Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Of Yard Art, Water, and Wildlife

I often quack about how dull and boring life is in a small town, with neighbors in each other’s business too much, not enough books at the library, and so on. There are nonetheless advantages to living in a small town. I am always part of a group when it comes to investigating loud noises late at night, we band together to harass any business that tries to intrude on our neighborhood more than we think is fitting, and between one end of the street or another, we can pretty well round up stray dogs faster than the pound can get here. And we feed them and water them and calm them down, too.

Another advantage is being able to have yard crap. When it’s someone else’s stuff, it’s crap, an eyesore, a real “what were they thinkin’?” moment in their lives. When it’s in my yard, it’s lovely. Or if it’s not lovely, I can blame it on the kids and then anyone who was thinking of complaining will say, “Oh, OK, science project, eh?” or they’ll nod sagely and say, “Teaching them about the wonders of nature and caring for live things, right?” Whatever reason they come up with, I agree, and we both go on with our lives. We all have different ideas of what constitutes yard crap.

My across the street neighbor likes French country yard crap. Little verdigris faux chairs or benches with potted plants reclining on them decorate her walkway, along with a baroque bird food dish out under her crabapple tree and little Beatrix Potter type ceramic critters right at the door. Another lady has that cement goose fetish thing going on, changing its costumes to suit her moods, the weather, and what’s on sale at where ever the heck they sell clothes for those things. Maybe she makes them, I don’t know. Still another neighbor has a distinct liking for 12 foot tall illuminated fake cacti. Thankfully, he puts them in the back yard and only lights them up for the Christmas season. The outlines stay there year round, and they do kind of go with the horse corral fencing he put up around his back yard.

I like weird stuff. Oh, I have the usual shepherd’s crooks with hanging Wave petunias or oddball dangly plants, and I have bird feeders, some of which I’ve chosen myself, and others that the kids have made and which we display until they rot out, or the kids forget them, or the next high wind takes them on a permanent field trip. One of my particular favorites, however, is the gargoyle on the mailbox.

The mailbox didn’t come that way; it was your average plain black rural mailbox. My husband and I were mad at one of the neighbors, and I found a nice 18” tall resin gargoyle in the garden center one year. I just couldn’t see him well enough anywhere in the flower beds, and no one but us could see him if I perched him on the rock next to the driveway, so my husband screwed him to the top of the mailbox. The kids on the school buses like him; they wave. When my kids are waiting for the bus, they rub his head for good luck and courage. And one time when the mail carrier stopped off to deliver packages, she informed me that he looked a lot like our postmaster. So there he squats, an easy landmark to mention when giving directions for anywhere along the street.

Another of my favorite pieces of yard crap is my hedge witch. It’s also about 18” high and made of resin, but it looks like a happily insane daylily plant. Only from one angle can you see its large, crude face, laughing, its tongue hanging crazily out. I have a circle of stonecrop (sedum) at the base of the maple next to the driveway, and for some reason, the stonecrop won’t grow in one spot. So, I put the hedge witch there, and he greets all our visitors as they drive up along our house.

I also have a fountain. I really don’t consider it yard crap, since it’s unobtrusive, fairly organic looking, and lends the sound of splashing water to our outdoor experience. It serves as a source of water and a gathering place for the birds in our yard. It also has a frog. A real, live frog, which moved in of his own accord and eats all the mosquitoes and other bugs that wander by. We call him Stanley, and he doesn’t mind his fountain being soaped and washed, but he sure does get cranky if we power wash the fountain to remove algae.

I’m hoping to get a fake lawn gator next year. Like that famous “man in the sand” art in Virginia, the lawn croc only emerges in segments, looking like he’s swimming through the yard. I think I might put it near the fountain. Hope it doesn’t scare Stanley off.


Anonymous said...

I want a picture of the mailbox gargoyle!

BoS said...

Aaargh! OK, my lousy camera and I will head out there sometime after it stops raining and see what we can do. :)