Women’s March

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Washington, D.C., January 20, 2018, The Women’s March in Washington — One year to the day from President Trump’s inauguration and 364 days from last year’s march, women and their supporters returned to tell the president that the resistance will continue, we are not going away, and we plan to win.

This year’s crowd skewed younger than last year, but was still diverse.  The mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial shown with bright faces of all colors and creeds.  From toddlers in strollers to little old ladies in tennis shoes, protesters turned out to send their message.

While some of those at the rally displayed signs that were angry, but most were not.  Instead, they were determined statements of fact calling out the president and his party for their actions, policies and intent.  As always, some were quite clever.

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The lady with this sign said, “Please leave a message.  I’ll call back with my vote in November!”

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The mall was splashed with cozy sunshine only a week from freezing low single-digit temperatures that left the reflecting pool as slick as a skating rink without a Zamboni.

As the crowd grew, people could not resist the ice.

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The whole world was watching.  This crew spoke a language I did not recognize.

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Every dog has its day.  This pup did a nice job.

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This year we offered free space to crash at our house.  Everyone was marching elsewhere or were otherwise engaged.  The good news is that my fellow 2015 Georgia ridgerunner took the offer.  Mary Thurman had never experienced a happening like this and vows to come back forever if that’s what it takes.

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We discovered a Brazilian drum band from New York. More from them in a minute.

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After a couple of hours we were hungry and hiked to the food truck area to grab a burger.  Good thing we did.  The action moved from the Lincoln Memorial in the form a march from there to the White House.  We had an ideal vantage point.

Here they come!

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The drumming added a ton of energy to the march.  Best of all, they could be heard inside the White House.  While the president watching Faux News may not have known much if anything about this march, he could not avoid hearing the drums.  Incessant drumming drove Nixon crazy during the Vietnam protests.  Maybe we should consider resuming the practice in Lafayette Park, across the street.

Once the drums passed, we could not resist diving into the stream of marchers.

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Passing my old office in the Clinton administration. The Old Executive Office Building.

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Pennsylvania Avenue just west of the White House in the center of this photo.

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While there were many themes, there was one universal message.  The crowed understood that marches make you feel good, but change only comes one way.

 

 

The Fempire Strikes Back!

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The National Mall, Washington, D.C., January 21, 2017 — It was as if an ocean of pink hats was flooding foggy bottom, an alternative name for part of our nation’s capitol.  This rising tide symbolized an amazing change in climate compared to the inauguration of the President of the United States only a sunrise earlier.

Millions of women across the globe marched to protect their rights and all human rights under threat from the seismic changes quaking governmental leadership in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.  Their spirit was bright, their energy strong, and their objectives earnest.

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The younger crowd crashed on the carpet.

When the march was announced we made it known to friends outside Washington that our basement would be a 60’s style crash pad from which they could launch themselves into the Million Woman March.  All told, nine folks accepted our hospitality while many more had alternatives elsewhere in the area.

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Our posse numbered 11 – six women and five men.  Each traveled from Trump country – representing Georgia, Oklahoma, rural Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Among them, two mother daughter combinations.  My wife and I were the only married couple.  Our daughter did her own thing with her friends.

Our group members trickled in starting late Friday afternoon.  After we found space for each of them, we fed and watered our herd ahead of an early crash.  After all, reveille would be at zero-dark-thirty, early enough to snag METRO parking and seats on the subway.

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Pancakes were on the griddle by five a.m. and our herd of cats tumbled onto the subway platform around seven fifteen for a rendezvous with our final partner in crime.

The early start paid off.  The trains had empty seats and the crowd near the meet-up point was thin, allowing us to snag a great location just behind the stage where we could watch the speakers prepare.  For example, former Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi walked right past us.

All across the nation, women knitted pink “pussy hats” that were handed free to the crowd.  The cat ears were the hat’s defining feature.  Their color definitely defined the crowd.

The crowd grew rapidly and topped out in the 600,000 range.  Of note, not a single person was arrested.  We met people from multiple states and from many foreign countries.  The marchers were polite and the conversation serious.  Most, but not all, were marching for rights and not against the president.

