Let’s talk about yard work and gardening, shall we? I seem to post a lot on social media about the work I do in and around my yard (so if you already get your fill of my lawn woes on Facebook or Instagram, feel free to bow out now), but I think I need to explain why it seems to be on my mind so very often.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I was born in the Midwest, and I’m sure the homes we lived in for the first few years of my life had lawns. But, I was an infant and don’t have any recollection of those times. I spent the bulk of my childhood living in San Diego, California. I know we had yards in those homes as well, but most of them also had pools in the backyards rather than a lot of grass because grass doesn’t grow all that well in California. I remember rose bushes and concrete and pools – I don’t remember much grass. There was grass, I just don’t recall it.
We moved back to Illinois when I was in Jr. High and our home had a large backyard. It had grass. I know my dad or my grandpa (who owned his own lawn care business after retirement) mowed the grass, but that home also had a pool – so I clearly concentrated more on that. And then I grew up and moved away and spent the next 15 years in dorm rooms and apartments and townhomes – no place that required me to learn how to take care of a lawn. My dad and grandpa taught me quite a few useful life skills like how to drive a stick shift and change a flat tire. I know how to do my taxes if I have to, and I can follow directions to put together most pre-fab furniture, but I never learned how to mow. My grandpa did teach me how to drive a John Deere riding mower all through the little town where he lived and once or twice he dropped the blades down so I could do a section of some of the large yards he serviced, but never in my life did I learn how to start and use a push mower.
I did live in a duplex for a couple of years that had a lawn. One time when the lawn got too high that it either required a goat or lawn mower, I borrowed one (a mower, not a goat) from a neighbor and did the best I could to cut the grass. But, after that one abysmal attempt, some guys moved into the otherside of the duplex and took over the lawn care – out of mercy for my poor, unskilled self.
When I got married, my husband took care of the lawn care duties – I took care of the inside, he took care of the outside. That was the deal we struck, and all went along without incident for many years.
But now, at 45 years old – I find myself living alone (well my daughter lives here too, but her interest in lawn care is even less than my own) in a home with huge front and backyards. When I was looking for a place to rent, I knew I needed a lawn for Romeo, our dog, because he and I are pretty lazy and while I don’t mind the occasional walk with a dog who hates a leash, I wasn’t going to do it multiple times a day. When we found this house and saw that it had not only a yard but a fenced yard and a lot of space for the dog to run around, it seemed like the perfect solution. Yes, I saw on the lease that the tenant was responsible for the upkeep of the yard, but I really did not think much about it. I just saw that the need for a yard had been met and signed on the dotted line.
And then reality hit – there is no one but me to make sure the mowing gets done and the yard doesn’t turn into a nesting ground for rodents and snakes and whatever else lives in tall grass. The critters that live in tall grass scare me more than actually attempting to cut the grass and so I pulled on my big girl pants and set about teaching myself how to mow.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why I didn’t just find a neighborhood teenager who had a lawn care business and pay him or her to do this job. Trust me, I ask myself that question twice a week – which is how often I mow. I’ve done the front and back yards in one day only once since living here – it was not fun – and so, I break the job up into a two day job and my body doesn’t yell at me as loudly when I’m finished. It’s a good system. But I digress. I haven’t hired anyone to come do the yard work because over the past year, the yard represents something more than grass and weeds and mulch and bushes and flowers – it represents something that I don’t know how to do and want to conquer. It has become a metaphor for everything else that is happening in my world, but it is something that I can actually control and impact the outcome and for that reason I keep doing it myself.
Over the past year, I have learned how to mow in nearly perfect lines. I have weeded and mulched the flower/bush beds in the front. I have tried, evaluated, discarded and found the right weed spray for the pesky and undesirable growths that happen on my gravel driveway. I have pruned the world’s largest hosta plant that is located in the middle of my backyard. I have tried, without success – yet – to tame a gigantic lilac bush, also planted in a most inconvenient space in the backyard. I have learned how to balance on one foot and angle the mower just right to mow along the drainage ditch in the front. I have wrangled with an electric hedge trimmer and purchased those scary hedge clippers that look like a medieval death device. I have added lawn art thingies and solar lights and mulch – have I mentioned the mulch? The mulch almost killed me. I even bought a gardening stool.
And last but not least, I bought a hanging plant. I have no record of past success with live plants. I love flowers. I buy flowers for the house every week. But live plants – these have been the bane of my flower loving existence. I’ve purchased outside and inside plants over the years and they tend to last a couple months and then find their forever home in a landfill somewhere after I acknowledged defeat and threw their brittle carcasses into the trash bin.
I bought the hanging plant in April. April 18th to be exact, and at the time of this writing, it is June 14th. If you have even rudimentary mathematical skills, you will note that is almost exactly 2 months. About a week ago, I looked out the window and saw that there was more brown than purple and yellow in the hanging plant. I was so discouraged! I did everything the little tag on the plant told me to do – keep it in direct sun, water the thing all the time and make sure it has enough soil. It had rained nearly every day for weeks. The soil was damp and still in good supply, but the plant looked to be nearly dead. At that point I had nearly resigned myself to complete the live plant ritual of my past self and put the poor thing out of its misery, but I decided to try a little longer. I DETERMINED to try a little longer. I Googled what to do and the wisdom of the internet said to trim it back a bit and try to get all the dead stuff out and then water two times a day – when the sun was not yet on it and then after the sun had gone down. And, so that is what I’ve done. It still looks a little sad, but today I went out and there is new growth! I think it might actually survive! This plant of mine is not going to win any gardening awards at the state fair. It might not even make it through the entire summer before it joins its predecessors in garbage. But I didn’t give up on it, and it seems to be responding.
This story of the little plant that (maybe) could seems to beg for “a moral of the story” ending, but that is just too easy and trite. You know what I’m getting at, and if you don’t, it can just be a cute little story about how inept I am at gardening.
I promise not to fill the blog with posts on my yard work adventures – maybe promise is too strong a word – I will try my best not to fill the blog with my yard work adventures. Although there is a really interesting situation going on with it right now that involves a broken sewer pipe, a flooded basement, a backhoe that tried to take up permanent residence on my property and all the mud in the world – but that is for another time. It is Monday and Mondays are for mowing the front yard, so it is time I get to that before it gets too hot.
Talk to you soon!