In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I am running on anger these days.  This anger is due to, frankly, conventional, conformist  little-minded neighbors whose focus is on "unsightliness"and "property values" and, frankly, petty vengeance and control freak issues  rather than the impact of exceptional conditions on our environment.  I'm doubly angry because if I had a wooden fence, like most of them, nobody would ever have known what was in my backyard.  Some of them are "no government interference" people, which makes me laugh, because local neighborhood deed restrictions, city, county, and state regulations restrict freedoms far more than the federal government does.  Yet they want states rights rather than federal government protections for everyone.  Most of all, I am angry because this focus not only ignores my health conditions, my age, and my poverty, it ignores the horrendous loss of habitat resulting from the tremendous loss of trees..


In the 2011 drought Texas lost 301 million (MILLION!) trees.  Harris County, which pretty much is synonymous with Houston lost 19 million trees.  I lost six lobllolly pines, all of which were standing on this property and a foot or more in diameter, when we moved in in 1957..  One of them, I suspect, was over 100 years old when it came down, all of them 60 or more.   Within half a mile of me, according to a tree removal guy I spoke with, over a 1000 trees were lost.  I can believe it.  I used to sit on my front porch and had to look straight up to see the sky.  Now, I only have to look E, S .  If I walk out the sidewalk to the side street, and look W to what used to be woods, it's mostly sky.


That is thousands of nesting places for birds.  You might not realize it, but getting to the trees to cut them down and haul them off destroyed undergrowth as well. -- the yaupon bushes, the cherry laurels and other understory trees.  After the trees around here were mostly gone, I had a swamp rabbit in my yard.  I'm sure he came from the larger 1.2-3 acre lots behind me.  When I had to cut down my taller grasses because of the complaints from the neighbors, The bunny moved on.  I hope the migrating kestrel I saw at about that time didn't get him crossing all the open space that now exists around here.  When I removed the brush piles, the treefrogs disappeared.  A Carolina wren who seemed to be checking it out for a nesting spot has disappeared as well.  The anoles which scrambled openly around the logs, as they have been unpiled and righted preparatory to being hauled off, haven't been sighted in weeks.


I also lost a honeybee tree, not that I knew in advance they were there.  I don't know where they went, because they look for a hollow tree damaged by lightening or the dropping of a big limb in a windstorm.

I had hoped to construct a wildlife habitat which would also shelter my lupus-riddled body from the sun. But no, the city wouldn't allow me to keep the 3-5' logs. When they are hauled off on the 21 January 2013, not only will all the habitat be gone, but I will no longer be able to enjoy my own backyard because there will be no place shady enough for me.  If that is freedom of property, I'm a hoot owl.


Houston was known for its greenness.  If you look across the city on GOOGLE maps, close enough to see the areas of dead and removed trees, you will see denuded parks (Hermann and Memorial), and a decimated Houston Arboretum,  neighborhoods where scarcely a tree stands.  


I have three trees that survived.  All of them had thick mats of composted mulch around their root systems, because they are where we dumped up the raked leaves and pine needles from the rest of the yard for 55+ years.  


From the swamp rabbit to the anoles, the bees, the birds, my neighborhood has been almost denuded of nesting places, food sources,  watering places.  Yet we still have deed restrictions calling for St. Augustine grass, no brush piles, yada yada yada, and we continue to pave areas, grow non-native "landscaping plants", and behave as if we are the only occupants of this earth.  


Unsightly?  Unsightly to me are my neighbors' lawns of St Augustine, hostas and monkey grass.  Who will hear when the last bird calls?


SOURCES:
Texas drought killed 301 million treesBy Kathy Huber | September 25, 2012 | Updated: September 26, 2012 7:52am
 
 
If you're wondering where I've been lately, I have been outside working to bring my yard into compliance with the desires of my "neighbors."  I use this term exceedingly loosely because there is nothing truly neighborly about them.  Mind you, I wouldn't care if they went about their lives and let me go about mine.  What I object to is that they never come to see if they can help, they just cowardly tattle to the teacher (in this case the City of Houston) when I don't meet their OCD, anally retentive, control issues sense of what things could be like.  

To be honest, I don't many of them by name. What I do know is that most of them arrived in this neighborhood after I did.  When I arrived in June of 1957, most of this area was still woods, open fields, or farm land.  I heard coyotes howling at night.  there were bats swooping out of the sky to eat the mosquitoes, lightening bugs, and yes the odd rattlesnake in our yard.  What do you expect?  Immediately behind our house were acres of piney woods.  I reckon I learned to dispatch a rattler to meet his maker with a garden hoe by the time I was 6.