At a point we decided the press of the crowd was a bit much and determined it would be best if we were to swim closer to the edge.  To our amazement, the footprint was far larger than we could have ever imagined.  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fstpetedessertbar%2Fvideos%2F1829944483955749%2F&show_text=0&width=400“>Crowd Video  It took nearly a half hour to struggle from our perch near the stage on Independence Avenue northward to the Mall itself.

Ultimately we returned to base for a CNN watch party late into the evening.  The animated conversation continued well past breakfast Sunday morning.  We met people who didn’t vote, people who were Trump supporters and mostly people who are motivated to protect individual and group rights.  You might call that freedom.

Here are a few examples of creativity including the good, bad and the ugly.  Warning, some are vulgar.

 

 

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This woman said Planned Parenthood detected her breast cancer.

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End of story.

*I haven’t posted here for awhile.  The mundane part of retirement continues, but I was hiking most of the summer.  All of that can be found on my sister hiking blog, A fork in the road.

Retirement Error

Burned out a stump with charcoal briquettes to make a flower bed.

Kensington, MD, May 22, 2016 — When you first retire, your natural instinct is to recreate your work life in some form.  That can be volunteer activity, more altruistic work at a nonprofit, or altruistic service.

Think about it.  As your professional life winds down, you are used to pace, responsibility and structure. Being important may also be part of it. As you contemplate the future, you realize that you can’t just sit around because your honey-do list will soon exhaust itself, TV will get boring and reading is tiring.

Naturally I made the mistake of trying to recreate my work life.  Recently  I realized my list of responsibilities was taking over.  I was so busy that I didn’t have time to do what I wanted.

When I retired I didn’t know how to play.  So, I searched for responsibilities to fill my calendar.  I didn’t want to repeat my career, so I hiked and filled my dance card with a long list of trail-related activities.  Then, I was asked to accept a major role with our trail club.  It was one that would require my full-time attention.  What the f…. This was like having a job!

On top of that, within a week a former colleague asked me to do a major consulting project for a professional sports franchise.  Whoah!  Where’s this going to end?  Gotta fix that.

It comes as no surprise that retirement also means less money.  Most people can’t just hire a brute force effort to get big projects done anymore.  Making haste more slowly and creatively becomes the new approach.

Nevertheless, we’ve been busy since the last post about ole “Snowzilla.”

Went shopping to replace our 30-year-old furniture that has been moved nine times including twice overseas.

Breaking in the new furniture.  The curtains have yet to be hung.

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The old cat fur accessorized stuff is now in the guest apartment.

Built a raised bed vegie garden in the back.

Had two tons of rock delivered.  We will need two more later.

With the help of our recent house guest, Robin Hobbs, zen is arriving.  Also planted perennial wild flower seeds in the back half of the yard to create some bee habitat.  Hope the squirrels didn’t get all of them.

Now to dump my “jobs” and find a way to play more.

SnowZilla – Flag karma’s a bi*ch!

A propitious time for thumb surgery!

Kensington, MD, January 22 – 23 – 24, 2016 — Snowpocolypse, snowmagedden, snowzilla. In the Washington, D.C. area we name our epic snow storms.

Maybe it’s because political exaggeration carries over to normal life, though you would seldom notice that by living in our very anodyne suburban communities.

In the Washington burbs, you might as well be in a normal place, say Minneapolis for example.  The miniapple – the metaphor is very apropos during a big snow.  We spent four winters there.  We know first hand.

I made a propitious marriage to a girl from New Hampshire.  Her snow throwing skills are legend having developed her technique from childhood. She’s had plenty of practice as I have usually managed to be thousands of miles away on business when the big ones have hit.

Her prowess was handy once again this time around.  The storm struck less than a day after a long scheduled Dupeytren’s release surgery on my left thumb.

There I was, forced into the unmanly role of spectator to an awesome display of sisu.  She shoveled almost around the clock for three days and pinned ole SnowZilla to the mat.  (The moral of this story:  Never mess with a full-blooded Finn, even if you are Mother Nature!)

If you recall from my previous post, my wife told me not to put up that flag.  Seeing the resulting karma in action is believing, so rather than write about it, here’s a down and dirty video I threw together to prove it.  Enjoy!

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**I use cloud sharing services because copyrighted music is involved and cannot be used for public performance.  Thanks to Mannheim Steamroller for some great music.**

Last act.  Refill the bird feeders.

