It’s spring and all my pictures seem to be taking place outside. I’m tuned into that right now. I wish I could take beautiful pictures like my friend Sally. Her shots of her garden look like professional magazine photos.
Look at this. Just look at it.
No, it’s not an alien spore. It is a sweetgum seed pod, otherwise known as a gumball. Not the kind you chew, but the ones that jam their nasty spikes right into your bare foot as you shuffle along through the lovely green grass.
I bought my little house in 2002 and I was so happy I had two big trees in the front yard. I should have asked what kind of trees they were. When autumn comes, they morph into a lovely yellow mass of leaves (provided there’s been enough rain) and make a thick carpet that is easy to mulch with the mower. No raking necessary.
Not so in spring. Soon as the wind begins to blow, the dried pods drop to the ground in a bold attempt to propagate the tree. They stick to the grass and cannot be dislodged without vigorous raking, leaving one with blisters and aching muscles.
Here is how they look after you rake them.
Sweetgum trees cannot be persuaded by any means to stop this nonsense. A spray is rumored to work, but I called the guy who writes the farm column in the paper and he said it just isn’t feasible for trees that are already forty or so feet tall. I wish they were pine trees. Pine trees only drop needles and cones, and people who want mulch and craft supplies will offer to clean up my yard for free.
There are three advantages to having this madness visit me each spring. First, raking the dastardly things is good exercise. After a long winter cooped up and freezing, it feels amazing to get out there and footle around in the yard a bit.
Second, without the trees, the front of my house would be quite hot in the summer. If I let the bottom limbs grow out they hide me from the street, like long bangs over a shy girl’s face. The lawn under them doesn’t need much mowing due to lack of sunlight. I’d put a little table or lounge out there but I don’t put anything in the front yard I’d like to keep.
Third, mourning doves like to eat the tiny seeds that fall from the pods. The pinkish-grey birds flutter softly down to the driveway and peck away, stuffing themselves. Because they are dumbbirds, I have to shoo them out of the way to back the car out. They coo a mellow “Hoo-OO-ooh ooh ooh,” in the early evening and morning. I could hear them as I was weeding out back tonight.
So it’s not all bad. I need to get someone to take out the decaying limbs still jammed into the trees after the 2007 ice storm. Eventually the trees will have to come out, since their roots are destroying both my and my neighbor’s driveways. Hopefully by then I’ll have moved on and won’t have to deal with it. In the meantime I’ll enjoy the shade, the birds and the exercise and like Heidi in the city, pretend I can hear the whisper of the wind through the pines.