ideal landscaping plants installed because I can’t afford to buy them or get rid of the ones in existence, but I always make the very best of what I have and what I can buy. It works for me, and I’m still able to make sure that my garden looks how I want it to look. And that’s important. My friend didn’t like the look of her garden, so when she told me that she was looking for a tree removal service to help remove the big tree she had in her backyard, I wasn’t surprised. It just took up too much space. So, even though I don’t have a tree as big as that in my garden, I have all of the things that I could ever want, without spending too much on it. I don’t take my pets to the vet as often as recommended but they get their annual shots and they absolutely go when they are in need. I still love them, bad breath and all. I guess my point is, things usually work out “pretty good” even if you don’t have as many resources as you’d like. -And if you fail at an endeavor, at least you learn something – albeit sometimes the lessons are painful. I hope none of the following true excerpts is found to be offensive. If so, please keep in mind that for me, the consolation of my failures is that I always have good intentions.

Now that I’ve got my philosophical statements out-of-the-way early in this post, let me share with you a few things I have learned the hard way –

palm1. Don’t bend down from directly above a spiked palm plant to look at its base. You will end up in the emergency room with glow in the dark goo all over your eyeball and will leave wearing a huge patch over your eye. The worst part is you didn’t get poked in the eye in a respectable manner – you got it from being a dummy.

2. This is a repeat. Don’t rake long-standing leaves or clean out any kind of deep debris from under your shrubs without gloves, shoes or other protective clothing. You may again end up in the emergency room but this time with a 20-something-year-old intern drawing a circle around a brown recluse spider bite located on your rear end.

mouse3. No matter how much of an animal lover you are, do not pick up a field mouse, cup it in your hand, tell your kids they are harmless and then proceed to open your hand and look it in the eye. It will take a lightning fast leap from your hand and run inside your shirt. Your kids will laugh hysterically as they watch you shed your clothes in broad daylight and dance all over the backyard screaming.

spider4. When you see the ground moving in an old country cemetery, do not bend over to get a closer look, especially if you have long hair. You will soon have daddy-long-leg spiders crawling all over your head. Again, your kids will laugh hysterically as you scream and violently “dry wash” your hair while running in and around tombstones.

5. If you have multiple bird feeders strategically placed around your house, do not waste time and money purchasing grass seed and meticulously distributing it in your yard. It is like hosting Thanksgiving for the birds.

6. If you see a small brownish gray critter in your house that is walking slowly (even when being chased by cats) and it keeps running into the baseboard, it isn’t a drunk mouse. It is a mole.

7. Hanging baskets inside your house make good perching spots for Mockingbirds that may enter through your doggie door. Above ground-level plants, like trees, make them feel right at home. (Please note #3 and #6 are also related to the doggie door.)

angel fish8. No matter how small an Angel Fish’s lips look, be assured they can suck up multiple Neon Tetras like a brand new Hoover within seconds. Unfortunately, the schooling theory that is supposed to keep small fish safe in a community tank doesn’t hold water. (I know, a bad pun.)

9. Don’t ever dig up a huge root of Turk’s Cap just to prove you can, or to save money. You may succeed, but your knees will prove to you for the next 3 months that you really can’t and you’ll pay for it in doctor’s appointments and anti-inflammatories.

10. If you have a blind and deaf dog that survives through the use of his sense of smell, do not place leftover cheese pizza in a platform bird feeder that is directly above newly planted flowers. Your dog will trample over and sit on top of your seedlings with his nose in the air until the cows (or cowbirds) come home!

11. After reading that frogs are a natural way to control bugs in the garden, don’t gather ten of them up from your parents’ soggy property, place them in a tall tub in your back seat and drive an hour and a half back to your house. Not only will the frogs hop off to wetter pastures, you will need a chiropractic adjustment when you arrive home to get the kinks out of your shoulders from cringing every time you hit a pothole.

12. If you have a dog that barks at planes, trains, and automobiles, don’t be surprised when he leaps from the back seat of your van and repeatedly attacks your windshield wipers as you attempt to drive him to the vet in pouring rain.

habanero13. If you grow fresh Habanero peppers and decide to dispose of any leftovers from cooking or canning, do not send them through the garbage disposal. Your family will have to vacate the property for several hours as you will have essentially pepper-sprayed them.

I can’t leave you with an unlucky 13 . . . and lastly,

lizard14. If you hear that lizards love to bake in the sun, try to remember that when they are in their little plastic houses, they are trapped and can’t find shade when they get too hot. In Texas, they literally do bake in the sun! Please give me a break on this one. I was only 6 years old when I did this to the chameleon my parents bought me at the Texas State Fair – all with good intentions, of course!

Until next time –


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