Friday, March 25, 2016

Back Of My Neck Getting Dirty And Gritty

I have this waking hours fantasy.  As I work in the yard, a deliciously handsome young man walks down the street.  He pauses in front of my house and I watch him surreptitiously through the flowers: White shorts, low white Cons, shirtless, with sun-bleached hair, a golden tan and washboard abs. He crosses the lawn.  I look up at him-his skin glistening with a faint sweat.  His eyes are green, flecked with gold and he has a small cleft in his chin as he smiles down at me.  He pushes a wisp of hair out of my face and asks "what can I do to make you happy?"

I reply: "Weed my garden."

Right now, I have more blisters on my hands than days since the beginning of spring. I've spent my time off pulling weeds, tilling soil and spending beau-coup bucks all in the quest of a beautiful yard.   

When Wingman was alive, I was not embarrassed to say that what I knew, or for that matter CARED to know about lawns and gardening could fit on the head of a pin.  I would look outside, give the yard a blessing, and then curse him for spending hundreds of dollars on plants, sprays, feeds, seeds and whatnot to make our yard look ridiculously good.

Almost four years after his death, I am even more embarrassed to say that what I have learned about my little piece of God's green earth now fits in a thimble.  Last May, I looked out at the crabgrass and sighed, blessed myself before going into the big box store garden center and then cursed MYSELF for not knowing that step one of weed and feed was supposed to go down two months earlier in March (wait, wasn't it COLD then?). I was forced to rely on associates practicing their dance moves for Soul Train to tell me if I should buy the green bag or yellow bag of fertilizer and cursed myself more when I realized that they knew less than me.  Then the final curse came when at the register, I found myself spending hundreds of dollars on stuff that I couldn't guarantee would make the yard look any better. I envisioned a very smug Wingman giving me the finger for my ignorance.

So what infinite knowledge can I impart?  Things I've learned the hard way:

Lesson #1 learned: Thatching is hard work.Two years ago this spring, I thatched the entire yard and then had to dispose of 37 Hefty black bags of grass clippings. That required a ninja-style nighttime raid to leave them at vacant houses for the trash men to take the 4-bags-per-household limit. Then I seeded the yard, which the birds promptly ate.  I later learned that seeding was a fall chore, which I gladly paid my brother to do a full year later.

Lesson #2 learned: Last spring, I bought and took a week to put down 50 bags of black mulch.  Three trips to the big box store. Carried every bag myself.  Fought with the dog, who thought that dragging the bags, spilling mulch around the yard was a game. Learned through trial and error that my brother would have charged $25 less to deliver and put it all down in one day, and it would have been the proper 3" thick.

Lesson #3 learned: You can't fix dead. Two years ago, I planted a dozen Hydrangeas, then dug up 9 that died and replanted more...because I love Hydrangeas.  Loved them so much, I willed them to live. It didn't work, so last year, I dug up 6 more dead ones and replaced them with knockout roses which don't seem to need me to pay attention to them-they just grow on their own.

Lesson #3A learned: Even those knockout roses needed some summer TLC. Rose slugs left holes in the leaves which required my new Ghostbusters backpack spray treatment. I swear someone got the idea to recast that movie with women after seeing me in my full regalia.
Lesson #4 learned: If you can't fix dead, make it look like art. Erma Bombeck may have been right when she said "The grass is always greener over the septic tank" but this Japanese Maple over the well (whose pump died right after Sandy) didn't stand a chance. I trimmed, then cut, then hacked, then CHOPPED, and finally bought some glass globes and said "The hell with it." Now I have to pay someone to cut it down all the way and grind the stump because I'm seeing ants bore their way in.  Ants, I've learned, are not connoisseurs of art.

Lesson #5 learned: Impatiens require patience which I lost as I watched them grow, or rather not grow last summer. I mean, I planted them all in the exact same soil, the exact same conditions.  So why did one row grow perfectly and the other look sickly? And then there were the weeds that grew between them better than the flowers. When we owned our deli, I use to complain to Wingman that slicing lettuce for subs was the dumbest job I had. Weeding the gardens has surpassed that. I would finish, go in and shower to go to work, and by the time I came out to leave, more weeds had popped through and were giving me the green finger. I believe that same smug Wingman had something to do with that.

Then again, there were other forces working against me.

I remember last fall, exhausted yet proud of how the front yard looked. The mums were alternating yellow and white to coordinate with the cream colored siding. The corn stalks at the front door-had a jaunty orange bow to brighten their drab tan color, while two pumpkins sat at the base. I stepped away from the front and hummed to myself  "It's the most wonderful time of the year" not because I loved fall, because I DON'T. The only thing even remotely good about that season is that October is my birthday month. I sang because it meant that the spring and summer seasons to take care of my yard were O-V-E-R.

And here it is again..spring. People are right now taking to social media to post pictures of crocus and daffodils emerging from their winter hiding spots through Sunday's snow.  So cute-right??? Bullshit. I for one, am busy chronicling my weeds on Pinterest, so I know what non-Monsanto owned, non-GMO chemical crap will kill them. Non-Monsanto, because I have a soul-albeit a very black one.  Black like my dead Hydrangeas. Which have mostly all died, even though I love them and will continue to try.

Hmmmmm...I wonder if Monsanto would consider creating a GMO eternal life Hydrangea for me?

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