Oct 6 2014

Honey-Do Rescue

Melissa Crytzer Fry

For years, I have begged my husband to “help” with any number of honey-dos and ‘saves’ around the ranch:

Can you build me a kestrel box?… Please make sure the hummingbird feeder is full while I’m gone so that the nectar-eating bats have food… Can you build a platform for the nesting roadrunners?

Baby roadrunner, who left Mr. Honey-Do's platform nest a bit too soon. Click to enlarge.

Baby roadrunner, who left Mr. Honey-Do’s platform nest a bit too soon. Click to enlarge.

… There’s a lizard in the campground toilet. Save him! … Can you disconnect those lights so the oriole can build her nest? … A hummingbird cam would be great… Mama deer and baby deer keep missing one another under the tree (the trail camera time stamp says so!) They’re separated. Can’t we do something? …

Yeah, yeah… the list goes on. And with my most recent, rather-insane rescue recommendation hubby said, “I think I figured out a better name for your blog.” Saving the World One Honey-Do at a Time.

Yes, a great idea, except it’s too long for a url. And I’m not the one doing the honey-dos (but I sure am glad he is open to all my world-saving antics. He’s even stopped his vehicle – on his own – on a busy highway to rescue a desert tortoise crossing the road).

So…What prompted his recent renaming ruminations? This time it was this:

What’s the big deal, you ask? Looks like a battered, washed-up plant, you say. Whoopee. Click to enlarge. (We fixed the slow-to-open photo issue. I dare you to click!).

What’s the big deal, you ask? Looks like a battered, washed-up plant, you say. Whoopee, you think? Click to enlarge.

This is a saguaro … not just any plant. It was on its way to becoming a giant cactus – the equivalent of East Coast trees – one that takes hundreds of years to mature. They only grow here in the Sonoran desert. Nowhere else in the world. Many of you may recall my complete obsession with this towering giant that happens to wear a summer crown of white blossoms (Arizona’s state flower).

For all those reasons, I convinced Hubby — Mr. Honey-Do — to do this, despite the many ways we could have been impaled:

This saguaro was situated right in the middle of our wash, which, earlier this year, flowed with the ferocity of a large river. It uprooted her and took her a good quarter of a mile down the wash. Click to enlarge.

This saguaro was situated right in the middle of our wash, which, earlier this year, flowed with the ferocity of a large river. It uprooted her and took her a good quarter of a mile away. Click to enlarge.

Did I mention that saguaros are protected by law? As in: even if they are on your own property, you must get permission to move them. But in this case, this saguaro would have rotted and perished (about 50 years of growth gone), so moving her – or rescuing her – was imperative. You can imagine my freak-out when, after a trip to the East Coast, I came home and saw she was MISSING! (I’d had my eye on the slow creep of erosion that had exposed her roots on one side the year before).

Determined to find her, I went for a trek. Hubby was sure she went all the way down into the river, but I found her. I found her! And then the hard work began:

That cactus didn’t look so big out of context, did it? She’s about four-feet tall, and we estimate she weighs about 200 lbs. Click to enlarge.

That cactus didn’t look so big without context, did it? She’s about four-feet tall, and we estimate she weighs about 200 lbs. Click to enlarge.

Here she lies wrapped in shade cloth, up near the house, to avoid sunburn before transplant. Her roots needed to dry out, following a recommended trimming by the Cactus and Succulent Society. Click to enlarge.

Here she lies wrapped in shade cloth, up near the house, to avoid sunburn before transplant. Her roots needed to dry out, following a recommended trimming by the Cactus and Succulent Society (they were severely damaged). Click to enlarge.

I dug the hole. We chose a spot under an aging palo verde, for the shade. When the tree dies, she’ll hopefully be healthy and can stand on her own without the need for shade. Click to enlarge.

I dug the hole. We chose a spot under an aging palo verde, for the shade. When the tree dies, she’ll hopefully be healthy and can stand on her own without the need for shade. Click to enlarge.

Hubby built some padded braces. Click to enlarge.

Hubby built some padded braces. Click to enlarge.

We used this wooden horse to stabilize her and these purple straps to hoist her into her new home. Click to enlarge.

We used this wooden horse to stabilize her as we tugged on the purple straps to hoist her into her new home. Click to enlarge.

Hubby added the braces and some stakes with bungee cords to ensure she can re-root. You can see the scars and skin gashes she endured during her ride down the wash. Click to enlarge.

Hubby added the braces and some stakes with bungee cords to ensure she can re-root. You can see the scars and skin gashes she endured during her ride down the wash. Click to enlarge.

While we would love to high-five and call this a success, there are lots of things that can still go wrong… Like the rain that followed the next two weeks after we put her back in the ground (she needed to have DRY feet for at least two weeks to avoid rot. So I tarped and untarped her daily — worrying about too much moisture under the unbreathable tarp.)

Another possibility: her roots may not ‘take.’ And even if she appears to be green and still standing, she might do so for years before dying (that’s how much water they have stored inside). That’s why I did this:

I read that the only way to know if the cactus roots are taking in water in to do a baseline circumference measurement. I cut the string, then measured it: 28.25 inches. Next year, we’ll check during monsoon season to see if she’s expanded. Click to enlarge.

I read that the only way to know if the cactus roots are taking in water is to do a baseline circumference measurement. I cut the string, then measured it: 28.25 inches. Next year, we’ll check during monsoon season to see if she’s expanded. Click to enlarge.