Jonas.  We kicked your butt!

Flag Karma

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Kensington, Maryland, January 4, 2016 — I got myself in big trouble the other day.  The Christmas season was over and it was time to change the banner we habitually fly from our front porch.  More on how much trouble I’m in a minute.

I didn’t give the next flag much thought.  We have so many that I usually just grab one that is seasonal and we haven’t flown in awhile.

We have a storage container full of awesome banners. In total there are more than two dozen. We get them from master flag makers Carole and Mark Bisgrove in Massachusetts.  Some we’ve had for 20 years.  They are indestructible.

By way of full disclosure, Mark and I fished together as kids in the Ashland, Mass. reservoir when I’d pay an occasional summer visit to my cousins who lived across the street.  More on Carole and Mark’s flags here. Continue reading

Nisu 


Kensington, MD, Christmas Eve, 2015 — My favorite family Christmas tradition is baking Bertha Kymalainen’s Finnish bread called nisu.

Bertha was my wife’s mother and our daughter Liisa’s grandmother. We miss her, especially at this time of year.

When we were first married, a nisu would arrive via mail right in time for Christmas.

Bertha would wrap it as air tight as she could because this delightful wonder dries out in a flash. No matter, we loved it. If it was a bit arid, we’d slather it with butter or dunk it in coffee to moisten it up.

Eventually I asked her for the recipe. I have it to this day, penned in her own hand on yellowing pocket notebook paper.


This year I can’t bake nisu because I’m recovering from hand surgery. Time for daughter Liisa to step in to save our tradition.

You see, by her own description, Liisa doesn’t like to cook, but step up she did.

Nisu is a braided egg bread. It must rise three times, the final time in the baking pan. In all, it takes six full hours to prepare, e.g., start at noon. Eat at six.

I used to wake at 0300 in order to have the nisu ready in time to open presents Christmas morning.

A couple of years ago I wised up and switched this family treat to Christmas Eve when we started opening presents after Santa move on to houses with younger kids.

Today Liisa took over with old pop hanging around as bench coach.


  

Isn’t technology wonderful!



 Now to rise one last time.


  
 Brush with coffee. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar. Bake.

Drench with powdered sugar frosting. Sprinkle with nuts. Decorate with cherries. Eat warm!

Hauskaa Joulua everyone.

Is Facebook Killing Christmas Letters?

What a difference a year makes.  On the left 2015.  On the right 2014.

Kensington, MD, December 1, 2015 — It can’t be December already.  Part of me wants to ‘say it ain’t so’ while another part can’t wait for what promises to be a joyous holiday season.

It’s a time of year when everyone tends to contemplate meaning.  No matter what your faith tradition, or even if you are only driven by the astronomical calendar, this is a time of reflection and renewal as we close one chapter in life, anticipate for longer days and turn to next year.

As I contemplate what to write in our holiday newsletter, my mind is flooded with jumbled thoughts ricocheting inside my skull.  Generally I prepare a newsy and positive recap of the past year’s highlights without looking forward too much. I just have to get it organized.

It occurred to me though, as I noodled on how to craft the story, that Facebook is killing family Christmas letters.

I mean, what could anyone write that their Facebook “friends” don’t already know in much greater detail than they could pen in a 250 word essay?  Worse, readers can now fact check my (usually) glossy facsimile of the year gone by.

Seriously, I could get busted for sugar-coating.  As a former spin doctor, I would be automatically suspect.

Oh oh! Could it be that software has disrupted our lives yet again?

The fact is that not everyone on my holiday card list is a Facebook “friend.” That alone, will ensure the existence of my traditional holiday letters.  After all, even buggy whip manufacturing, black smiting survived profound technological disruption.

As for what to write, my head aches with thoughts of our nation’s political discord, world problems, climate change, poverty, ignorance, violence and just plain stupidity.

On the other hand, There is hope.  The sun rises every day, our family is together and healthy, our lives have purpose and meaning, and we have a lot for which to look forward.  Isn’t that what this season is all about?

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We shared a special multi-cultural Thanksgiving with three of our daughter’s co-workers from India who are working here for six months. It was a wonderful way to jump start the spirit of Christmas.

Now to write that letter.

I Surrender :-(

Our gourdes have full occupancy.  Might have to raise the rent next year of the market is this strong.

