Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Advice for Removing Sunflowers

   Allergies are raging right now at the farm.  Parrot dander, horse hair, hay dust from the barn, wildflowers, ragweed, you name it.  And Handsome is the chief sufferer. Since permanent or even seasonal relocation to the desert or a salty beach is not at present in our cards, we have some changes to make.  
   Yesterday I started by yanking out of the dry, cracked earth a trash bin full of ragweed to donate to the landfill and then an equally full pile of sunflowers for the chickens to eat.  I learned a few things while doing this yesterday.  So today I have some unsolicited advice for you, just in case this is a chore on your list anytime soon..

   I L-O-V-E unsolicited advice, don't you?

   So you are welcome.

   A Few Tips for Removing Sunflower Groves:

   1.  Before tackling the stalks, cut back as many of the flowers stems as possible. This will reduce the ferocity of the bee swarms that are likely to attack your face while yanking at the tree trunk-thick middles.  

These tiny pumpkins are the fruit of volunteer vines 
that sprang up from last year's carving party 
with my youngest daughter and her step brother.

    I am enjoying one final summer bouquet with some of the cut flowers, mixed with a few stems of purple Rose of Sharon.  Pretty, eh?  But also deathly to allergy sufferers like Handsome.  One of the cruel jokes of a happy marriage.

   2.  Be brave agaisnt the swarming bees.  They will buzz your ears and hum in your face and try to intimidate you, but stay the course.  You are on a mission.   A mission of love.  And yes, it's true that you are destroying the bees' habitat, but humans rule the world, right?

    3.  Run a water hose at the base of the flowering grove while you work on flower cutting or hauling, or while you run screaming from the bees.  Pretty soon the roots will relax enough to be heaved free of the vise like grip of the earth.  

   While the water soaks is also a good time 
to text honey badger jokes to people.

   4.  When the time finally comes for pulling loose the remaining naked stalks, use your legs.  Bend your knees and pull with your legs, not your back.  Removing sunflowers is not the same thing as cutting roses or zinnias, folks.  It is not even the same thing as pulling crabgrass.  It is a tug of war with Mother Nature herself.

Exactly one sunflower bud remains in the south garden.  
So tightly wrapped up in itself, so hopeful as its baby face follows the sun,
so doomed for loneliness and certain death.

Apparently this sunflower is out of Nair.  
Better I just put her out of her Velcro misery.

   Keep in mind that sunflowers are among the few plants that have survived the 2011 Oklahoma drought and heat wave, so Mother Nature is going to be understandably protective over this sturdy  treasure.  Pull smart and pull hard.  If you fall backwards when the battle is finally won, don't worry.  Just hope you don't land on a bee.  Then spring up like the ninja that you are and get back to work.

   5.  Wear gloves.  Not the pretty little cotton gloves they sell to women at the dollar store; REAL GLOVES  Work gloves   Boy gloves.  Seriously, I am soooo done buying women's "gardening" gloves for working outside, no matter how much I like the red calico print or lime green stretchy wrist band and no matter how cheap they are.  $8 for one pair of men's thick, suede-like gloves that LASTS is a lot cheaper than forty pairs of women's cotton gloves from the $1 bin, gloves that are quickly reduced to thin, pathetic shreds AND that attract all manner of stickers and thorns in the mean time.  Disposable.  I don't know about you, but my gardening money is not disposable.

Sorry, Babe.  This glove, along with so many T-shirts, is now mine.

   Back to the original story.

   6.  Do not make eye contact with the monarch butterflies as you remove the sunflowers.  I cried real tears for a moment yesterday as a beautiful winged creature hovered in front of me.  Her little insect chin quivered.  She seemed to be asking me, "But what will my children eat tonight?"  If you don't look at them, they're not really there, right?  Gulp.  Stay focused and cold hearted.

Here we have "Speckle" the hen.  I know, it's a cryptic name.
On day one of the grove removal, she and her feathery cohorts 
were inexplicably terrified of the sunflower carnage.
Day two found her pecking, tromping, and clucking her way through the dried up stuff.
I can only hope that she found lots of fresh, juicy bugs to eat.
Wait, I can only hope that the butterflies and bees and squash bugs and caterpillars escaped.
Wait, who are we rooting for again?

   7.  Should you indeed find yourself trapped by a confused monarch butterfly or bumblebee, do your best to offer assurances that the sunflowers are just being relocated, not removed entirely.  Promise them that their pollen and nourishment is being walked around the corner to the chicken yard, just a short flight away.  Do not tell them how hungry the chickens and geese are and that now they, the juiciest poultry food source, will be much closer to ground level while collecting pollen.  It could be the insects' last meal, after all, so why ruin it?  Lie.  Lie like broccoli.

   So there you have it.  Seven steps to successful sunflower removal.  Glad I could help.


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