Mighty gardens, a major and a 'bagel'


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It's column catch-up time regarding columns of the past, and how things have turned out. Actually, it is an easier way of communicating to the public regarding the many questions they ask and how long it takes for me to respond to each and every one. There's always room for new questions and followup, not to mention constituent services when warranted.

First off, I must apologize, as I said I would never mention milkweed in this column again. But, I must in order to alert any and all of my neighbors as to what now may be growing in their yards, big, bushy and unidentified.

Suffice to say, all of the milkweed contributed to me by readers and others so that I could attract monarch butterflies in my garden, did phenomenally well in my yard. I have quite a patch of it growing, and a few mavericks here and there on top of it. All are blossoming, and I do anticipate butterflies, if ever we can get past this drought.

However, the problem lies in how milkweed germinates. It develops pods of fluffy umbrella-like tendrils which carry the seeds upon the winds. Well, after a few windy days, I had seeds both here and in Springfield flying all over the place. This leads me to believe that I have a lot of neighbors with milkweeds now in their gardens, and they are wondering why.

I must say that, for weeds, they are rather pretty, mimicking a bit the common rubber trees we see in floral shops and in household arrangements. My bunch has the look of the tropics. With the muggy weather and high humidity, I think of my yard as an adjunct to the Amazon rain forest.

Thanks to my hairdresser, Karen Barthel, formerly of Lyons and now of Indian Head Park, my moon flowers are sprouting everywhere. Although lovely vines show off big, white trumpet blossoms, they do spread. Since most of the activity is around my front door, I am expecting that few, if any, people are going to be able to get through to the stairs once the moon flowers really get into high gear.

Karen told me that it would be doubtful that the moon flowers would grow considering the lack of rain. And, I must admit, for a while there, I thought that all my seeding would come to naught. However, all of a sudden, they not only emerged, they started taking over.

These moon flowers toss off numerous, spiked seeds. Last year I had a ton of them, which I dried and passed around to any and all who wished them. This year, I trust that I will have a bumper crop, which I would be more than willing to share with readers come the fall.

On to non-vegetative topics, my son, Major Joe, and his wife, Christina, have now left Ft. Drum, N.Y., for their next posting in Washington state, where Major Joe will be the JAG (Judge Advocate General, i.e., an Army lawyer) at the Madigan Army Hospital.

They have bought a house, which they will eventually rent out as they continue to try to get back to Illinois. Up to now, however, the Army has seen fit to send them to the upper reaches of the continental U.S., back and forth. They get from place to place by driving cross country to spare their belongings from the Army movers and make sure that their three cats get through the trip unscathed.

And finally: Many thanks to all who have sent me notes regarding my dog, the Bagel Andrew (beagle at both ends, basset in the middle). He was not doing very well a few weeks ago, and I thought that, for sure, I would have to put him down.

Although he is an old dog with a faltering kidney, he has come around a bit. So, I am buying time, and "buying" is probably the operative word here. Suffice to say, trying to keep a sick old dog surviving is a pretty expensive proposition. I think Andrew will be my vacation this year. And, with pre-existing conditions stemming from a past life via a Springfield dog pound, the ability to get pet insurance is out of the question.

Anyway, Andrew is surviving now that he is eating again (he has discovered that he can eat steak or roast beef, if finely chopped). I also spray pureed dog food and medications down his throat with regularity to try to keep the kidney in order and the arthritis in check. And, mercifully, Michele Hessian of Brookfield comes over daily to "hydrate" him so as to keep that kidney operative. That is like an IV with vitamins and minerals, as well as an antibiotic?"just in case there is an infection.

And so Andrew is up and walking, albeit stiff-legged. He still must be carried up and down my nine stairs, though this will shortly be remedied with a second hand lift. For a former pound pup facing euthanasia, he has come a long way.

I haven't figured out just yet how this all works out on the campaign trail where he and Molly McDoo, the Scottish terrier, join me in trekking around the state. But, the good Lord willing, we will find a way.

One way or another, Andrew is making a comeback. It is really just buying time, but he's a member of the family and, thus, needs and gets all the help we can pull together.

And if anyone has any other questions, I can be found on weekends and in between meetings at local estate sales, at the local Jewels or Dominicks, on Saturdays at the Riverside Minuteman to get the Sunday papers a day early and in and around the house fighting off the milkweed, moon flowers and miscellaneous other weeds.

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