The grumbling began when I began the decennial pruning of my mom’s rhodies.

Dad and some small person. Taken at the Beach House in 1976 by Mom.

Mom loved rhodies, particularly the big red-flowering ones that bloom spectacularly each May.

I like rhodies, too. They are a fine plant. But let’s face it, they are not without maintenance requirements. Mom never liked to prune back a plant, so they were overgrown when she died in 2018. In the intervening five years, they have grown leggier. They are also in desperate need of fertilizing and some pest management. This year my big job was to prune and fertilize the MANY rhododendrons around the yard (16, but a couple might have slipped by me).

One side of the yard. Mom REALLY liked rhodies.

We get yard debris pickup only every two weeks and my pruning soon outpaced the pickup. I began chopping the leaves of the rhodies into the bin, and piling the bare branches up nearby, thinking I could get those out in the winter. Then I got to thinking about how nice they looked all stacked up. I began an edging fence.

But the sticks remained.

One day, a spotted towhee landed in the pile, and it got me thinking. A few years ago, this cedar died. I asked the company to leave it up as a snag, hoping a bird family might nest in it someday. To be honest, I overestimated the appeal of this snag.

Alright, it’s just ugly. So far, no bird families have taken me up on my offer of housing. But flickers often perch on the top and survey their territory. Wouldn’t a sculpture of a big flicker be funny?

I’m not sure I’m done, but I’m not sure I’m not. Also, I haven’t figured out the logistics of mounting “King of the Flickers” on the tree. Originally, I thought the biggest branch in what is now the center would be used to mount him, but that doesn’t appear to be working out.

We get pretty big winds here, and there are power lines very near the tree, so continuing to hang KOF isn’t the most practical option.

But going back to grumbling. I feel like the neighbors are starting to worry about my sanity. First, I defoliated the rhodies to bare sticks. Now I’m standing in my front yard with sticks, wire, and a mini chain saw.

Promise me that if the authorities come and take me away, you’ll campaign for art supplies. Obviously, I’m not too picky.