Can This Lavender Be Saved?

It is the 11th of February and here in Central Texas we are bracing for a week of very cold weather.

In the backyard herb garden, half a dozen lavender plants are covered with buds. They would do just fine in an ordinary winter, but I’m looking at a week of 20-degree nights that includes one in the teens and maybe, just for fun, 10 degrees next Monday night after it snows during the day. If this forecast comes true, we will be losing a fair number of big landscape plants – shrubs, hedges, small trees, all the peaches – let along things like lavender.

So this morning I decided to dig up a couple of plants and set them up in the greenhouse. No doubt they will experience transplant shock; but I’m pretty sure staying outside, even with a cover, would be a death sentence. We shall see. It’s like I have two experimental groups, and now you know why I never would have been on the tenure track in any psychology department in the land.

Whatever the outcome, my little greenhouse smells like heaven. Too bad there’s no room to sit out there at this point.

Maybe it’s just as well.

I was out there yesterday chatting with Mary on the phone, watering plants ahead of the cold and just being a perfectly nice caregiver when without warning a cactus grabbed me. With barbed spines, of course.

Naturally I had no sharp implements within reach, so I had to saw the stalk off with my fingernails, saying very rude things the entire time. Went into the house, still rude, and searched for numbing liquids of any kind. Couldn’t find the lidocaine roll-on, of course. Poured on some clear Benadryl liquid. Searching under bathroom sink, what? What?

Why, Preparation-H pads, of course.

Fortunately I have plenty of ambidexterity practice, so my left hand was totally up to the task of cutting the packets open, cutting the pads down, and wrapping the offending digits. A bowl of ice water completed the numbing protocol and I shall spare you the rest of the operation. It was also fortunate that this particular cactus left no toxins behind: when it was done, it was done and all was back to normal.

Did we think gardening is easy?

It only just now occurs to me that I could have put that damn cactus out in the yard to freeze, making room for a worthier plant. Nice to know my mind doesn’t always turn to revenge.

Now it is Sunday, the 21st of February, what seems like 100 days since I started this post. I’ve been thinking about it for a few days now, and how quickly an innocent question like “Can this lavender be saved?” can turn into an embarrassing absurdity.

On Valentine’s Day we had icy rain, and the next morning we awoke to this:

I can’t remember a time when we had snow twice in one year, and I most certainly cannot remember a time when it stayed around for days. And days. And days.

With daytime temperatures below freezing and nighttime temperatures swooping down into the teens and below, this winter weather wasn’t going anywhere. Even if the peak of the days’ warmth caused a modicum of meltage, the next morning that was just a veneer of ice atop the snow. Which actually came in quite handy, as it gave my feet some purchase when taking Travis for his walk. Plus it was evilly fun to watch poor Marco Polo try to get back his outdoor adventure life only to have one paw or another break through the frozen surface and send him hurrying back into the house.

Travis didn’t love the icy part, but he enjoyed so many long hikes on the greenbelt with Floyd that he needed to take a day off and then head to the vet for his Adequan shot.

He always think that’s worth it.

While I spent a certain amount of psychic energy resigning myself to the death of much of our landscape, I worried most about that great live oak in front. Not a limb was lost. I can almost breathe again.

Everything else can be replaced.

Of course snow is so beautiful it’s hard to complain about it when it’s such a rare visitor.

We were very fortunate compared to so many people! We never lost electricity or gas, and spent only about four days without water. My daughter had given me a heads up and so we started the drought with two full bathtubs. We tried to be conservative with that stash, but surely some thoroughly cooked snow would serve for washing dishes. Toss in a tiny bit of bleach and it’s all good.

Thoroughly boiled snow is just as tricky to work with as any thoroughly boiled substance, but I managed not to spill much or burn myself too badly.

As a few days passed and the bathtub levels diminished, I began to look up assistance sites where we might obtain some water. Again fortunately, we were able to leave all that for people whose needs were truly dire. At about two o’clock one morning it occurred to me that once the frozen rain barrels weren’t totally frozen, we’d have all the toilet flushing water we could possibly desire.

Before the melt, the world looked like it was full of Christmas trees.

I wish I could have captured the splendid light going through the iced branches. It made me think of that line from Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where she’s writing about a book she’d been reading. It gave accounts of people who had been blind from birth having surgery and seeing for the first time, and one person kept referring to “the tree with lights in it.”

That’s what it was like.

Naturally there were many snowmen and snow-women, and one afternoon an entire section of roadway that’s between two steep hills was turned into the neighborhood sledding and ski resort. While our neighbors are always helpful, there was an extra sense of caring and watching out for one another.

One nearby family had a display so clever I posted it on Facebook, worried that perhaps they had turned to ice and melted:

Of course they hadn’t; they’d even made it through a few “blowout” episodes with their baby, still in good spirits. How??? (For those among you who may be childless, a blowout episode involves shall we say a poopfest that can go from neck to heels and everything in between and in the surrounding area. Without running water in the house. Bless them.)

It’s been a wild ten days. I’ve thought long and hard about people who went through the entire ordeal with no electricity, no water, then water pouring down through collapsing ceilings. Impassable roads, stores closed due to water damage. People were hungry. People died from hypothermia, people died from carbon monoxide poisoning trying to stay warm. Politicians were their characteristic altruistic or unspeakable selves. I hope we all remember who was who.

Just as I have run into some troubles because of my independent streak, the “great” state of Texas has its problems with its fierce wish for autonomy in a world where in truth we are all interdependent. I know a little about the history of utility deregulation, and some of the organizations and individuals who fought hard against regulation because – let’s face it – money. We don’t want no federal government telling us what to do, but damned if we won’t ask for federal money when disaster strikes.

Sometimes independence can be expensive. I saw a 2011 report following a bad winter siege; it seemed extremely (ok, tediously) thorough and made what appeared to be very cogent suggestions to prevent the next winter disaster. Those suggestions were roundly ignored (except in El Paso, I believe). Then I read today that the insurance industry (let’s not get started on THEM) will now face spending $1,000 for every $1 that was put into infrastructure. Who’s the boss lobby now, losers?

Ah, but it is now seventy degrees and sunny. The snow is gone, more of the landscape has survived than I expected. I’ve run the dishwasher and am looking forward to my first shower in nearly a week.

I’ll leave you with a portrait of Marco from the middle of the week, as he sat on a chilly windowsill both longing to be outside and wanting nothing to do with being outside. Poor dude! I can only try to emulate his sweet equanimity as he manages to roll with whatever nature throws our way. Having been rescued from a freeway as a tiny baby, Marco doesn’t let too many things get him down for long.

I’ma try to be like Marco.