I just know there’s a special place in Hell for what I have been thinking about my next-door neighbor and his garden. If only I were religious and could confess or repent or whatever the Hell it would take to absolve me of the Sin of Un-neighborly Thoughts. As it is, I fear I am headed for the 11th Circle of Hell – the 10th being WAY too nice for the likes of me.
Now, before you light your torches, grab your pitchforks, and find me on googlemaps, I feel compelled to distract you with a tea-gardening tidbit (say that 3 times fast with boba pearls in your mouth). I found it last month when I surfed the web Extensively Researched tea and gardening. Did you know that Tea Roses (ancestor of Hybrid Tea Roses) were so named because they have a scent that is supposed to resemble tea? REALLY? Not a single one of my Tea Roses smells like tea; however, that isn’t for a lack of trying. Ten feet tall, with 2-inch thick thorn-studded stems, their thirsty roots have finally made it down to the Rotting Organic Mecca of our septic tank – fueled by many a cup of English Breakfast, Good Earth, and more Smooth Move than I care to admit.
But now, lest I tempt my back into spasming into a Dr. Sarno due to my repressed anger, it is time to unleash my venomous, and downright pesticideful, non-neighborly Not Nice Thoughts. Last post I told you of my Crazy-Happy Flower Garden, but I ran out of my word quota before I got to the topic of Vegetable Gardening…
OUT OF AFRICA
Like Meryl Streep and Isak Dinesen: I had a farm in Topanga once… Pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, olallieberries. All the easy stuff. Until word got out on the wildlife web. We tried everything: scarecrows – HAHAHAHA (we were SO cute) – pepper flakes, bobcat urine, traps, poison, and even hi-tech motion-activated sprinklers. I would have invested in a taser, but feared the fame of a “don’t tase me bro” YouTube video, courtesy of our local Pest Protecting Animal Activists – known to frequently roam the canyon in search of coyotes to hug.
Despite all our efforts, nothing worked. We’d sit on our deck and watch the squirrels lounge around our veggie patch, sipping martinis and taking turns luxuriating in the sprinkler spray. Once it was known that we had the best Spa in the canyon, we had raccoons, gophers, rats, mice, and bunnies and the snakes, owls, and hawks that came to prey upon them. We hadn’t seen that much fur since the Sarah Palin Challenge on Project Runway. And, Hey, is it just me, or didn’t that wolf pelt evening gown make her look FAAAAAAAAT?!
So we gave up. Our veggie patch morphed into seasonal wildflowers and our tomato plants moved onto our second-floor Sanctuary Deck. With our Buffet closed for business, our local zoo was reduced to birds and frogs and the occasional bobcat. My Robert Redford fantasy days had ended.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Life was mellow for about five years until our gung-ho thirty-something new neighbor moved in and installed a huge Designer Vegetable Garden right next to our old one… From artichokes to zucchini, if it fruited, tubered, or vegged, he planted it. How many folks do you know with their own wheat field AND rice paddy?
Being a City Boy Accountant from Fox Studios – he makes a good first impression – he not only generously shared his New Age gardening secrets with us, but when I welcomed him to the neighborhood with a bouquet of roses, he graciously thanked me for “the ornamentals”. He was also a cornucopia of information on how he amassed all his wealth by finding the cheapest EVERYTHING. Even people. He had his wife induce labor on New Year’s Eve to maximize tax benefits and I felt really sorry for the yard workers who slaved over his Eden. When they staged a mini-strike because he had “cash-flow problems”, I almost baked them cookies, but I was afraid he’d fine them for eating on the job.
We tried to warn him: If You Plant It, They Will Come – we can be nice if we try hard – except He Knew Everything. Despite being new to Topanga, he was already a disciple of Our Lady of The Organic and his only concession to critter control was to install an obnoxious squealing sound system, designed to repel rodents, and also Very Effective at irritating us when we sat out on our deck. Thus began our longest journey together – although I never met Boo Radley nor do I currently own a ham costume. Okay, we thought, he will find out, we are patient, we can wait… or at least stab him with a pair of scissors next time he walked by.
The first year he did not Find Out, but we were patient – being UCLA Bruin Football fans had trained us well. The second year he had so many vegetables that he conducted public tours – the Eyewitness News truck side-swiped our mailbox and I was surprised to discover that Huell Howser is Really That Charming, even in person. Strangely, though, our Gentleman Farmer never seemed to harvest anything. Only his “affordable” gardener, Jose, a very nice guy who did all the work whilst being lectured on Hot Stock Tips, would sometimes take cilantro or peppers. The closest our Gentleman Farmer came to enjoying his bounty was on the weekends when he would stroll through and toss the uneaten rotten tomatoes down onto the street. At this point, our patience required a second glass of wine during dinner…and we were hiding the scissors.
NATURE’S HALF ACRE
And then, FINALLY The FurryWord app must have come out. First bunnies appeared, except – EGAD – the squealing machine drove them away from his plantation to nibble on my nasturtiums! Then Squirrels infested the trees, but they dined on my sweet peas. And – Super EGAD – gophers dug holes in our hill and chowed down on my beloved floribundas. It was as if the ghost of Walt Disney himself was watching over Gentleman Farmer’s garden, while directing an army of ravenous Thumpers to pillage ours.
