I’ve been living in this 1908 farmhouse since 2012 (yes, it’s really 111 years old!). Until earlier this year, the backyard sloped down rather steeply and seemed to end with a very thick, overgrown patch of blackberry bushes, that alas, never produced any edible blackberries (grrrr!) and had become an unmanageable tangle of brambles that had become invasive and made the grass at the base of the slope very difficult to mow.
It all started with a lost septic tank.
When our septic system needed to be pumped last fall no one knew where the septic tank was at first. It hadn’t been pumped in at least ten years! In fact, when I moved in I mistakenly thought we were on the city sewer system, but when I began getting strange odors coming from the sinks, bathtub and toilet, and finally some kind of brown sludge coming up through the drains, I made an emergency call to my landlord and he arranged for the system to be pumped. But first they’d need to look for it, because even he couldn’t remember where it was located.
Well, they finally found it. It was located under the blackberry brambles, so all of them had to be removed, leaving a large, mudpit shot through with thick roots that gave the entire back of my yard the appearance of a giant snake pit. But I was shocked at how much more space there was too. The land behind the brambles went back pretty far, down into a ditch far below that may or may not contain a small stream. It turns out, all that land belongs to this property.
I did nothing to clean up the area, other than toss some grass seed on the dried mud. Now it’s May and nature is taking over again. New plants and tufts of tall grass are growing lushly and there are even pioneer trees and shrubs beginning to take over the once bare soil and cover the sinuous roots.
Thinking like my cat.
My imagination went a little crazy. I thought about my tuxedo cat Sheldon quietly slithering into the natural nooks and crannies in the trees and shrubs, and all the secret cat trails he has probably discovered, where he finds heaven knows what. I imagined being a cat, and in my mind’s eye I saw trails leading off into the dark woods beyond, even though there don’t appear to be any there right now. Maybe we can bushwack some of the shrubs and vines and make a trail, even though in all likelihood any trail we create would lead to nowhere more interesting than the newish housing development there behind the trees, much of which can be seen in winter when the trees are bare.
An abandoned school in Ruskin, Florida: a detour.
I was reminded of Easter Day this year. It was my first full day in Florida after arriving there the night before. We had gone to visit my son’s partner Josh’s family in a place called Ruskin, which is just south of Tampa.
There’s not much going on in Ruskin, Florida, but across the road from Josh’s mom’s comfortable doublewide where we spent the entire day eating a motley assortment of potluck dishes as though it were Thanksgiving (and getting just as sleepy later), are several trails that go off into the woods for quite a long distance, but all wind up in the same place: an old abandoned school that burned down sometime in the 1970s.
No one knows if the fire was an accident or arson, or if anyone died in the fire, but seeing the darkened red brick and yellowed concrete walls of the old school (there are only three walls left standing and two of them are crumbling) suddenly emerge out from the junglelike brush and Floridian forest plants, was a rather spooky (but cool) experience.
I didn’t take photos, because my son was taking better photos on his more expensive and much better camera. It was nice to have my hands free so I could swat the hundreds of mosquitoes that swarmed around me and were happily dining on both my arms and my hands. I finally resorted to waving my arms around wildly to ward off the clouds of mosquitoes, but the next day both my arms were covered in itchy red welts. I’m glad I had the presence of mind to wear long pants and sneakers, rather than shorts and flip flops, like two of the people who accompanied us did.
Although I didn’t take pictures of the school ruins, a friend of my son’s did — on Christmas Day of all times. My son was along for that hike too. There’s also a video of his friend jumping (and almost falling into) a creek, but I’ll spare you that. I guess that’s what people do in Florida on Christmas – they go hiking and hunt for old ruins in the woods. We made the same hike on Easter. That seems significant. So here are four photographs of what they saw on their Christmas hike, and that’s pretty much the same thing we saw on our Easter hike.
Credit for the above photos: Tahoe Wolf Ⓒ 2018
Back at home.
So, getting back to my newly opened up backyard. It’s kind of ugly still, and there probably aren’t any interesting old ruins from decades ago, but it has promise. There’s more there to explore, and over time, it will become more eyecatching as the patchy almost bare ground becomes covered with new plants and flowers. I might toss some wildflower seed down there to help it along.
I’m sorry that I have no “before” pictures of the blackberry brambles that were blocking our access to anything beyond (and hiding our septic system), but frankly, they weren’t that attractive anyway.