Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fun Calls

I answer hundreds and hundreds of telephone calls each year. Most are straight forward requests for information about problems people are having with their plants. I try my best to give an answer or direct the people to someone else who might be able to help. Occasionally, I get a call that makes me sit back and laugh or shake my head in wonder. Here are a few.

Someone called and asked me, “Who was the Extension Agent on the 1960’s television show ‘Green Acres’?” The strange part was that I knew that the name was Hank Gimble. He was my boyhood hero growing up on our farm next to the Douglas’ in Hooterville.

Recently I got a call from a lady who said she opened her clothes washer and found a snake curled up inside. About once every spring, I get a frantic call from someone who has dozens of snakes all around the outside of the house. This happens most often to people who have old, “Michigan” basements made of rocks. The snakes find a cavity outside next to the foundation and slither in to spend the winter. In the spring, they get confused and some will wander indoors rather than outside to sun themselves on a rock.

One person demanded to know how to rid her property of squirrels that were pestering her children. She lived in a wooded area of Jackson surrounded by trees in all directions. I wasn’t able to give any good advice in this case other than, “I guess you’ll just have to learn to live with them.”

We have been having trouble with grubs destroying lawns in Jackson for several years now. One person I talked to thought that the grubs were brought in by the smoke from the county incinerator. Several people believed that they were spread by the salt trucks in the winter since most of the damage is near the street and sidewalk. It is a good observation, but the truth is that the grubs are most active there because the heat retained by the cement warms up the soil sooner in the spring and stays warmer longer into the fall. This helps the cold blooded grubs to stay active longer so they can eat more grass roots and kill more plants than in a colder site.

People often want to know what to feed their pumpkins to get the huge ones you see n the newspapers every fall. They don’t understand that you need to start with seeds from large pumpkins. Where do you register a giant pumpkin? As it turns out, there is an organization in New York that registers big pumpkins to see which are world records.

Horticulturally challenged people often do not stop to think that trees get old and die just like other organisms. They see them as non-changing artifacts that are “just there” and should never change. I am always hearing the phrase, “That tree has been there for 40 years and it has never developed those spots on its leaves before.” I am getting to a point in life where I can now reply, “You know, I have aches and pains I did not have twenty years ago either. I guess it’s all a part of getting older whether you are a tree or a human being.”