These people can call in anonymously and get me in trouble -- threats of liens and big bills from the city to clean up my land.  Let me make it clear.  I don't have 2 or three junked up cars sitting out front.  It's just that we had a drought last summer, which allowed bermuda grass (where the heck that came from, I have no idea) and some weeds (ditto -- I know I didn't sow 'em) that got GASP över nine inches tall!  Some weeds, not a whole yard full.  The grass was about three inches tall.  We have been battling to get the yard in shape ever since last fall when the drought and pine bark beetles took out six of the large pines which were living here when I arrived.

I cannot describe how seriously the stress of the threat, along with the hours of physical labor, has impacted my health.  I'm not supposed to be out in the sun.  So I found shaded areas where I could work.  We do not have thousands of dollars to spend on this project, so my husband and I are doing it mostly by ourselves.  My brother did provide some money to pay for tools and maintenance supplies for them, and for some temporary labor.  The latest purchase today was a 48"two man crosscut saw.  We needed this to cut up the REALLY big logs.  These are 6-8' lengths of loblolly pines, all upwards of 55 years old.  Some of them were probably in the 75-100 year old range.

What I can tell you is that every joint in my body aches, and I am so tired that I fell asleep outside several times over the last couple of days while working.  I have chopped two or three brush piles into mulch.  What looks like a huge brush pile reduces to about 1 cubic yard of mulch.  I did this with a set of pruning shears.  I have also sawn up, with a bow saw, about a dozen or so branches 3-6" in diameter.  We did find a bargain on a chipper/shredder which takes anything up to 1-1/4"diameter, so I spent a few hours feeding that as well.  Anything over 6" and under a foot in diameter gets the chainsaw.  My husband does that. Anything over a foot is gonna get the crosscut saw.

There's another solid week, two weeks of work to be done, and I'd appreciate any prayers you care to offer for the strength to keep on keeping on.  I was barely walking this morning.  I worked until the bottom dropped out of the clouds and then I came inside.  I gotta admit that I didn't get as much work done today, because I hurt so badly every time I pull the pruning shears shut to cut a limb that I have to stop and will the pain away.

I have decided a couple of things.  One, I am going to find the money to put privacy screening -- like they have on tennis courts -- around my backyard.  I have a couple to the south of me that have been calling the city on us for forty years.  Complete assholes the pair of them.  She's a nosey gossipy pretentious cow whom I have done my best to avoid since her family moved in around 1960.  He's so compulsive he went outdoors in very hot weather to mow his 1 1/2"buzz cut lawn to 1/2"one year and had a heart attack.  I don't want this for my husband.   They also violated the city's water rationing last year to keep their freaking lawn green!  I resented this because when I went to take a shower I was lucky to get water at all.  Did I call the city on them?  Noooooooo.  Nor on the other neighbors who were also violating the restrictions.  I'm not the kind of person who tattles, snitches or looks for ways to make life difficult for other people, even when they do it to me.  However, when I take all these sawn up pieces of my old friends the trees to create bed edgings, I am going to place some in this pattern facing their plate glass window: n9m.  Maybe I'll make it a recurring pattern.  They steal my Meyer lemons every year anyway.  

Behind me is another jewel of a neighbor.  He came to the fence to talk to my husband one day.  He wanted us to cut down all the yaupons that make up our back hedge "because they drop leaves in my yard."  "It sure would help me out," he says.  When my husband told me, I gave a few minutes thought to remembering what he'd done to help us out.  Since I came up empty, I let my husband's answer to them stand "Feel free to cut off the branches on your side of the fence.""  This OCD also wanted us to cut down a pine tree in OUR YARD because it dropped needles on his yard.  We offered to rake them up, but he said no, that tree was going to come down in a windstorm some day, and it should come down.  He'd pay for it.  This exchange occurred while we were cutting down the dead trees and that was one of the two living pines left.  Then he started in ragging us about the pine logs two days after they were cut.  Since he's not my boss, or my father, or anyone whose opinion about anything means a damn to me, I ignored him..  Privacy screen him out too!.

To the north, the neighbors aren't so bad.  Her grandfather was a pain in the ass when he lived there, but we made our peace with her mother, and she and her husband, while they have some annoyingly noisy dogs seem to be pretty good hearted live and let live people.  

The other thing I decided is that modern Americans are woosies that our Founding Fathers would be ashamed of.  I have a deeper appreciation of those brave souls who entered the deep woods, swamps, and such over Carolina, Virginia, Georgia way and hacked down all those trees by hand and made them into log cabins, tool sheds, barns and the like.  It's damned hard work!  And I didn't have to take down the 90' trees by hand either!   I'm trying to imagine what would have happened in 1730 if someone had called all his neighbors together and said "Let's implement something called deed restrictions that mandate everyone having a St. Augustine lawn in front of their cabin, and not letting any weeds get over 9" tall on their land nor having any undergrowth over 9"tall.  Oh and no dead, decaying vegetable matter such as leaves or pine needles or fallen twigs."    I swear I hear laughter and calls for commitment to the state asylum for the insane!

