Friday, April 30, 2004

A neverending battle 

Victory is mine. The rebellious drive has been put in its place. Thanks to my superior intellect, I was able to copy all my relevant files over to the new drive and the old drive shall be sent back to RE-PC for recycling.

Now I get to fight other bugs.

Yesterday, on the family walk, I saw a big mass of tent caterpillars. When I commented on it, Noodles said that they were bad this year. Upon further inquiry I found out that our lone tree--a sad excuse for a cherry tree that doesn't actually produce cherries--has tenants. Now you must understand that I am the anti-gardener. Despite the long heritage of farmers in my family, I have never been a man of the soil. My parents spoiled me terribly and so I didn't do any yard work except the rare cutting of the lawn. (Hamburger Dad being the type to just go and do a job himself rather than nagging someone else to do it.) The first blissful years of my marriage were spent in apartments--which is good, because you don't want to have honeymoon activities out in the garden where the neighbors can see it, cam it and put it on their website. When we finally made the transition to a house, we moved in the fall, after the season of serious yard care had passed. Come spring, Noodles had become a stay at home mom who insisted on doing the domestic chores. This continued the following fall when we bought our little castle in Seattle. So I have the barest minimum of yard work experience. And when it comes to tent caterpillars, all I remember from watching my dad was that you cut the branch on which the nest is built and dispose of it. I forget if he tossed them in a fire or just sacked them up in a Hefty bag. So anyway, it was with this limited knowledge that I went to war.

As Noodles left for work this morning, I pulled on some work gloves, grabbed a bucket and hand shears and schlepped them over to the tree. Inside the house, Poodlepums--raised on a steady diet of National Wildlife federation publications and Zoobooks--bewailed the destruction of the cute little caterpillars' habitat. I cut down one nest and another branch that was squirming with 'pillars. Then I had to go back inside for some hedge trimmers because the second nest was a bit too far out of my reach. Returning, I got the second nest and a third I discovered. I peeked some more and found a fourth. This one, unfortunately, was on the west side of the tree, overhanging the slope. Instead of hedge trimmers I needed a cherry picker. However, I can be a clever lad and found that by using the fence I could get myself up onto a branch which would put the vermin in reach of my deadly trimmers. So, for the first time in over a decade or two, I climbed a tree, cursing my sedentary lifestyle and the extra pounds I've been carrying around. Once firmly situated, I had Bunnah hand me the trimmers. (If she was mourning the caterpillars' fate, she bore it with courage and stoicism.) The job was somewhat awkward, as I kept hitting my head against the upper canopy of branches. I could just imagine guardian caterpillars circling around me and leaping down upon me from above--perhaps even into my ear, as I had to tilt my head to the side to look up at the offending tents. And then, who knows what havoc they could cause! They might be content to just crawl about and freak me out, maybe defacing my eardrum with caterpillar graffitti. Or they might get real insidious and worm their way through the ear canal into my brain, where they would whisper caterpillar thoughts and slowly destroy my sanity.... But I digress.

Anyhoo, I managed to take down the fourth and fifth nests. (I know I didn't mention the fifth nest, but by now it should be no surprise that further investigation always reveals new tents.) Given the awkwardness of my position, I really wasn't able to grab hold of the freshly cut branch, but instead had to let them drop to the ground. I hoped that the 'pillars would be freaked out enough that they would think to escape into the tall grasses until after I had a chance to gather them up. Unfortunately, 'pillars seem to be quite unflappable and were already crawling upon the grass when I got to them. I managed to pick up a small handful, but I wouldn't be surprised if a few managed to escape. Those that did fall into my clutches were quickly hustled over to the yard waste container. Given my latent pyromaniacal tendencies, I would have preferred to have burnt them up, but I don't have any container suitable for such a bonfire. Taking them indoors to the fireplace seems just wrong, somehow. And I could just see Poddlepums erecting some sort of monument on the hearth to her departed, non-vertebrate friends.

...Where the heck was I? Oh yes, disposal. I dumped the 'pillars in the yard waste container, then dumped on some other branches that had drooped too far over the sidewalk and had met the vengeful power of my garden shears. I securely fastened the lid and... saw the sixth and seventh nests. Both out of reach. In fact, #7 was right there on top of the tree. This time I tried to use technology on 'em. I pulled out the garden hose and tried to wash them out. The smaller, lower nest succumbed to the artificial downpour. (and uppour--I tried to shoot from beneath as well.) My mighty stream couldn't quite last the distance to the upper nest, and that seemed to weather my attack. Disgusted, I retreated to my home to give the matter further thought and to give my hair a washing. The former might have been a mistake because from the higher vantage point of my front window I saw tent #8--the largest, meanest, most unreachable and probably most impervious caterpillar nest of them all. As I carefully rinsed away nature's debris from my brown locks, I began to wonder if Home Depot carried fire arrows. Little did I realize that the final insult was yet to come.

Dinner time arrived, Noodles came home from work and I gave her my somber report of the day's battles. At one point in the meal, Poodles got up to get something from the kitchen and glanced out of the front window. Laughing, she suggested that I look outside at the yard waste container. I don't know who the doofus was who designed the lid with a hole in the top, but I'd like to let them know that they provided the perfect escape route for a determined group of tent caterpillars who were staging a mass exodus across the top of the yard waste bin. Noodles, with no consideration for my male ego, exercised her admittedly superior gardening skills and carried the lid to the greenbelt across the street where she released the enemy combatants into the wild. She expressed a slight fear that the 'pillars might inflict their havoc on the neighbors' trees, but I know that those furry little #@%^$es will be back to mock me and continue their development efforts. No doubt this Sunday will see dozens of little open house signs in the neighborhood, all pointed to my cherry tree.