Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Potpourri: Die, Snails, Die

I am at war with snails.

Our yard is overrun by them.  I am advised that this is an Arlington Heights thing.  And,  apparently, ONLY an Arlington Heights thing.  Venture out of our 'hood, and people look at you quite oddly when you mention your snail infestation.  "Slugs, you mean?"  No, not slugs.  I'm not stupid - I can tell the difference.  Snails have shells.  Slugs are lacking in the shell department.  These are most definitely snails.

I wish I had slugs, because then I would attempt to instigate a civil war between these close cousins, goal being mutually assured destruction.  Slugs, I would say.  Take a look at these guys - gallivanting around in their fancy shells, looking down their antennae at you because you are, essentially, naked.  And ridiculously vulnerable.  Philistines, they call you.  Provincial rubes.  See how superior they are?  Don't you want to shut them up once and for all?

(I pitched my "invertebrate civil war" idea to the boys, and they were charmed by it; in fact, they spent the next half hour imagining various mechanisms of slug and snail warfare.  Leaves could serve as light aircraft.  They could shimmy up the trees and pelt the opposing army with - oh, wait, pelting would be a problem, on account of a lack of limbs.  Back to the drawing board.)

Until I am able to foment a slug revolution, I am forced to use more conventional means of snail eradication.  Except nothing seems to work, particularly.  Apparently I have a subspecies of snails known as "super snails."  They are impervious to slug and snail bait.  Also, they appear to be teetotalers:  I have put down many a saucer of beer, but none of them have shown up for happy hour.

Maybe I should serve an import rather than a domestic.

I currently have snails on the brain because I have bulb plants coming up in my yard.  I am inordinately proud of them (the bulbs, not the snails).  Because, until this year, I could not get bulbs to bloom in my yard.  Really.  I mean, come on, you stick them in the ground, you wait, and they sprout.  How hard can it be?  Hard, judging by my track record prior to now.

My mom convinced me to try one more time.  Not because she was feeling particularly supportive, but because she wanted to order a tulip assortment out of a bulb catalog, and she wanted to combine shipping with me.  And so it was that I found myself with one hundred tulip bulbs.  Obstacle #1 was remembering to plant them.  Full disclosure:  more often than not, my inability to produce live blooms from bulbs arises from the fact that I forget to plant them.  In my defense, you have to chill tulip bulbs in this climate, and you can't keep them in "refrigerator proximity" with fruit, because the latter puts off a gas that harms the former.  Or vice-versa.  I don't know.  I just remember that fruit and tulip bulbs don't mix.  So the bulbs go out into the carriage house, into the refrigerator that we inherited from the prior owner, that only sort of works, so I never store actual consumables in it, so I forget that it exists.  Really, I have no idea why it remains plugged in. Oh, yeah, it remains plugged in so that we can chill tulip bulbs in it.

This year, my mother (who, like many mothers I know, has two refrigerators AND a deep freeze - making the car-to-appliance ratio in her garage one-to-one) insisted on chilling the bulbs for me, in her fruit-free and fully functioning garage refrigerator.  And then she gave them to me with instructions to plant them within 48 hours.

They sat on my porch for over a week.  Fortunately for the bulbs, it was consistently chilly outside.

And then one morning I got a wild hair to plant them.  And became very aware of what the concept of "four inches" actually means.  If you have clay for soil, it means A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF DIGGING.  To get four freakin' inches below the surface of the ground.  Really?  Note to file:  future bulb planting shall be container-exclusive, because potting soil is MUCH easier to displace.  I spent a half hour excavating a small patch of earth in a front yard flower bed.  I planted exactly eleven bulbs.  I calculated how much time it would take to plant the remaining 89.  I said, "Bleep this, they aren't going to bloom, anyway," shoved 40 or so in various containers, made a mental note to plant the rest in the backyard, never made it to the backyard and lost the mental note.

But I got 50 or 60 in the ground.  And then I waited.  The tulips that I selected were a "rolling" assortment, comprised of equal parts early, mid and late bloomers.  Idea is that you plant all 100 in one mass, and even if you're a little heavy on the early in one area and the late in another, you generally have a solid wall of continuous color.  I did not plant 100 en masse.  I didn't plant 100, period.  And what I did plant was scatter-shot - six in this pot, seven in this area over here, and so on.  What if I managed to get, like, only one early in each pot?  So I would have one random tulip sprouting up, off-center, in each container?

Yeah, with my luck, that's exactly what I would get.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago:  shoots.  And then more shoots.  By my count, everything has sprouted.  And the coverage appears to be fairly even!  So excited was I by the prospect of actual tulips that I went to a local plant nursery and procured other, already sprouting bulb plants to mix in with mine:  white and orange daffodils and blue and dark purple hyacinths (I LURRRRRRVE hyacinths - best scent in the entire world).  This weekend, I planted them, along with pansies and poppies and ranunculus, all in shades of blue, purple and orange.

Then I saw the chew marks on my tulip foliage.  And I said, OUT, DAMNED SNAILS.

Hence the Tupperware container to the left of the coffee pot at work, with the Post-It note taped to the front:  "Please deposit coffee grounds here.  Kathryn is collecting them."  It is probably a sad commentary on my life that only two people asked me why.  I'd like to think that the rest assumed it was for a science fair project for the kids, but, actually, factually, they are so used to me making weird requests that they have just stopped asking.

Reason for the coffee grounds is this - they are coarse, and if you mix them into your soil and sprinkle them on the surface supposedly they abrade the soft underbellies of slugs and snails to the point that they decide to move on (if the grounds don't outright gut them - hey, a girl can dream).  I'm told that red pepper flakes work as well.  But coffee grounds are more economical.  Although red pepper flakes sound like they might burn on contact and cause some serious snail suffering.

Ha, ha, snails - you thought that that shell thing made you bulletproof.  But down below, YOU ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN A SLUG.  So, THERE.  Eat my coffee grounds.

If I can remember to bring them home from work.

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