Our gourdes have full occupancy. Might have to raise the rent next year of the market is this strong.

Kensington, MD, Friday June 5, 2015 — A while back I wrote about my summer project.  That is to say, dealing with the overgrown landscaping around our house.  The project has become overwhelming.  I don’t know where to start or what I should do next, so I give up.

Note the difference between giving up and surrender.  This is no surrender.  It’s a tactical pause in the action until reinforcements can arrive.

I’m from a family of landscapers.  My brother Jack owns both a landscaping business and a nursery store.  Now I know its not genetic, or if it is, I got none of that DNA.  If having a green thumb is not an inherited trait, then it must be hard work.

Since my family lives 1,500 miles away and can’t come here to bail my talentless backside out of this mess, I hired a local landscape architect.  She comes next Thursday.  Her job:  Tell me what to do and in some cases, how to do it.

Here’s the deal.  The front yard and sides are going well.  In fact, they are almost done. It’s the tangled jungle in the ‘back 40’ that is the challenge. In addition to the previous description of the hodgepodge mixture of plants that don’t belong together, I found a giant patch of poison ivy mixed in with other ground cover and flowers.  Ugh!  I have no idea how to kill it. I just know it’s gonna be a fight.

Help!

The fist casualty of this war wasn't truth.  It was the holly I transplanted from the front.

The fist casualty of this war wasn’t truth. It was the holly I transplanted from the front.

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I've marked trees and plants I want to remove to show the landscape architect what I'm thinking.

I’ve marked trees and plants I want to remove to show the landscape architect what I’m thinking.

It's been too wet the past several days to prune these plants in the front.

It’s been too wet the past several days to prune these plants in the front.

Deer repellant works!  I never thought to spray the areas not under cover.  I've since nuked this section and deer come no more.

Deer repellant works! I never thought to spray the areas not under cover. I’ve since nuked this section and deer come no more.

Run Like Zombies Are Chasing You!!!!!

Sign on the back of team vans.

Sign at a baton exchange point.

Gettysburg, PA to Washington, DC, Friday and Saturday May 1 and 2, 2015 — The annual American Odyssey Race is a 200-mile team relay from Gettysburg, PA to the Washington, DC waterfront.

Each team has 12 runners subdivided into two six runner sections.  Each section runs for two six-hour periods with six-hour rest periods in between. Sleep is optional.

Around 200 teams, many from far away, laced up to be in the race to raise money in support of returning U.S. military veterans.

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A huge number of military teams participated from places such as West Point, the Pentagon and even the Marine Corps Marathon.

Runners came from near and far.

Runners came from near and far.

So much for the newspaper-style lead.  Here’s what really happened, but first a word from our sponsor.

I’ve been a client of the Fitness Together (FT), http://www.fitnesstogether.com, personal training franchise for more than 10 years.  This year I joined one of the two teams FT sponsored.

We were an amalgamation of owners, trainers and clients – all with generally high fitness levels but of mixed running ability.  The object was not to win, but to pit ourselves against a tough challenge and enjoy ourselves in the process.

In keeping with the FT motto: One client.  One trainer. One goal, we worked together to do our personal best, not meet someone else’s expectations.

Now back to our story.

Our team (FT Bethesda) was split into two six-runner sections.  Yours truly was runner number eight traveling in van number 2. Each section would run for approximately six hours, with each runner’s leg lasting about an hour on average.  Given that timing, my first leg didn’t start until about eight hours into the race.

As luck had it my first leg chugged over South Mountain on a dirt road in Pennsylvania’s Michaux state forest.  Much to my delight, this route intersected the Appalachian Trail (AT) at an unremarkable place I do not remember from last year’s thru hike, at least not through the river of sweat stinging my eyeballs and fogging my glasses.

I pressed on.  The run was steep consisting of one-third up hill and two-thirds down.  Knowing I had two more times to run after this one, I was worried about burning out my quads (thigh muscles which must lift your legs going up hill and serve as breaks going down with down hills inflicting the damage – just like hiking). The good news was there were no crowds to urge my ego on – to try and be stupid.

I was faster than my planned time, but not by much.  So far, so good.

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Teams decorate their vans in with interesting slogans.

