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Concrete soils, insect hordes offset by spring's charms

If I had but two loaves of bread, wrote the prophet Muhammad, “I would sell one and buy hyacinths, for they would feed my soul.”

In this wishy-washy period of spring/not-quite-spring, as the earth is shaking off its drab winter clothes, and the sun's returning from its South American vacation, the colorful blotches of hyacinths, daffodils, and narcissi that brighten our yards not only give evidence of the season's change, they feed our souls with a preview of the new growth and abundance that lie ahead.

The short, dark days of winter are gone, and already the morning daybreak is punctuated with the roar of ag planes as they spray fields surrounding the town. Birds are billing and cooing and building nests to lay eggs for the new generation that will take wing in summer's warmth and brightness.

The “Mississippi state bird” — our beloved Delta mosquito — has already made its appearance and as warmer days proliferate, outdoor activities will increasingly be fraught with itchy bites.

Dandelions and other spring weeds are popping up everywhere in the lawn and the voice of the mower is beginning to be heard in the land. All too soon we'll again be caught up in the weekly grass cutting routine.

While nothing is as attractive as a well-watered/fertilized, weed-free, manicured lawn, it nonetheless seems the height of folly to spend an hour or more every four or five days, in our horrid heat and humidity, just to minister to the needs of grass…and then do it all over again a few days later. Were I starting with a new house/lot, I think I would instead opt for some tastefully decorated concrete.

I came here, three decades ago, with visions of lush flowers and veggies that would spring forth from the fertile Delta soil I'd heard so much about. But those dreams were summarily dashed when I found that my yard was not loamy, grow-anything “ice cream” soil, but Sharkey clay (“gumbo”) in its almost pure form — so gummy when wet it could be used for modeling clay, and baked so hard in summer's heat/dryness that a jackhammer wouldn't dent it. (I have, over the years, had the deepest admiration for those who farm this particular soil and manage to produce crops from it.)

Add to that the multitudinous insects and diseases that thrive in the Delta climate, not to mention platoons of slimy slugs that love the crannies and crevices of gumbo clay, and the Garden Beautiful aspirations quickly fell by the wayside in favor of English ivy, monkey grass, and a few other tolerate-anything species.

Thankfully, spring bulbs such as hyacinths seem to tolerate the heavy clay and faithfully reappear each spring with their lovely blossoms and delicious perfume.

Driving to the office this morning, a golden full moon was hugging the western horizon over a barren cotton field, while to the east a just-rising sun was bathing a row of white-blossomed Bradford pears in its red-gold rays. Every season has moments of unexpected beauty such as this, but in spring, when all around there is rebirth (and hyacinths), they are all the more soul-refreshing.

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