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Another Day in the Country

The state of sunflowers

© Another Day in the Country

Sunflowers have been the golden symbol of Kansas for me ever since I was a child. There was this little ditty I learned to sing about being a “sunflower from the Sunflower State.” Long after Kansas had been left behind, the song remained. Wherever I saw sunflowers, whether the blossoms were in a ditch growing wild or big fancy blooms tied up in a bow at the florist’s, they spoke of the prairie.

There are always sunflowers growing in my yard. Some of them I plant on purpose. Most of them come up on their own with wild abandon because wherever they find themselves in my yard they are better off than in a ditch. In the spring, I’m pulling sunflower seedlings just like any old common weed, in order to not be taken over by their proliferation.

And just about the time I get everything under control, I take off for a trip to California. You know how it is when you go on any kind of vacation? There are certain things that you just have to relinquish to the fates. No matter how good your caretaker is, he or she doesn’t have the time nor the eye to do it all just like you do.

So, when I return home after an extended trip, I’m grateful that everything is still standing, the lawn is green and mowed, and the garden is producing tomatoes and cucumbers. I got back a week ago, and all is well.

That first morning home, I looked out the bedroom window to a wall of green. It is amazing how fast and how high things can grow in 30 days, especially the sunflowers. The plants that were about two feet high around the back of the bird feeder in June are now 10, 12 feet high and growing. The tiny little sunflower seedlings that I ignored in the larkspur are now five feet tall, lining the sidewalk so dense on both sides that going back to the chicken house is like chopping your way through the Amazon rainforest.

There are too many sunflowers. Lovely as they may be it looks as if sunflowers are taking over the world. They are so dense you can’t even see the birdfeeder. And you know who is to blame for this sunflower madness coming up in my semi-orderly flower beds? It’s the birds.

I feed mostly sunflower seeds in that bird feeder, and in the spring all it takes is a flock of blackbirds or one errant blue jay to empty that feeder in a jiffy. That jay will scoop seeds every which way down onto the garden soil. He’s looking for something new and different, and all he encounters is sunflower seeds. And so I have a never-ending source of new little sunflower plants.

In desperation, attempting to regain some control over my backyard yesterday, I tried running the lawnmower over some of them. It didn’t work. Some of those plants were already like mini-trees, and the younger ones just bent down until the blades passed over and then sprang back up in search of the sun. They weren’t to be stopped from growing, nor were they going to give in to my need for order.

Whenever I get back to home base, there are a million things to do. There’s all the mail to go through, suitcases to unpack, laundry to be done, columns to write, and gradually you settle back into the rhythm of spending another day in the country.

Last modified July 31, 2014

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