Fire Ants, Fauna, and a Magic Wand

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

4/19/17 – 4/22/17

The Fire Ant Gauntlet

Watch this if you dare:

Want to guess how I got my ruler back?
Now let me tell you that three feet beyond this fire ant hill is another just like it, and then another, and another, and more–yes, truly–and this video was filmed not in the Central American jungle but in a trendy section of west Little Rock. About twenty of these giant nests of aggressive ants exist on both sides of a street directly behind a posh shopping center. I don’t like being gloomy but the truth is, that street has ‘way more than enough fire ants to kill a human, or dog, or whatever happened to be there and become incapacitated.
Fire ants haven’t always been in central Arkansas; only since the early 1950’s. They are invasive, and now inhabit the southern two-thirds of the state. For how they got here and why we can’t get rid of them, here is an information source:
http://www.aad.arkansas.gov/imported-fire-ants1
I wondered, Do they bite, or do they sting? I found out the answer is both and now I like them even less.

Creatures More Pleasant: Three-toed Box Turtle Terrapene triunguls
The charming box turtles are out of hibernation now, basking in the spring sun and foraging for berries, flowers, fungi, insects, worms . . . This little one was in the middle of a city street today, haulin’ ass fast as her wee three-toed feet could take her. I was in the car with a friend and we stopped and picked her up and took her away in the direction we hoped she was intending to go–they are determined about their chosen direction–and released her in a safer place. She’s one of the smallest I’ve seen.
I had not realized until today that I’ve never seen any really teensy baby box turtles. The reference below says the babies are secretive and rarely seen, and are something of a mystery to science. Also I learned they can live 50 years.  http://www.herpsofarkansas.com/Turtle/TerrapeneTriunguis )
Several different people have told me they had a box turtle take up residence in their yard that stayed for years and became a pet. In my yard they make it plain they’re just passing through. I’ve tried to please them into staying, but no luck. Maybe I’ve had too many terriers in the past. Their little shades are still here, the terriers, I almost see them frequently.

It’s Planting Time . . . Isn’t It?  Watch Out for Adages
We should question adages. One that comes to mind this time of year: The time to plant beans is when the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear. What exactly kind of oak tree? We have 31 kinds. Some have leaves twenty times as big as others. And all kinds of oak leaves develop in fast forward; at my age, the blink of an eye. ‘Way too short a window of time. I don’t just stand by, shifting from one foot to the other, waiting to plant beans. I have to think about it first. And then untangle myself from other business, then go get some beans from the Farmers Association, and so on. The winky time period applies also to the other adage we  have here about beans: Plant beans on Good Friday. One day? And by “planting” do we mean “starting seeds indoors” or “transplanting seedlings outdoors”?
Forget the adages. There is help for off-and-on gardeners like me: there is the OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC. Online! Free! http://www.almanac.com/
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can quickly pull up a lovely simple planting chart customized to your location. Here is a clip of it. It will show, in little colored graphics, the time ranges–yes whole ranges of time–for when to sow what, indoors and outdoors. And then it will show when you will be able to reap what you sowed. It includes about 30 favorite vegetables, and uses historical data from your local weather station to calculate your best range of planting dates. This first class website also has heaps more interesting information, which I’ll leave you to uncover for yourself if you haven’t already.
Here in Enchanted Habitat we enjoy an enchanted gardening climate:  just about any vegetable you could want will grow except, sadly, avocados.

Another Bad Adage
Before we forget about adages, there is a different one I especially caution you about because it could get you injured. Someone somewhere sometime once dreamed it that Cows can’t kick backward. Or maybe the airhead just assumed it. Cows can seem ungainly. Whoever fabricated this told it for a fact, and it then went the old timey equivalent of viral.
You can verify for yourself that this false belief spread and still persists. Do an online search for “Can cows kick backward?” and see what you get. When I was told it as a child, I believed it and remembered it. That’s because my very mother said it. Then long afterward I bought a little farm and soon a Jersey cow. I understood zilch about any of that in the beginning. Fortunately the cow was not only sweet but also smart. She knew right away I was just a doofus who would feed her a lot and let her darling baby suck all the milk it wanted. When I scrunched around  between and behind them in the close quarters of her stall, she didn’t kick me. Later, in the barn lot, I watched veeerrry thoughtfully as she aimed expert powerful warning strikes in the direction of the geese who were thinking about nipping her and her baby in the rear.

Cow Stick . . . or Magic Wand?
One thing does lead to another. Speaking of milk cows, before we leave the subject let me show you my mother’s mother’s mother’s cow stick. She loved her cows. (Somehow that trait skipped two generations and then came to rest in me. I also inherited her uncontrollable Scots-Irish hair.) Even when she was very old she still kept two milk cows. Every morning, rain or shine, almost until the day she died, she escorted them from their little barn into the woods-pasture to graze. In the late afternoons she went and got them and walked them home. My great grandfather whittled this cow stick for her. You can see by its size how mean she wasn’t. I figured out, you don’t actually use a cow stick, you just have one. It’s a metaphorical thing. This magic baton made its way to me. I employ it once in a while, although not to do with cows.
Here’s my great-grandmother, along with great-grandfather and their daughter who was my maternal grandmother.

4 thoughts on “Fire Ants, Fauna, and a Magic Wand

    1. So glad you like it. And you don’t need a cow to have a cow stick! Do you maybe have an old drum stick that might become The One if you looked at it the Other way? Love.

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