Letter from Birdland | Miss Snappyclaws welcomes me residence | Gardening


Finally at home! If you want to know where your home is, go away for a long time.

I knew I would love to come home, but I cannot describe the feeling of comfort and peace that came over me upon my return.

I got there in time for the last of the peonies and collected the crpe of withered petals for potpourri in bowls around the house.

I saw the end of my grandmother’s yellow rose bloom, but most of the yellow season (the varieties of the black-eyed Susans) is ahead of us.

The yucca sends sweet buds that open into a chandelier of white bells swaying in the wind (you can almost hear them), and the creeping bluebell blooms among the peony bushes.

Sweet rocket is ready, just a few pink flowers hang from the long petioles where the seeds begin to form.

I can feel that the summer is already over, and so I started working on projects straight away.

I decided to bring a little bit of my Chinese home to Birdland. I try to recreate the beds in the “flower quad” that I crossed on my daily way to the office.

First I had a load of garden soil delivered directly between the alley and my corner meadow. Then I raked it into a nice hill and started planting.

The beds that I admired so much on my campus usually had a shrub and a small tree in the middle, surrounded by shrubs, and annuals lined the whole bed, so it was like an island of flowers.

I have ordered some dwarf apple trees and will plant one in the middle. Next to it a hibiscus. But in the back of the island I grew vegetables – heirloom tomatoes from my friend Brian (who is a much better gardener than me), with an eggplant and a row of cabbage.

Around the tree I then planted Shasta Daisies, Foxgloves (for our elders) and Coreopsis with the star feature lavender. And finally a skirt of begonias and dianthus. I also planted some seeds of various cucumbers, kale, and mustard (another gift from Brian).

At the moment it’s still mostly black soil with these plants growing only sparsely, but I hope they fill up soon.

Planting was difficult because the soil was just a pile with no structure. Wherever I went to plant my feet sank like a sand dune. I’ve been lucky enough to have two slapping rains since I built my bed so I have high hopes for my new yard.

The rain has turned the grass green and we go around in the mornings pulling weeds out of the sodden earth. We are mowing less and less yard and promoting colonies of interesting plants.

The rain brought us another visitor: a tiny red lobster the size of my thumb.

Michael and I were walking around after a heavy rain – I missed these inspection walks with my husband while I was away – and there in the grass we found it.

It wasn’t near the pond, and when I told our middle son Dylan about it, he asked if I think it was from Camp Creek, over a mile away. I told him I didn’t think he could walk that far and that, in my opinion, he just buries himself in the ground and lives underground at the water table.

He said: “What ?! Have I completely misunderstood what a crayfish is? “

My iNaturalist app said it could be a red swamp crab, but further research revealed something called a prairie crab. And they dig in and live around the water table and eat snails and small insects.

They seem to be building these burial mounds, but I didn’t see any in our yard so it was quite a surprise to come across the little monster.

She was quite lively and didn’t appreciate when I picked her up. (When we later read about females carrying eggs on their bellies and Michael thinks he saw some.) We called her Miss Snappyclaws and put her back for a photo op (wish I had thought of taking a selfie while I held her tight).

Traveling has brought me many adventures and many new sights, but Miss Snappyclaws showed me that there are always new surprises at home if we just look closely.

Travel in beauty; Return in peace; Be blessed.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you miss your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in the News-Gazette, you can still read it every week in the Piatt County Journal-Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small town newspaper. You can see pictures of this week’s post on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail in care of the Journal-Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She would like to thank her friends for writing and will reply you soon.