Minus and Plus

The crop from our orange tree is miniscule this year. Normally, the tree is dripping with fruit and it is dangerous to walk under it; you’re apt to be beaned. This year, we wait days for one orange to ripen for harvesting. While few and far between, these are banner moments as they are the sweetest oranges I have ever tasted.

A pesky insomniac opossum is wreaking havoc in the “hood.” Day and night, it climbs on vines, trees and roofs, causing the neighborhood dogs to bark incessantly. The dogs are in overdrive and nobody’s sleeping. Even the local orange and white feral cat that visits our yard is on edge. Yesterday morning, the water-hating cat stood in the pouring rain in my driveway looking up at me through my kitchen window. I knew something was amiss. Moments later, the ample-sized long-tailed marsupial culprit strolled down the high fence outside my kitchen window and climbed into the budding plum tree on my neighbor’s side. I could have sworn I saw it picking and sampling the delicate plum blossoms. Well, perhaps this spring and summer the opossum will put a stop to the large numbers of squirrels that make that section of the fence and tree their private dining room. It’s bad enough the squirrels pick plum after plum in succession, taking only a bite from each piece before tossing and grabbing a fresh one. What’s worse, they watch me watching them from the window while doing it. If I can’t intimidate the squirrels, and the dog held in my arms can’t intimidate the squirrels, perhaps the opossum can do it. I’ll have to figure out how to intimidate the opossum on another day.

During normal, non-drought winters, after a good soaking rain, I inspect the tall leaves growing from the bulbs planted in the front yard. Snails plant themselves in the leaves, make more snails, and munch on my plants. As gardening does not come easy to me, and as I have paid good money for these bulbs, (much of my garden is comprised of “volunteer” plants) I invite the snails to choose new homes. If they have difficulty deciding on a new venue, as there are multiple good choices available to them, I offer my assistance. I gently detach the snails from their strongholds in my leaves and toss them (again, gently) over my shoulder to the pile of yard waste in the street. From there, they can slime their way a few feet to neighbors’ greenery, or choose to remain in the soft and fresh pile of clippings and cuttings, which I am sure is most satisfactory. It may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with this process, but there have been occasions where snails have exercised a modification of plans during relocation, adroitly effecting a change of heart while in mid-air! I recall the time that a gentle “thud” caused me to turn around abruptly. A snail had decided, in mid transition, to make its new home on the hood of a squad car parked in front of my home in my urban neighborhood. This must have been one thrill-seeking snail! The snail offered no apology for its “short comings,” and who was I to intervene with this snail’s wish? I do not enjoy the touch of these intriguing creatures, and would prefer that they first made inquiries before settling into my plants. It would be a time-saving and optimal approach for all involved. And while I wonder about the environmental ramifications that so few snails have had to be queried this winter for their first, second and third housing choices, I have to admit that perhaps one small personal benefit of this horrific dry spell is that this winter I have enjoyed a reprieve from the snail relocation process.

Kathy Galgano

February 27, 2014