Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hooray, Home Again!

We arrived Sunday, got our own beds, our own chairs, our own mess. And for those of you who are counting, no, we didn't see the eclipse. It's a long story, so it may take me a couple days to tell it.

So, more later.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Daylily Mystery

Anybody who's grown, deliberately or not, the original, non-hybrid daylilies, knows how hardy and invasive they can be. Depending on your preferences, that's either a curse or a bonus. It holds true also with the semi-wild variant that has double flower petals. Same orange, same height, same habits, just prettier. At least to me, anyway. That holds double for the patch in the Minnesota house's yard. The originals came out of the backyard border from my folks last house, before they cashed in and switched to senior rental living.

These started as clumps carried home in a box the summer I had the house built, 1991. Since I wanted them in front by the driveway and the house wasn't finished until late July, they got dug in way back in a corner of the yard, out of the way of all the contractors. In fact, a lot of transplants from garden catalogues, friends, and my previous yard got moved that way before getting their final locations. The contractors took an extra month, so I had a lot of plants needing to be heeled in.

The first few years there were a lot of weeds in the daylily patch. But true to form, they spread into each other tightly enough that there was no longer a place for any weeds to grow after just a few years. They were kept in check by the asphalt of the driveway, the mown grass toward the street side and deep tree shade on the back and sides.

As an aside, when the latest neighbors had moved in, we had a discussion with them because the patch was reaching the edge of our yard and about to creep into theirs, and I assured them whether they mowed them or kept them, hey! It was their yard. I tend to have the same discussion with all my neighbors about other vegetation crossing the property line. Tree branches in their way? Apples or hazelnuts hanging over their side of the fence? Lilacs moving over full of blooms that beg for cutting for a vase? All yours.

Just don't mess with my side of the property line!

That spot in the back yard where the originals had been parked still had bits of rhizome left underground here and there, and it took several years of mowing the spot to finally discourage them. They are damn hard to kill! (The original raspberry site was the same way.)

That's why yesterday afternoon was such a shock. Paul and I were swapping cars in the driveway so first one out in the morning was closest to the street. Walking back to the house, I noticed something very peculiar. It hadn't been there the day before, which I know because I was admiring them while I was backing my car out to go visit family. Now, with only a couple of exceptions, the entire patch was laying flat, every bit of vegetation dead. Completely brown and dried!

You can't kill daylilies. You just can't. But...  somebody had. We don't know who, nor with what, nor why. I even spent time online trying to find out what's out there these days that might have done the job. There was no information beyond complaints that they weren't killable without working at the job for years.

I went next door and had a friendly chat with the neighbor. It wasn't initially intended to be, since I figured he must have sprayed them with something, deliberately, or as a victim of drift. However, the first time I went over, the neighbors were gone. It gave me time to cool off. So later I approached the issue more with a "Did you notice...?" attitude than a "How the hell dare you...?" one.

By the end of our chat I left willing to believe he had nothing to do with it, hadn't noticed anyone else messing around, and had actually liked watching them bloom every summer. Neither of us knows what could have done the job so quickly, no yellowing or wilting first, just sudden death. The only thing I am aware of that could so thoroughly poison a patch of ground is arsenic, but that's so indiscriminate, and moves through the ground affecting everything for years, that only a fool or someone overflowing with deep malice would use it,  and I still don't know if it would work so fast. I've never been that particular kind of malicious fool. If indeed the ground has been poisoned, we both will be watching our trees and shrubs along the property line, as the patch slopes downward towards it, and everything's roots go under it.

Meanwhile, we're hoping. Hoping that whatever was used was just something to kill back the foliage. Hoping that even if it were a root killer, there will be some rhizomes not affected and the patch will grow back. Paul might be able to tell before the ground freezes, but if not, for sure next spring.

But barring a confession, the sudden die-off will remain a mystery.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Endless Cemetery

I finally got around to visiting my folks' grave this afternoon while running errands with Steve. They were buried, both urns together, in Fort Snelling National Cemetery. For those not familiar, it's located between MSP airport and the 494 freeway.

I remember it from the military ceremony (21 gun salute, flag presentation, etc.) as being huge, and called ahead for the grave location. Given a section and site number, I went online to view their map so I could follow the proper roadways to actually accomplish the task. Of course, the gate that would have made the route simple was closed. All I would have had to do was enter Gate 3 and take that road all the way to the loop at its end, then follow my mental picture of where in the loop section 27 was. To put that in scale, they switched to numbered sections after going through the alphabet, and then throwing in letter-number and number-letter combinations. (And FYI I got a tiny bit lost trying to leave. My changed mental map wasn't up to the job. Just what street had we come in on? Did you notice a name? No? Too busy looking for the way to the originally planned route, that one particular street name.)

 No way was I ever in my life up to the task of wandering through that cemetery trying to track one grave down without a lot of information, and even with my new knees I was hoping that once I readjusted my mental street map to find the right section, locating their site would be self explanatory.

Ummm, not so much. After pulling over to park, all I saw was a block of rows and rows of grave markers. No row signs, no visible numbers, no clues to how it was organized. I snagged the attention of two people leaving and asked them what the trick was. The pair, consisting of a middle-aged woman and a teenager, were very willing to share. She had already utilized his youthful energy to hunt through the rows to locate their own family member. The trick is that, from the road, all the numbers are on the back of the stones. They sit in numerical order, across one row, then starting over across the next row, etc. It's still a hunt. Even in that "small" section, we didn't need to go too far back to find our stone relative to the section size. Our number was in the 900s so you can imagine the number of gravestones in just that section.  Luckily, the teenager took our number and started going through the rows until he located it for me, not too far in from the left side boundary. After thanking them I trudged in with my camera. Steve declined the hike, waiting in the car for me.

Even knowing they were supposed to be buried together, I was surprised by how it was done. I found Mom first, as her name and information were on the back side of the stone with the locator number. I looked to both sides, thinking that a lot of cemeteries define "together" as side-by-side. That wasn't the way here. As I walked around the stone to the front, there was Daddy's, the soldier's, name and info. They truly were buried together, as they wanted.

It was also the only feasible way for Fort Snelling to accomplish it's task. Even though it went through all kinds of channels to expand a few years ago, it's running out of room.

I don't know how early the first soldiers were laid to rest there. We still have several wars worth of veterans alive, owed a free burial by our country for their service. And unfortunately, we're still making more. Way too many more. My Dad was one of the dwindling number of remaining WWII vets. Looking around for just a short space I found vets from Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and other places and times our men and women have served, though these were just the ones who died around the same time he did and were cremated. The rational part of my brain started filling in the data, taking over for the emotional part that was both awed and overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place. It kicked me in the gut when I first entered, grew as we drove further in, all the while being unable to see to the ends of the collection of gravestones. Section after section, up and down, back and forth, they were only dropping out of view when the land started sloping. It never ended.

It looks like it never will.

And this  is only one regional military cemetery!