This was becoming unbearable – and our wine budget was shot all to hell. How could these animals NOT see the Free Eats next door? Did I need to paint them a picture? Maybe so… One afternoon I snapped and raided our vegetable bin – Parental Alert: this is going to get ugly – and fashioned an animal “communication aid” next to his garden.
Now, I don’t know where the term “dumb bunnies” comes from, ’cause here in Topanga they’re home-schooled and, just like the joke, they never wear glasses. Apparently my sign got their attention right away and the very next morning we woke to Glorious Garden Carnage. Half-eaten tomatoes strew
n about the dirt, squash plants nibbled to nubbins, and – Our Evil Hearts Sung With Joy – the Mother of All Gopher Holes right at the base of his towering artichoke plant.
Oh my, I thought, I bet Accountants at Fox also have LAWYERS at Fox, so I hastily gathered up my carrot font, writ large, and scuttled inside to destroy the evidence. Yes, they say that revenge is a dish best served cold, but I can report that it is even more satisfying baked up in a cake and adorned with a deliciously tart cream cheese frosting.
“This carrot cake is even better than I remembered! So moist, yet CRUNCHY…,” said Netty, eating a piece at her birthday lunch, later that week. I just smiled a Johnny Depp smile and picked some gravel from my teeth.
That weekend, our flaming ship came in. I was brewing my morning pot of tea when I noticed Gentleman Farmer had a Special New Visitor in his garden and they were studying the gopher hole. This was just too good to miss, so I snuck out the front door and crouched behind our overgrown pink Cecil Bruner rose.
“Well,” said Mr. Visiting Expert In Gardening Hat (VEIGH) – I LOVE acronyms – “gophers are hard to catch, so you absolutely must dig a hole 3 feet wide and 5 feet deep….”
Oh, that sounds practical. Fortunately, the rose bush was dense enough to mask my snort. What’s next, a moat filled with alligators? And I must have been psychic, since here’s what came next:
“…and after you catch the gopher, in order to prevent another one moving in, you’ll need to dig a 6-foot-deep trench around the perimeter of your garden and line it with concrete.”
Concrete?! Everyone KNOWS you need to use LEAD…
Gentleman Farmer, sensing a financially negotiative moment, attempted to strike a deal. “OK, OK, I hear ya, I hear ya. Uh…do you think you could, uh, come and work on it? Jose isn’t really a Concrete Man and, uh, you know, with the economy and all I, uh…well, here’s what we can do, here’s what we can do…whatcha say we… Here’s the deal, here’s the deal: see all these vegetables? You’d be welcome to take some… And, and, and…you see this patch over here?” – he gestured toward the soggy abandoned rice paddy – “you’d be welcome to plant your own stuff…”
<silence> from Mr. VEIGH.
“yeah, yeah, OK! Well, I’ll have Jose’s people call your people and”…his voice trailed off as he led a stony-faced Mr. VEIGH away towards the house.
Still crouched amidst my roses, I was eating this up. FINALLY he Found Out. At last! I felt like Reese Witherspoon, grinning with Tracy Flick Triumph. However, the joy was short-lived – OMG, what kind of person had I become?! I had committed Premeditated Gardenicide with an unlicensed starchy root! I was sure in California this was more than a misdemeanor.
Suddenly I felt a stabbing pain in my knee. argh. Was my Mind/Body Connection pulling a Dr. Sarno because I was stuffing my Not Nice Thoughts? I looked down and… NO, GODDAMN IT, it was a bee, stinging me! I slapped it away and watched my knee start to swell. I was so confused. Was I Matthew Broderick now? Reese wore WAY cuter clothes – THIS WAS SO NOT FAIR!
As I crawled inside, my mind raced to make sense of it all: is it possible there IS a Higher Power and – worst case scenario – HE’S VENGEFUL?! Once inside, I plastered a wet tea bag onto the bite to reduce the swelling.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The next day I woke with a lighter heart and thought NAH, I’m just over-reacting. Just then, my husband, Bill, came in from outside with more bad news: one of our carper-bagger rat friends had nested in the glove compartment of his Highlander and odiously DIED. Apparently AT LEAST THREE DAYS AGO. Stinging Locusts and now Plague – if I turn into a pillar of salt, my blood pressure’s gonna go through the roof!
THE OMEN, ELEPHANT MAN
HONEY, DOES THIS BEE-STING MAKE ME LOOK FAT?
It’s been three days since my Bee/Body Connection and my entire leg is swollen and itchy and my rash seems to be forming some strange symbol like “999”…
My doctor told me to take two Benadryl and call her in the morning, but I don’t get to put any lime in de coconut and there’s no Benadryl in the house… Hellllllo – FASHION DISASTER – even Kirstie Alley wouldn’t go out on an ice cream run looking like this. I’d send Bill, except he’s passed out in his car, apparently a victim of Andy Gump Odor Eliminator fumes. It seems that the cleanser we used has a stench so powerful that it almost qualifies as an Unforgivable Curse. I told him we should just leave a garlic pizza in the car overnight, but dead rats don’t really bring out his funny side.
Can anyone bring me some Benadryl? Just leave it by the front door and Look Away when it opens… Also, don’t bring your car up the driveway; Bill’s car stench seems to be sentient and It’s Hungry. We lost the UPS man that way.
Last of all, does anyone out there know a forgiving church in LA – pews with lots of leg room a must – that serves a nice Chardonnay at communion?
And extra points for Shuttle Service.