And I did this:

To ensure I measure in the same spot next year, I painted her spines with polish. Click to enlarge.

To ensure I measure in the same spot next year, I painted her spines with polish. Click to enlarge.

So keep your fingers crossed that “Eileen” – as hubby named her (I Lean… Get it?) – makes it. She sure is worth saving to me: a probably 50-year-old gal even at that small stature (I think?). Worth the rescue. To me, at least. What say ye, Mr. Honey Do? Thank you for helping me save the world, one honey-do at a time!

For Readers, For Writers, Everyone: What’s worth saving to you? What have you rescued lately – a piece of writing? A friendship? A story idea? Do you want to save the world, too? Do you think little actions – tiny rescues – can make a difference?


20 Responses to “Honey-Do Rescue”

  • avatar Jessica McCann (@JMcCannWriter) Says:

    Wow, that’s quite an undertaking. Good for you, and good for hubby. I tend to be a “rescuer” too, although not nearly to the extent that you are! This reminds me of the starfish story. Here it is, if you haven’t heard it. http://creatingadestiny.com/benchmark-courses-the-starfish-story/

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I LOVE the starfish story. Thanks for sending the link so I could re-read it! I love that you’re a rescuer, too.

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    Great post, Melissa. I recall you telling me about Eileen. She’s beautiful! I wouldn’t have known to keep her dry.

    I absolutely believe in saving things – what we do matters, maybe not to everyone, but certainly to those we help. My most recent save was a homeless cat and her two kittens. The momma wasn’t feral. she’d gotten lost, or was abandoned. I brought them in, cared for them, fell in love with all three, then found a home for the kittens (a friend took them)and got momma, whom I named Maya, spayed. Maya lives with us now, and we adore her.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh, Cynthia … you know how much I love cats. I adore you for saving this mother and her babies. How wonderful of you to find new homes for the little ones and to keep the mama. PIctures, please! How does Maya do with the dog?

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Goodness, gracious, sakes alive! Saving Eileen was a well-worth-it massive undertaking. My hat is off to you and Mr. Honey-Do!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Ha. Yes, “massive” is THE right word!

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  • avatar Jessica Vealitzek Says:

    Yes – tiny rescues make a difference! I love rescuing, though I applaud the effort you put into it. We rescue on a smaller scale here in the suburbs. My kids and I rescue just about anything that looks like it needs help–a lost dog, a worm on the drying sidewalk, a cicada stuck in the grass…. What I like best about rescuing is the effect it has on other people–that my children and my husband have started rescuing too, and that we’re willing to help when we think it’s needed instead of just standing by and hoping someone else takes care of it.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Why does it not surprise me that your wistful yearning for farm life has translated into suburban rescues? How wonderful that you are teaching your children this kind of respect and compassion for animal/plant/insect life. Ugh – the “hoping someone takes care of it” situation… I find that “someone” never appears in those situations, and you just have to take charge yourself. I know you agree.

    On another note – so excited we’ll be meeting in a few weeks!

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  • avatar Jackie Cangro Says:

    My hat is off to you and Mr. Honey-Do. It’s a marvelous thing you’ve done.

    Do you know the story of the starfish and the boy who finds it washed up on the beach? He goes to great lengths to get it back into the ocean. When someone asks why he went to all the trouble because it doesn’t really make a difference in the big scheme of things. The boy responds that it made a big difference to that starfish. I’m sure I didn’t do the story justice, but I think that your efforts made a big difference to that one cactus.

    I hope Eileen (I Lean… 🙂 )thrives for another 50 years.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Yes – the starfish story! Another commenter mentioned it, and I LOVE it. I truly do. If all goes well, Eileen may live to be 200 years old! I’m always amazed to think that some of these big guys around my house may have taken root in 1814!

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    My friend, it’s no secret how much I admire you and your Honey-Do and ALL you do for our natural world. Feel lucky to share the planet with you, my dear.:)

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    You know I feel the same way about you and all the big-hearted things you and your family do for wildlife/the world!

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  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    This is beyond charming. I so admire your love for nature and critters and the lengths you and your hubby go to help them. I really hope Eileen makes it!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Aww… Charming. I like that; thank you. We’re all rooting (pun intended) for Eileen!

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  • avatar Mia Hayson Says:

    I love that you rescued her and I hope her roots take! I think lots of things are work rescuing when you put your mind to it. We can do a lot of good in this world if we approach everything like you approached this. 🙂

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks, Mia. have you ever seen a saguaro (they’re only in a specific part of the US)? They are so majestic — even more so, when thinking about just how slow-growing and unique they are.

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  • avatar Eleanor Vincent Says:

    Great post, Melissa. Kudos to you and your ever loving and patient husband for doing this and saving Eileen. I am equally protective of “my” hummingbirds and my 19-year-old cat. Since I don’t live on a ranch, I tend to save people (Maya and others) and memories through my writing. I totally get the impulse to save any living thing. Love it!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh yes … me and “my” hummers, and “my” deer – ha ha. (I just lost a kitty of 20 years, so I can understand the bond over that length of time). I love the concept of using your writing to save people and memories. So nice to meet you.

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  • avatar Nina Says:

    If there is a pair better matched for each other I have NOT heard of them! 🙂

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  • avatar Lisa Ahn Says:

    I agree with Nina — perfectly matched! I hope Eileen makes it. Great story!

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