Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Something to think about: Signs of summer, part I

Each year, there are signs of summer — portents that the warmer weather has brought something new and different into our lives as well as the familiar events like the 12-year war I’ve been waging every summer against the ubiquitous garden trio, Woodruff, Oregano and Common Yarrow.

It’s my own fault. Like herbal vampires, I invited the trio in when I was young and stupid about plants. I wanted herbs for my herb garden — little did I realize they wanted world domination. Like vampires, they can’t be killed by ordinary measures. They might look dead, but they just go underground and reappear to suck the life out of their unsuspecting plant neighbors. Unlike vampires, you can’t kill them with garlic, holy water or wooden crosses. I’ve tried.

If you’re looking for deer-resistant plants, search no more. Sweet Woodruff, Common Yarrow and any kind of Oregano is left strictly alone by wildlife of all sorts. Not even the gophers go for them. They are green, all of them flower, and they have herbal properties, but this triumvirate is relentless. Give them each their own garden, but don’t expect them to stay in it.

I came inside from battling the Three Wicked Herbs and heard that the federal deficit had shrunk more rapidly than expected, dropping under a trillion for the first time in years. Wahoo! Something new the summer brought us. Since the deficit is the difference between what U.S. takes in as revenue and the amount Congress spends, this sounded like good news. I was puzzled that no one but me seemed to think this was exciting.

Then, I checked the U.S. Debt Clock. I don’t know why it occurred to me to do this — it was probably the heat. I’ve never checked it before, and most likely will not do it again. Don’t do this on a full stomach; in fact, don’t look at the Debt Clock at all if you value your sanity. The numbers are all getting bigger at an alarming rate. I now know that I owe $148,108, along with every tax payer in the United States. The really bad part is that I have no control over that debt. I can’t cut up the federal credit cards or take Congress to debt counseling; I can only watch with glazed eyes as the numbers grow. It’s best to find another, less painful way to occupy yourself — like having your toenails ripped out.

Experts attribute the rapidly shrinking deficit to cuts in federal spending, a better economy, increased payroll taxes and tax on the wealthy. Since I see no evidence of fiscal spending restraint on the Debt Clock, I’ll take partial credit for the shrinkage because of my increased payroll contribution — not as if  they asked me if that was okay.

The shrinking deficit is taking a back seat to Swarmageddon, another sign of summer. Millions of cicadas will emerge from 17 years of being underground to swarm together and reproduce. They make a lot of noise doing this until they finish up and die, leaving millions of discarded exoskeletons and larvae behind. I’m pretty sure I  could put up with the noise if the cicadas would devour  Yarrow, Woodruff and Oregano, but they don’t eat such things and they will be very busy on the East Coast annoying the residents and making more cicadas.

I called my cousin-in-law who lives in Maryland in a rural area where she and her husband recently built their dream home. Summer in Maryland is kind of sultry and sweaty anyway, but the hyped-up cicada invasion threatened to make it really interesting. Linda said that no cicadas had yet emerged and that their county might not be affected. Good news since it appears that stinkbugs are another sign of summer and they have plenty of those. Linda said she was hoping the cicadas and the stinkbugs would fight it out and they wouldn’t have to deal with either one. “Stinkbugs breed like crazy and stink like hell when you squish them,” she said.

Yarrow, Woodruff and Oregano are relentless, but they don’t stink and they are pretty cheap.

Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly. 



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