Noxious weeds and hostile neighbors

War on Terra: Fighting Noxious Weeds and Hostile Neighbors, and How Two Friendly Guerrillas Helped Me Win the Battle

Folks, it’s a jungle out there. I’m not talkin’ the jungle-choked Amazon rainforest or the vined, gorilla-populated jungles of Central Africa. I’m talkin’ the crap growing in my front yard and how its presence inspired some townsfolk to become my adversaries.

In early spring, all was quiet on the North Evans Street Front. The crocuses and daffodils, hyacinths and tulips broke ground with their cheery green fingers of foliage. But before I knew it, dandelions emerged, weeds poked through the driveway gravel, and the much-despised thistle took over the strip of yard along the street. They seemed to grow an inch every day.

The problem with my front yard is that there is no grass. It’s all flowerbeds and walkways. My mother converted it from a grass lawn with a couple of beds to flowerbeds and mulch based on my recommendation. That way, I reasoned, you don’t have to mow. Brilliant, eh? It kind of worked. The beds closest to the porch are the oldest and most filled with ground cover and tickweed, Gallardia and creeping phlox. So, that’s fine, not many weeds. But the strip along the street didn’t get packed with plants and ground cover for weed control the way it should have. My MS weakness and balance problems prevented me from doing yard work, and mom did her best to keep up with it. The secret to maintaining this kind of landscaping is to mulch every year. Not only is this labor-intensive, it’s kind of expensive. So mom didn't mulch the front, she just tried to keep up with the weeds.

Mom died in May of this year. I didn't realize how much weeding she had done during the summers until she wasn't here to do it anymore. During June, thistle, crabgrass, and other miscreants grew to more than six inches and went to seed. It bothered me to see this eyesore every time I glanced out the bay window or pulled into the driveway. I looked in the local trade paper for a person who does lawn work cheap. Nothing. I checked Angie’s list for the same and queried one gal who offered her services. Never heard back. I called two local landscaping services and asked them to give me a quote. One outfit never followed up and the other presented a quote that was so ridiculously high that it was obvious they didn't want the job.

In mid-July I received a notice from the City of Tecumseh Building and Inspection Department citing a violation of the Noxious Weed Ordinance, ordering me to remove the offending eight-inch stalks or else the department would mow down my entire front yard and then send me the bill. I called their office and left a message, explaining that I am poor and disabled, hence the neglect, and could they refer me to a local volunteer organization that might help me? They never returned my call.

“One of your neighbors blew the whistle on you,” my sister Dana reasoned. “The city doesn’t cruise around policing everybody’s front yard.” So much for the good neighbor policy. I didn’t know my neighbors, but mom had met them. Surely they would have noticed that mom was conspicuously absent this summer and that I was hobbling around here all alone. Why not come over and find out what the problem is and try to help? There are no less than ten churches within a one-mile radius of my house, so it’s safe to assume that a number of my neighbors attend one of them. Apparently they all get a pass on the Golden Rule during the summer months.

Suddenly I knew who busted me. The wicked witch slum landlord that rents out the house directly to the south of mine. She has a history of harassing my mother for stupid things like planting stuff along the property line. I glared through my bay window at her front yard. Leafy suckers growing out of the bottom and mid-section of her tree at the end of my driveway obscures my view of oncoming traffic. An old stained mattress and box spring lay in her front yard at the curb days before garbage pick-up. Rather unsightly. I considered calling the city and complaining about the tree suckers and the mattress. But I don’t do things like that. I say live and let live.  Eventually, either God will punish her or karma will kick her right smack in her self-righteous hate hole. It’s not my deal, it belongs to the universal vapors-that-be.

What is my deal is what to do about the weeds. One afternoon, I waddled out to the front yard to pull a few weeds and assess the situation with my friend, Barb. After only a few minutes out in the sun, the heat zapped my legs and I barely made it up the steps and into the house to recover by the A/C. No more weeding for me. A few days later, I broke out in what felt like canker sores inside my mouth. After they healed, I broke out in itchy red rashes on my arms, knees, and one foot. I did some research and guessed that I’d gotten into some poison sumac, which must have been growing all over the yard. Then, something wonderful happened.

After shrewdly assessing the problems, Barb went into action, laying down three applications of Round-Up. Then she and her husband, John, spent several days weeding and mulching the entire front yard, going above and beyond the call of duty by also pruning bushes and sawing off tree suckers and low-hanging branches. July 25th was my deadline for compliance and they finished the job the day before. My front yard went from being an eyesore to becoming the most beautiful yard on the block.

I’ll never win the War on Terra; its herbaceous and hominid minions grow exponentially with each passing year. But a couple of caring people who look after a disabled friend living alone can win a battle or two. And that is a valuable deed.

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