Sow There! Weeds go to work when Disney lures the gardener away, 1-5-17

The first of the Virginia creeper blooms.
The first of the Virginia creeper blooms. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
Lettuce sprouted on some unknown warm day and is now growing in the same pot as the fig tree.Lettuce sprouted on some unknown warm day and is now growing in the same pot as the fig tree.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but people in Chico really like dressing up in costumes. Halloween, of course, is a time when normally straight-laced men have a free ticket to dress as their favorite Disney princess, giving new meaning to the term “man bun.”

I’ve noticed other perfectly fine excuses for donning ruby slippers or a top hat. At ChicoCon, the local comic book convention, people create fantastic costumes based on their favorite characters. The trend continues with 5K races. It’s no longer surprising to see runners in sherbert-colored tutus or tall “Cat in the Hat” headwear. If you were lucky enough to score a ticket to see the Yule Logs in concert, you saw more than one grown-up wearing elf pajamas.

I would imagine this trend can’t be centered in Butte County.

Yet, be assured, funny hats abound in the land of the magical mouse. Last week I traveled with my family to Disneyland. We counted at least two dozen styles of mouse ears. This was in addition to the floppy Goofy hats, pumpkin heads, Santa caps and other must-have head-toppers. If you’re debating your options, I recommend the tall, pointed, furry, blue wizard hat. When the teenagers in our group raced to the line for the roller coasters, the old folks could easily spot the pointed blue cap in the far distance, past the barricade of baby strollers.

At Universal Studios, one could cover their head like a minion, or conjure the look of any character from the Harry Potter franchise.

With all this hat action, my rubber chicken shocked absolutely no one.


The interesting thing about vacations is that whether I am gone for three days or a month, its always comforting to return home. As my car whizzed past the first flooded rice fields, something inside me started to ease. After the frenzy of SoCal, I nodded my allegiance to empty fruit stands and the familiar patterns of leafless orchards.

Absent, of course, was the Handsome Woodsman, who would have pointed out hawks on the top rungs of rustic fences. We would have replayed our favorite theme-park moments, and wondered what the kitty had been doing while we were gone.

Instead, I turned on the radio and literally heard Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”

As I neared the Sutter Buttes, and spotted the fields filled with snowgeese, I pulled over to see the view, as I would have done if I had not been traveling solo.


Luckily, I was not alone when I reached Chico. A friend had been house-sitting but the Feline Unit acted as if she hadn’t had wet food since 1998. After a few necessary greetings, I spent the last hour of sunlight noticing what had changed in the yard. Plants are very much like small children, if you look away for half a day, they’ve grown two inches. The portulaca looks like leftover vermicelli and the philodendron turned to a frozen, mushy mess. I’m glad I have vases filled with philodendrons inside the house.

While I was gone, the “Christmas Cheer” poker plant, Kniphofia, had created two-foot spikes in my absence. I’ll enjoy watching the candycorn colors appear over the next few weeks. For some reason, three Gerbera blooms had waited for my arrival, perhaps to reward me for covering this potted plant during a recent freeze. The Virginia creeper (an invasive vine planted by a previous tenant) is showing the first bits of yellow beneath its green, winter shells. Lettuce is growing at the base of the potted fig tree and the spinach Dave planted months ago is nearly ready for the first harvest.

I’m convinced that weeds have secret stealth abilities, and take note of a vacationer’s departure from the driveway. Secret mechanisms awake and weeds force their energy into flowers and seeds, hoping to reproduce before you can put away your Disney memorabilia. Common groundsel made the big move, trying to bully out the nascent poppy seedlings I planted in the alley. Baby mallow have flocked to the empty spaces like elves at a Yule Log concert.

Ha ha! I say (with my Maleficent howl).

I’m not afraid to do weed battle.

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