1. Getting the lawn mower out of the shed
Once upon a time, we thought it would be really cute to convert the garage into another den, because we had too much furniture in the rest of the house. (I have an inability to think of where I’m going to put something before I buy it.) Long story short, we bought two large sheds for the back yard, thinking this would be more than enough storage room to accommodate the non-car items that normally live in the garage.
We were sadly mistaken with this line of thought.
It started out okay, as most things do. I built shelves out there, purchased handy bins of varying sizes, and had everything so organized and efficient that I thought about entering myself in some type of competition, resulting in me appearing in a magazine spread, posing smartly next to a rack of perfectly-wound extension cords.
This amazing planning and tidiness lasted approximately three days. Then things went to hell.
When you have sheds that nobody else enters, unlike your house where you have to make sure there’s no unsightly underwear hanging from the ceiling fans, it becomes very easy to adopt an attitude of “just throw whatever it is through the door and you can put it back in the right place later”.
But later never comes. Before you know it, you have startling mounds of crap piled everywhere. And the one thing that you currently need for whatever task you’re doing, such as a lawnmower, ends up buried under a mountain of bulky items that are difficult to move. How did this happen? I don’t remember piling all this in here. Perhaps evil neighbors are sneaking into the sheds after midnight, wreaking havoc and stacking things in a dangerous, unsteady manner.
So there you are in the shed, tugging and pulling and shoving and ripping, groaning in the unnatural mayhem, sweat pouring down your back as you swear you will never let things get this bad again. (Your resolve, of course, immediately evaporates as soon as you finally rescue whatever you need. When you return later with that item, you will simply throw it on top of the shortest pile and slam the door.)
This is devil’s work. It’s one thing when you have a riding lawnmower, making it basically like driving a car except the roads are smaller and there are more turns. But when your yard isn’t quite big enough to justify a riding mower, you end up with the push kind, and your sanity is tested as you shove the thing back and forth across the lawn, muscles straining as the roaring motor belches exhaust in your face.
Along the same lines, a push mower is not so bad when it’s a crisp Spring morning where you barely break a sweat. But this is Texas. We only have crisp mornings roughly twice a year. The rest of the time, streets are buckling from the heat by 9am. This means that sweat is pouring off of you in waves, blinding you with a salty, burning wetness that causes you to unknowingly wander into the street and get hit by a UPS truck delivering a fruit-of-the-month to your creepy neighbor with the bad dye job.
So how do I deal with this in a logical and cost-effective manner? I keep buying new lawnmowers, bigger and better ones with the latest technology. (The newest feature I had to have? A push mower that starts with a key. Because having to pull that ripcord is so two-thousand and late.) Apparently I’m operating under the impression that if I keep buying new models, I will eventually find one that mows the entire lawn for me while I sit in the air-conditioned house, using the XBOX 360 controller to send directions.
3. Emptying the grass catcher.
Picture this: There I am, carefully inserting the plastic trash bag into the over-sized Rubbermaid barrel that I use for the grass clippings. I meticulously stretch and tuck the opening of the bag around the rim of the barrel so it will stay open while I dump things into it. I disengage the grass catcher from the lawnmower, grunt and hoist the contraption over the barrel, and very cautiously tilt the catcher so I can control the flow and force of the debris.
Three tiny blades of grass trickle out and plink to the bottom of the trash sack, light as a feather. Yet somehow, due to some metaphysical concept that I do not understand, this is just enough pressure to cause the trash bag to rip loose from the top of the barrel. The bag becomes a shiny puddle at the bottom of the barrel, right as the remaining two tons of grass in the catcher break free and thunder into the barrel, burying the plastic bag. I now have to start over.
This makes me completely insane.
Oh, and if the bag DOES manage to stay in place, there’s still that business with dust and bits of grass billowing out of the barrel, instantly coating my sweat-drenched skin with enough breading that they might as well throw my ass in a deep fryer and serve me with hush puppies.
Due to some inexplicable deficiency, I am unable to trim the yard using any of the available mechanical devices. I refuse to buy a “real” edger, because those things are so expensive. (Yet I’ll buy every season of “The X Files” on Blu-Ray DVD. I obviously have some issues.)