On the bright side, I got to watch a number of lovely songbirds flitting about my trees in my little glade on my NW corner.  Lizards, skinks, anoles, and even a bunny live in my overgrown area.  Not a pet rabbit, but a wild one.  I haven't seen much of him while I've been working ;  I think he's afraid of us.  My husband put out some rabbit food for him though.  Sadly, my bees have departed, probably as a result of the heavy spring rains.  I have a clematis virginia, known also as Virgin's Bower Flower on my north gate, in full, luscious bloom.

I've also made a couple of vine birdhouses when I take a break.  One-and-a-half really, but I'll get it finished.  Now I have to get in bed before I fall apart. 
 
 
Most of us are suspicious and distrustful of people we meet on FB, with some well-founded reasons.  However, it is beyond me how, with all the extreme couponers around, I have been unable to interest anyone in the coupons I am willing to give away..  I have tried giving them to neighbors, to extreme couponing website operatiors, to FB friends.  So far as I know, nobody has responded.  Is it because I ask for a mailing address?  Is it because my form didn't work?  Nobody even wants to leave a record of visiting my website apparently.  Well, guess what?  If someone gives me their address and asks for some coupons, they're going to get those coupons (unless someone asked first & they were gone already.  I have literally 100s of coupons I will never use.  What am I asking in return?  Nothing. Oh sure, I'll accept Coveted Coupons off my list if they are sent to me.  And after all, my return address will be right on the envelope with the coupons I send out..  Is it required?  Nope.  Will I be more inclined to continue sending coupons to those who send something back? Sure, who wouldn't be?  However, I can probably offer all comers some of what they ask for.

I'm also thinking about this because I am dealing with a family member who has clearly developed an intense paranoia as part of a bipolar disorder.  This relative keeps complaining about not having any money, but all suggestions about saving money are seen as attempts to "control my life."  The latest manifestation is a belief that I and another cousin are "breaking into my house and going through my papers when I'm not home."  This is actually laughable, and dreadfully sad.  From my readings on this disorder, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking are part of the illness.  The reason I say this is laughable is that, to be blunt, neither of us has the time, nor the inclination, to figure out when she's not home (her hours are irregular), rush over to her house, commit a crime, and get out before either she returns or someone notices and calls the cops.  In short, we have our OWN lives to live, and plenty of activities to fill up the hours of those lives.   That's another characteristic of bipolar disorder apparently -- self-absorption to the point that one thinks everyone else's activities revolve around them.  That nobody has anything to do except pour their time down the drain marked "How to make life difficult for her." That, and the fact that with my SLE, the scenario she has imagined is literally impossible for me.  I don't move that fast, and if I ever did break into her house, I'd probably fall asleep on the floor before I could rifle through her papers!

Not that I don't have sympathy for her troubles.  I rather imagine that living with a constant belief that others are trying to control one, sabotage one, or make one miserable has to be hallacious.  I really cannot, and do not want to, put myself in those shoes.  Normal life, in which people, through their clumsniess, preoccupations, and dsitractions hurt each other's feelings and create problems, from minor to major ones, is bad enough.  To be completely honest, I have also encountered people with horrendous streaks of "I don't get mad, I get even."  Now that sounds clever, but in my experience the getting even from these people is usually magnified by several times over the original affront.  IF that affront is a misinterpretation of events and intents, you may be dealing with someone with emotional imbalances.

I maintain a general distrust myself of certain things.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  My employers weren't interested in my well-being as much as in the bottom line, so I didn't trust them to protect me.  Politicians are more interested in serving their parties and their pocketbooks than serving the people, so I don't trust them to protect the people.  There'a a lot fo things I don't broadcast on FB to any and all.  (Sadly, I'm sure the government and most employers and any good hackers could find them out, and probably have).

We live in a society built on distrust.  Republicans and their voters distrust the motivations of the poor. We are told to be afraid of terrorists, hackers, sex offenders, yada yada yada.  Blacks mistrust whites, and while to some extent that is with good reason, it can also be carried to the extreme.  Hispanics distrust whites and, at least in some places, Blacks.  Then there's the distrust of Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, and just about every religion in America, and "secularists,"  which many oddly seem to see as equivalent to "atheists."  It's not.  Remember when Jesus said "Render unto Caesar tjat which is Caesar's?"  Jesus was saying there are things of the Spirit, or God, and things of the world (Caesar) and each has their place.  If that wasn't a clear statement of the separation of church (Spirit) and state (Casear).  "Secular" simply refers to those things which are of the state:  schools, taxes, government, public roads, etc.

Isn't about time we learn to take some informed risks?  Or do we want to resort to becoming a nation where nobody trusts anybody and we are all paranoid?  It will certainly make the job of those who wish to control us easier if we all distrust each other.  Freedom is self-governance.