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Green Acre #12: Going Postal


The Cavanaugh attempt at a letter-carrier deterrent. / Photo here and on the cover by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

CAN YOU MAKE OUT this abomination from the photo above? I upped the contrast as best I could, but if I find it hard to see, I imagine you’ll find it nearly impossible, which on the one hand is too bad because it is really ugly, and on the other just as well, because it is really ugly.

The ugly this I am referring to is a blockade My Prince erected to thwart the postal persons who have worn a path across the ivy-covered front yard so he or she doesn’t have to walk down the front walk, down the sidewalk and up the neighbor’s front walk to deliver what’s left of the daily mail—usually a real estate postcard and a WETA fundraising letter.

We began with polite requests to cease the trampling. When they were ignored, in went a spike-topped section of wrought iron fence where said trampling usually began, more a symbolic barrier, a gentle suggestion that this was not a path but a garden. Sadly, the hint was disregarded, so a length of chicken wire was stuck to the left of the bit of fence, striking a slightly more ominous note.

One day, to test its efficacy, I kept an ear out for the mail truck, then lurked downstairs until our little offerings were slipped through the door slot. Then I skittered to the curtain and caught the postwoman, ear glued to her cell phone,  skirting the construct. Throwing open the door I flew out to the porch. “WHY? Why are you crossing the yard?!” I yelled. “Don’t you see that fence?”

“Nope,” she said with a shrug and turned her back to continue both her conversation and the swift completion of her appointed rounds, which may or may not mean delivering the mail to the appropriate slot.

“Flowers!” I cried as she waltzed off. “Flowers are coming up—little buds you can scarcely see—and you’re walking all over them.”  You would think this would touch her, but it didn’t. I mean: girls, flowers, that sort of thing. It’s interesting that I usually have more luck using this line with men who have the grace to look dismayed at hurting the bitty flowers with their big dumb feet.

With this latest affront, a length of rusty chicken wire was laid to the right of the bit of fence.

And yet, despite these ploys, the booted crunch of our mistresses of the post—the women are the worst, the most vengeful—continued skirting the newly enhanced barrier.

One might think we’d have long ago given up and laid a neat line of stepping stones across the yard. One might say this pile of junk that greeted visitors was worse than the sin of tromping on the ivy. One might. But there is a principle involved.

So we went in another direction. While the back garden has evolved from your basic dirt to a jungle of irresistible invasives and tropical plants that occupy most of our garden busywork, the front yard, we planted once and were done. In went a pair of forsythias to soften the porch rail, a pink dogwood positioned to set our house apart from our neighbor’s and a groundcover of ivy, sprinkled with spring bulbs.

If the original idea was lack of fuss, the new concept would be a screaming mass of flowers and foliage that would be guaranteed to smack even the most dimwitted across the nose.  The dogwood, a dismal failure, was replaced with a charmingly frilly red-leaf maple, pots and pots of this and that were scattered, and annuals sprinkled between them. In a triumph of “Where did you come from?” several clumps of Queen Anne’s lace have taken root, a six-foot volunteer barricade of flamboyant doily flowers. There’s even a length of fence (actually a whimsically curlicued iron headboard). One would, in short, have to battle through this with such determination…

And yet . . . just yesterday . . . she found a bloody gap.

I am now thinking of laying a wire grid, something completely undetectable and irritatingly trippable across the ivy. Ha-ha. And if that doesn’t work, land mines.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

Gardener Cavanaugh is writing a book on urban gardening, of which dealing with urban pests, including postal workers, is an integral part. To read earlier stories, type Green Acre in the Search box at the top of the screen.

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