I’ve tried using various flavors of the “weed-eater”, that pole thing with the deadly, spinning nylon cord. I just don’t have the talent. My efforts never look very good, with ragged edges and entire patches of ground annihilated. (Not to mention the inevitable weed-eating of my own shins, despite my best intentions, because I’m not coordinated with this task, leaving bloody welts on my legs like my shoelaces have revolted and seek my death in the name of revolution.)
So I usually end up doing the trimming by hand, using some manual clippers that can cut through, at best, two blades of grass at a time. It takes me four months to make it around the yard once, but at least it’s pretty. Then again, with all that repetitive scissor action, I am no longer able to fully extend the fingers on my right hand.
5. Raking up leaves.
I have already done an entire blog post about this heinous and despicable act. Suffice it to say that we have five billion trees in our yard. The leaves never stop falling, no matter what time of year it might be. I could rake every day and it wouldn’t matter. So I just let them pile up until I get a notice from the city. Then I move.
6. Cleaning out the gutters.
Help me understand how enough dirt builds up in the gutters that small forests can grow? With mean little trees that have grappling roots that will NOT let go. I just don’t get it.
7. Carrying bags to the curb.
We have curb-side pickup once a month, for “bulky trash”, a phrase with an elusive definition, based on the shocking things that some people will chunk into their front yard. (There’s nothing like driving down the street and seeing archaic toilets, mattresses with alarming stains, and questionable boxes that just might be dripping blood, sprawled across neighboring yards.) I will confess to dragging a stove or two out there, but mostly it’s just lawn-maintenance detritus.
Trouble is, you can only put these things out during the week of the scheduled pickup. Otherwise, bitter men in official white cars will hand you tickets. Obviously, you have to mow multiple times between pickups, so our monthly contribution to the “Bulky Trash Festivities” grows considerably as the pile festers in the back yard.
And I do mean fester. While the pile grows, awaiting Judgment Day, the heavens regularly open up and bless us with torrents of purifying rain. This delightful rain manages to seep into the bags of clippings and leaves (no matter how artfully you arrange them), marinates for a bit, and then bakes in the fetid heat. This creates monstrous bags of thick soup, each of them now weighing two hundred pounds.
Bags which then have to be carried to the front curb. An activity that terrifies my soul.
As the horrible Transport Day approaches, there are discussions in our house over who is going to move that mess this time, conversations that often end in the phrases “divorce” and/or “never speaking to you again” being flung about. Eventually, one or both of us will find ourselves doing the endless March of Degradation, lugging squelching bags of concrete down the driveway, wiping back tears and sweat.
Because of the trees, there are sections of the yard where sunlight has not appeared since I moved in. The only thing that will grow here is jasmine, because that stuff claims its territory with a vengeance, so plant away we did. The only real maintenance here is trimming up the tendrils that grow over the defined borders.
So there I am with the manual clippers once again, crawling on my knees and snipping. And I just have one question. What the hell is that white stuff that oozes out of the severed stems, coating your hands with a powerful adhesive that results in skin being left on doorknobs. What IS that?
They are everywhere, no matter what you do or who you pay. You cannot escape them, these tiny minions of Satan who can send a grown man into hysterical fits of screaming and reflexive dancing just by gathering in military units and then marching across exposed flesh. And when they send out that synchronized signal to bite at the exact same time? This is proof that there truly is pure evil loose in the world.
Finally, the one activity that I actually enjoy. Mainly because I’M the thing being watered, most of the time. Sure, I’ll attend to the parched plants and the thirsty bushes, splash the grass for a bit, but it’s really all about me, as the majority of the time the nozzle is pointed directly at moi, drenching myself in glorious spurts. After hours of sweaty, dirty toiling, trying to make the yard presentable for people who are only going to drive by without even glancing our direction, there’s nothing like sluicing away the pain with icy coldness on a hot summer day. It’s far better than sex could ever hope to be.
(Originally posted in “The Sound and the Fury” on 07/01/10.)