Once we finished our shift, the B section of team 9 headed for dinner.  Being a very experienced runner, I figured everyone would be looking for light foods and a quick sojourn to the Boonsboro High School were we could grab a few winks in the gym.

Almost finished with our first shift.

Almost finished with our first shift.

Will this help me sleep.  No!

Will this help me sleep. No!

A quick trip to sleepy time was not to be.  I got about 30 minutes sleep.  Then, we were up and at it again.

Runners pass out in the Boonsboro HS gym.

Runners pass out in the Boonsboro HS gym.

Second shift about to start.

Second shift about to start.

In running order, I ran the second leg of the six assigned to our van.  On this, my second run of three, the forlorn country road was darker than a well diggers backside.  The leg was divided evenly between a steep opening downhill to a creek followed by a long climb out to the next baton exchange.  My dinner, what I thought was a bland vegie panini, just didn’t want to agree.  The five-mile leg was agonizing.  Still, I met my time expectation and the team was on track.

Driving to drop off the next runner.

Driving to drop off the next runner.

We finished our second shift at 3 a.m.  Then we drove an hour to the Poolsville, MD middle school were we could rest again.  Except this time, the school was shuttered.  No gym.

Some of us slept in the van with rain in the forecast, while others took their chances.  They were rewarded It didn't rain!

Some of us slept in the van with rain in the forecast, while others took their chances. They were rewarded. It didn’t rain!

The day dawned with promise. None of us got much rest, let alone sleep.  As we stretched, our muscles talked back intoxicated as they were with lactic acid.  Did they know what they were saying, or were they fooling with us.  Time would tell.  The day would be warm.  Our legs would be sore.  We were already tired.  Time to embrace the suck as the aphorism goes.

This is a rare sight in Montgomery County Maryland - a farmstead in sun rise.  Corn and orchards have been over-planted with an invasive species of developer borne house seeds. They are winning.

This is a rare sight in Montgomery County Maryland – a farmstead in sun rise. Corn and orchards have been over-planted with an invasive species of developer borne house seeds. They are winning. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Race officials preparing for the first runners.

Race officials preparing for the first runners.

I awoke feeling like I’d been shot through my thighs during the night.  The school had opened so we could shower and the booster club could make a few bucks selling coffee, donuts and muffins.

I must have looked comedic as I pranced toward the wake-up juice with truncated steps like an intoxicated ballet dancer in slow motion.  Others around me were either yawning or grimacing as they faced their own personal realities.  Their complaints all sounded alike.  The showers barely flowed so I decided to pass.

In my days as an elite runner, this would have been proforma, but not anymore.  I thought about how much I hurt in context of past glories. Age is cruel, but you accept new realities and soldier on.  My resolve was to leave everything I could offer on the C&O Canal tow path where my final run awaited.

As a boss, coach and parent, I’ve always asked everyone to do their best.  The challenge is that our best isn’t the same everyday.  Sometimes we’re tired, sick, stressed, depressed, or distracted.  But we should give whatever we can under those circumstances.

I may not have championship ability anymore, but I could still do the my best.  Knowing dehydration and pain were my enemies, I cameled up on a few Gatorades and took 800 mg of ibuprofen for insurance purposes.

The C&O Canal tow path was flat and relatively dry after the previous day’s rain.  Luckily its shady parts offered some respite from the sun as the day’s temp climbed toward 80F.  I could even see up to 100 yards ahead in places.  My personal mission:  Let no one pass and overtake anyone I could see in front of me.  That’s a tough one in the shape I’m in.

I pushed onward as hard as my anaerobic threshold and the somewhat dulled burn in my legs would allow.

When a cyclist passing from the opposite direction said I was close to where my run finished, I sighed.  There were two runners ahead of me I hoped to catch, but had not seen.  Just then they came into sight, about a hundred yards in front of me.

When a runner says you’re close, that means a couple of hundred yards to the finish.  Think of my dilemma by imagining the algebra.  If Jim is 100 yards behind John and Jane who are running at X speed, and Jim’s top speed is Y. How far would Jim have to run to catch them – especially after the cyclist said you were close to the baton exchange point?  Could I run fast enough to beat them in the available distance.  I decided to try.

