so, last spring nashville had epic flooding that resulted in people like us--who live on the highest part of the street in the highest part of the neighborhood--having water pour into our basements because the ground was so saturated it had nowhere else to go.
the chain reaction was this: the ants who ordinarily live peacefully in their own little underground neighborhoods also had nowhere to go except the same place the water went, which is into our house--specifically, into the wall cavities.
when this happened, just like the humans who had a safe, dry place to live, the ants apparently invited all their friends and loved ones to join them in safety--including carpenter ants.
but unlike the nashville humans, these ants apparently liked it so much here that they had no incentive to move back home. and thus began a war that ended (we hope) last month with us having to rip out all our food gardens and having a pest control company spray a 60' perimeter around our house with a broad-spectrum, pervasive insecticide--and having the wall cavities of our home sprayed with an insecticidal dust--and having the basement sprayed with the same insecticide as in the yard--all in an attempt to eradicate what is believed to be at minimum two full colonies (meaning at least two queens) that were demolishing our home from the inside out.
frankly i was devastated. we've lived here almost 11 years and not once have we sprayed the yard. it wasn't the loss of the gardens that bothered me most--we had food before i started gardening and we have food still--but ella and i had grown fond of our little kingdom of butterflies, and crickets, and fireflies--we wanted webster, our garden spider, to come back again this year (yeah, i know, it isn't the same one each year--we don't care). and we were looking forward to raising our own ladybugs to release in our own gardens.
but you see, when you spray your yard with a broad-spectrum, pervasive insecticide, the spiders and the bees and the crickets go. and when they go, so do the frogs. and the bats. and the snakes. and when they go, the hawks and owls leave too.
and when there are no more caterpillars to pull off the plants and leave on the fence, the cardinals and robins quit coming. when there are no more worms in the ground, the soil gets hard and the compost just sits there, dead and stale and stunned into a standstill.
and this year, we had cicadas--yeah, it was kind of dreadful and awesome and majestic and ridiculous, all at the same time--they only come once every 13 years, ella will be college age the next time they come--and their babies had just gone into the ground. we won't have any way of knowing if they survived, except to wait for 13 years and see if they come back.
the first night after we sprayed, our yard was dark and silent. no fireflies flying. no crickets chirping. the only thing we saw at dusk was a huge flock of crows in the backyard, feasting on all the little bugs that were dying right before our eyes--and that night i lost sleep worrying about the crows too. i cried a lot that day--and the day after--i was really overwhelmed by grief.
but my wise and kind and compassionate friend sherry said to me, "they'll all come back. they always do. that's why the bug spray guy has to come back so often to places that they've already sprayed." and she's right. it's been a little over two weeks, and last night we heard crickets. :)
so this year, we're planting flowers. the hour before the yard was sprayed we dug up all the marigolds in our vegetable boxes--we even found some scattered around the outside of teh boxes, that had seeded themselves and grown--and as she is want to do, ella rescued a marigold that had snapped off at the base. i was sure it was a goner, but she took the chance on it--she put it in her garden, pressed the soil around the stem, has watered it diligently, and it has already bloomed.
lesson learned: life sometimes gives us difficult choices. do your best. life goes on, and it can be beautiful. you just have to take a chance on it.
*all the time i've been spending not gardening, i've spent doing other things. for one, i graduated a second grader. :) what have you been doing?