I watched the “Alone” series on the History Channel, in which 10 survivalists were dropped at 10 separate locations on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, with only 10 items each.
The island, which is 290 miles long and 30 miles wide, is northwest of Seattle — you know, the city with a reputation for rain in spite of the fact that Atlanta gets 10 more inches of rain a year on average. Wet and windy locations were selected for each contestant. One contestant was run off almost immediately by bears, and another run off after being stalked by a cougar — no firearms or he would have had cougar on a stick over his campfire. One got sick after drinking contaminated water.
As the field thinned, I began rooting for the Georgia man in the competition, and not just because he is from Georgia. Alan Kay from Blairsville spoke elegantly and poetically about wilderness, nature, the human condition and our disconnectedness from nature — one of my favorite rant topics. Alan grew his beard and hair, waxed philosophical, lost 60 pounds and won the competition.
The show broadcast in the heat of August. Recently, I had a chance to spend an entire day outside puttering around and enjoy a respite in the rain. I had my version of an Alan Kay moment. This month, we have been teased with a couple of cool, clear, crisp autumn-like days following the drenching we got the first two weeks of this month. The frogs in the tupelo swamp behind my house are very happy with all the mosquito larvae they have to feast upon. The tupelo tree in my yard is starting to show its first dark-red autumn leaves. It’s enough to awaken the poet in you. However, I am not the modern-day Thoreau that Kay is.
With all the precipitation we have received this year, maybe I could do a poor version of “Alone” by camping out in my backyard. In the rain. Watching it become Walden Pond. Trapping the wily possum. Field-dressing the mosquitoes. Being stalked by house cats and raccoons. Moles roasting over a campfire. Hearts of palm roasting inside possum on the half shell (armadillo). A feral hog if I am lucky. And the best part — dropping 60 pounds. I hear that after not bathing for two weeks, the bugs will leave you alone. The downside is that your wife will just leave you and take with her pretty much whatever she wants. Then, I would be “Alone” in a tent.
Nope, might not be such a good idea after all. I have gotten way too “civilized” for that much excitement. So at the risk of having to turn in my man card, I think I’ll pass on emulating Kay.
There are signs of “civilization” everywhere you turn. A few folks in my subdivision tried to mow their lawns the week after Labor Day and wound up mud-bogging on their lawn tractors. The next rains washed the mud off the grass, but the soil compaction is forever.
I let the waters recede from what we laughingly refer to as my “lawn” and proceeded to cut hay the 13th. Then the bottom dropped out on the 16th, and all that lovely rainwater went right down the curb to the marsh and river. It can’t soak in if the soil is already full of rain water. Just a couple of years ago, we were begging for rain just like the West is begging for now.
If you are wondering what to do now that you don’t have to put PFDs on the kids when they go outside, here are some quick dos and don’ts:
• Do wear mosquito repellent when you venture out, particularly when the air is calm or you are near the woods or after 3 p.m. The skeeters are hungry, and you smell like lunch to them.
• Do not put any more fertilizer on your lawn. Centipede-lawn owners should have put their last application on in July and St. Augustine-turf owners should have made their last fertilizer application by Sept. 15. If you missed a treatment, don’t worry. Close up the bag, put it in a cool, dry place out of the sun and apply it next May. If annual bluegrass (Poa annua) has been a problem in your lawn, a pre-emerge application is not due until probably the middle of October when daytime highs dip into the 70s. Go ahead and buy the pre-emerge you want; just don’t apply it until daytime highs remain in the 70s. For now, just get out there and enjoy the cooler weather.
The Most Interesting Man is the World says, “Stay thirsty, my friends.” I’ll just say, “Stay civilized.”
Gardner is an ag and natural-resources agent for the University of Georgia’s Glynn County Extension.