Living in zone 8

We may be city-bred, but Mr. NYer and I like to garden.  Well, mainly Mr. NYer likes to garden.  Shortly after the vernal equinox, Mr. NYer would disappear into the basement and shortly after that, styrofoam cups filled with dirt and a seed or two, and capped by baggies, appeared all over the house.   At first they sat atop the old boiler whose massive inefficiencies guaranteed warm soil and rapid germination.  Then they moved up to various south and west-facing windowsills, where either a cat or I invariably knocked one over.  The final stage before being set into the ground was a week or two in the cold frame.

You couldn’t trust how the weather felt to know when to plant.  After investing weeks nurturing the plant from seed, Mr. NYer didn’t want to risk too-early planting and the possibility of a frost.  He was conservative.  Even though we lived on the northern fringe of planting zone 7, he followed the calendar for zone 6 when setting those seedlings into the ground.

Parts of our yard definitely enjoyed a zone 7 micro-climate.  In one spot, out of the wind and backing up against a masonry wall, both cactus and rosemary thrived.  They wintered over and came back to life every spring.  In fact, we harvested the rosemary all winter long.

Here in Alabama we’re in zone 8, and I’m just beginning to realize what that means.  Alabama’s not like Florida or New Orleans, where even in winter there’s plenty of green.  Here, the grass turns to straw, the trees lose their leaves, and it looks like winter during January and February.  Now, though, it’s April 2, and spring has sprung.  Big time.

There’s pollen everywhere.  Back in Staten Island there’d be a couple of weeks in May when, especially if we parked under a tree, the car wound up with a greenish-yellow coat.  Here, yellow dust sifts down on the car whether its near a tree or not.  On our way back from our daily trip to Lowe’s, we saw a column of smoke rising from a copse of trees–and then realized it was a cloud of pollen, like a dust devil rising with the wind.  Once attuned to it, we saw it everywhere.  A puff of breeze, a stand of trees and a yellow smog rose into the atmosphere.

It’s been warm the last few days, going up to 80 degrees or so, but with mornings and evenings cool.  And it’s dry, so we opened windows in the new house rather than turn on the air.  There are no trees nearby.  The kitchen windows face a mowed field, with the nearest shrubbery about 60 feet away.  And yet, at some point I looked at the countertop and realized it was covered with yellow dust.  So were the black knife handles, and the knobs on the range, and the faucet.  I wiped it up, and three hours later it was there again.

It’s going to be lush here, I can tell.  The plants at the garden centers look like they’ve been belted by gamma rays.  The begonias have leaves four inches across, not like those puny things passing themselves off as begonias back in New York.  The geraniums sitting on my neighbors patio must have been given steroids.  I can’t wait to see the tomatoes.

Last night after unpacking I came into the living room, turned on the lights and sat down to read.  A weird buzzing, like the sound from a faulty florescent light, surrounded me.  Is it the lights?, I wondered.  Perhaps some kind of radio interference?  I got up, switched one set of lights off and the other on, and vice versa.  The buzz continued, and I considered the possibility that it was an auditory hallucination.  When I sat I could hear that it was coming from the front door.  I checked the lock, the as-yet-unconnected security system, the outside light.  I flicked it on, and that’s when I saw the source of the noise:  a 3-inch long grasshopper sitting atop my outside electrical outlet.

On April 1.  Not August.

And then this:  I walked into the kitchen to find the Lunatic stretching and pawing at something on the other side of the screen.  Most likely a moth, I thought.  That’s what the cats usually find on the other side of a screen when it gets dark.  Just then the Lunatic lunged and I saw his prey–a flying insect, about an inch-and-a-half long, with curved antennas … yikes–it’s a flying roach! Yeah, I know, they’re palmettos or something like that.  Nothing like those nasty New York roaches.  But they fly!!  And it’s only April 2.  I thought I’d have more time before I encountered the flying vermin.

Now I know why so many windows in the houses I looked at were painted shut.


5 Responses

  1. Ah, nature!

  2. Palmettos are not your friends! We were plagued by them in the condo in Florida. Close the windows and the doors…and turn on the air. However, it sounds like a lovely spring down in Alabama. It’s just starting here, with some of the trees actually blooming today. Hope you have a lovely Easter….in your new home. Thinking of you!

  3. Flying roaches!!! We actually had a flying roach in St. George a long time ago. It happened when I was terribly depressed about leaving my skyline view for an apartment in PA. Needless to say, that encounter worked to Steve’s advantage! Pushed me right out of the apartment! Now I live with stink bugs and assassin bugs. You get used to whatever Mother Nature throws at you.
    Happy Easter!

  4. Man, those cats are going to have a BLAST in Alabama.

  5. When I lived in Louisiana it was one of the first things I noticed…insects of biblical proportions…all year long!

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