Fortunately cyclists have a very different sense of distance than runners.  My opponents were far behind when I slapped the baton into the next runners hand and ended my Odyssey race. I was done and beat my projected pace by more than a minute per mile. With that happy note, I decided that I want to do this again next year!

The finishing area.

The finishing area.

After party.

After party.

These days everybody gets a medal.

These days everybody gets a medal.

It’s a Jungle Back There!

House finch families have moved into the gourds we have hung on the porch and from tree branches through out the yard.

House finch families have moved into the gourds we have hung on the porch and from tree branches throughout the yard.

Kensington, MD, April 13, 2015 — We are entering our fourth summer in our retirement home.  As with any new place, the repairs, upgrades, remodeling, and yard work gets prioritized by health and safety needs, aesthetics and by cost.

No house is perfect.  As houses go, this one suited our needs but had some design issues.  We’ve learned over the years that you can make almost any building work, besides there was nothing perfect on the market in our preferred neighborhood when we were buying.

Our three cats own the sunroom.

Our three cats own the sunroom.

The primary selling point for this house was the back yard.  The landscaping renders it totally private in the summer. Plus, it features a huge low profile deck and it is garnished by a large glass sunroom which allows us to enjoy a 180 degree view of this sylvan setting year round.

Unfortunately, my lack of attention over the past three summers allowed the yard plants the freedom to metastasize into an overgrown jungle.

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I will admit to gross procrastination.  That’s why it’s taken three years to get to this point. The landscaping has become so overgrown that I couldn’t figure out which part of the elephant to bite first.

Landscaping is also hard, dirty, brute labor.  I’d rather think of it as a workout, but that romantic logic doesn’t always hold up to the reality of the hot sun, stifling humidity, sticky mud and the biting bugs.

Now the bill has come due.  It’s do it now or by the end of summer, our place will be overgrown like a lost Mayan temple in the Yucatan jungle.

Gaps in the picket line.

New gaps in the picket line.

The battlefield is a half acre with a sloped front yard buttressed by a brick retaining wall.  The weight of moisture laden March snows seriously tore holes in the hedge that picket-lined its front slope.

View from out back.

View from out back.

The outer defenses of the back lot consist of a perimeter of mature holly trees reinforced by an understory of intertwined aucuba and azaleas. Ground level is carpeted by a United Nations of intermingled ground cover plants –  vinca, English ivy, pachysandra, periwinkle, and various ferns including some fiddle heads.  The yard itself is mostly ground cover with little grass.

The tulip poplars like to bomb our yard with discarded branches.

The tulip poplars like to bomb our yard with discarded branches.

I forgot to mention the sentinels – five mature tulip poplars which have a few random off spring sprouting out of the babel of plants that serve in lieu of grass.  From time to time the big guys drop branches large enough to require a chain saw.  Fortunately, they are posted at the back of the lot and are not near the house.

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Sadly, Bambi thinks the aucubas and azaleas are a salad bar.  We live only a couple of blocks from a miles-long green space infested with deer.  Cleaning up the deer damage alone will require heavy artillery.

We also have a few isolated winter kill issues.

We also have a few isolated winter kill issues.

I decided to rehearse the main attack in a side garden.  It was a contained space chock full of laurels in need of haircuts, overgrown azaleas, ivy run amok, and three half-dead holly bushes.  Pulling the ivy was the the worst part.  The damn stuff fights back!

The battle lasted two days, but armed with iron tools the invading plants were eventually overpowered after putting up a worthy defense.  It was great training for the main event to come.

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Two weekends worth of enemy battle casualties.

Yesterday was backyard D-day.  The Powell Doctrine was in effect – as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell postulated that overwhelming force must be used against enemies.

We attacked at down with a ground assault – led by a pick, serrated spade, pruning saw, the professional grade loppers I use on the Appalachian Trail, and all supported by a wheel borrow and our daughter’s old little red wagon.  No plant in the wrong place stood a chance.

The little red wagon was hiding in a defilade position.

The little red wagon was hiding in a defilade position.

By late afternoon today, the first objective was secure.  This is going to be a summer-long fight.  No hundred-hour war here.

First corner cleaned out.

First corner cleaned out.

With the first objective taken and rain in the forecast, it was time to review the day’s work and plot my next move.

Enjoying the fruit of victory.

Enjoying the fruit of victory.