Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

If you’re a student of history, you might recall that the Wars of the Roses were fought in England back in the 1400s. This series of wars was due to a disagreement over control of the throne between the House of Lancaster, symbolized by a red rose, and the House of York, which used the white rose as its symbol.

To this day, the city of York, Pennsylvania, is known as the White Rose City, while neighboring Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is the Red Rose City. Fortunately, these two towns seem to get along better than their namesakes.

Here at Wunnerfitz Farm, we’ve been fighting a series of different battles lately. Ours have been against roses of the invasive kind, and hoses of the non-functioning type — both of which were located in the same theater of war. We recently used the element of surprise to attack both of these enemies almost simultaneously.

It went something like this:

Corporal Sue had been reconnoitering the sheep and goat pasture from an adjacent grassy area she mowed every week or so. She was distressed to observe that the natives had not been doing their duty of dispensing with several noxious weeds that had cropped up in their bivouac area. Instead of patrolling their turf as ordered, Oatus, Ms. Martini, Bianca and Remy had obviously fallen down on the job and allowed an invasion, not only of some nasty-looking Canadian thistles, but also of a dreaded enemy.

The corporal could see that some of the spindly bushes sprouting up in the sheep pasture bore a strong resemblance to multiflora rose — an enemy she had battled previously. She made a mental note to later scout out any attempted incursions into the pasture territory by the nimble multiflora rose, an innocent-looking rosebush impostor that can quickly grow from one or two spiny canes into a thorny shrub nearly impossible to reckon with.

She also searched for the rose’s evil ally, the tree of heaven, also called ailanthus — a favorite food of yet another foe, the invading spotted lanternfly. Fortunately, Corporal Sue didn’t see any ailanthus.

But, before the corporal had time to decisively identify any of the reckless rose, the occasion arose for General Dennis Keith, with the corporal’s assistance, to begin preparations for moving beef troops into the pasture for the summer.

After having experienced some water-supply system difficulties to the pasture at the end of last year’s grazing season, it had been determined earlier that a mission would be necessary to replace a long run of garden hose from the Wunnerfitz command post’s waterline to the pasture’s heavy-duty plastic “canteen,” or water trough.

Originally, Corporal Sue and General Keith had planned this upcoming skirmish for early spring. But, other skirmishes had taken precedence until about a week before the Hereford troops were to be moved to their summer encampment. So, the general marched out and measured the distance from the headquarters’ water source to the point along a distant fenceline where the waterline connected to the sturdy well pipe that fed into the pasture water trough.

General Keith traveled to a hardware store and procured several, hundred-foot lengths of good quality, non-kink hose, plus an extra 50 feet, just to be sure the hose replacement mission could be successfully accomplished.

Meanwhile, during a pasture patrol, Corporal Sue was able to make a positive identification on at least two small patches of multiflora rose. She dutifully reported this to the general, who mixed up a batch of lethal herbicide to attack this vicious enemy. It was jointly decided that the battle of the roses would take place on the same day as the battle of the hoses.

The day of the battle dawned sunny and humid. The battle plan required some modifications based on existing conditions, namely, the old hose had been overtaken in many areas by tangled weeds. This required the general to use a weed wacker to expose said hose. However, even this heroic effort did not avoid the need for a tug of war where the hose had become buried in soil. The general and the corporal coordinated the attack and jointly were able to remove not only the most recently installed bad hose, but also a confusing array of two or three other old, abandoned hoses in certain areas.

These enemy hoses were taken into custody and subsequently confined to a grassy area behind the former milkhouse for future disposition. Laying down the new hose turned out to be the least challenging part of the mission. But, in the process, one additional multiflora rose enemy was discovered. This launched phase two of the operation.

General Keith returned to the barn for his bladed weed wacker. When he dispatched the thorny arms of all three multiflora rose encampments, Corporal Sue conducted chemical warfare on the remaining rose bush stumps, using the herbicidal cocktail previously prepared.

Fortunately, this Lebanon County war of the roses and the hoses did not require the long years of the original Wars of the Roses. Nevertheless, it did leave the victorious combatants tired, sunburned and ready to retreat to their barracks. There they eagerly awaited the playing of taps so they could retire to their bunks.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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