Monday, April 23, 2012

I’m Buying a Goat

Everyone has preferences as to where they choose to live whether in a house, a condo or an apartment. Personally, I refuse to live in an apartment or any other small boxlike structure where my neighbors are only separated by two sheets of drywall and a two-by-four. It’s bad enough when the kids go pounding through the house like soldiers on parade, but to listen to someone walking on top of my head wondering if their heavy foot is going to bust through my ceiling and wiggle its toes at me is simply too much. I don’t want to hear their shower or their television program selection and I sure as hell don’t want to hear them doing the nasty unless they invite me to watch. I’ll even bring my own beer. Seriously.

 No, I have to be in a house, not in one of those compact suburban neighborhoods of cookie cutter homes with no individual style and only six feet of lawn separating them. I want a full yard, front and back, where plants can grow and kids can run and scream, so that I can send their ear busting wound up bodies outside and out of my hair before I lose any more of it. I want shade trees where birds and squirrels can make their homes and entertain me while I daydream about a life without idiots. I want a lawn that rivals the retired man down the street and hedges that conceal the fact that I’m walking naked throughout the house. I want lush landscape with colorful foliage that captures the eye and begs a person to sit and enjoy.

I just don’t want to do the work.

 I have never been one to enjoy yard work. I know there are those out there who enjoy getting down and dirty with Mother Nature and being able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Me? I want to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. I despise yard work of any kind with a passion, which means I’m passionate about not doing it. I’d much rather buy a goat and turn him loose in the yard to chew my grass down to a level that will keep the city people from leaving me citations. Apparently, in our neck of the woods grass should never be more than twelve inches high. However, you also have to water it so that it will continue to grow. It’s a conspiracy!

Currently, my lawn is maintained by a lawn service because the boys have either moved out or have taken fulltime jobs to escape the necessary chore. Besides, I’d much rather pay someone to do it than listen to them whine and me have to go out there and make them re-do it because there are long thin lines of high grass where they didn’t go in a straight line. Putting up with all that is too much work; of course, not as much work as doing it myself, which is why I have the lawn service. The sad part is that they only do lawns, not shrubs and trees.

I would love a tree or bush that didn’t need tending. Unfortunately, every plant around our house either keeps growing in odd formations like the boys hair when it hasn’t been cut in awhile or, like the palm trees, their branches just slowly fade of life until they are merely hanging there like corpses after a pirate raid. I try waiting them out, hoping they’ll give up the ghost and just fall to the ground of their own free will, but none have ever been so considerate, the selfish bastards. No, usually they just bunch up lifeless and brown until I’m forced to get a ladder and clip them away like dead fingernails, which is probably why it’s called manicuring your yard. I almost want to take paint to the tips, but it’s too much effort and I doubt people would get the joke. Of course, then I’d be getting emails from the Home Owner’s Association telling me I was in violation of some strict, boring color code.

For the longest time I really didn’t have to worry about the landscape too much because every poor plant we bought died within a week. They never survived long enough for me to trim and it didn’t matter how hearty they were in the beginning. Sometimes it didn’t even matter if they were plastic! After a week in our care it was fauna homicide and we were on the Tree Huggers of America’s Most Wanted list. Whenever we entered a nursery you could almost see the plants pointing their leaves at other plants and screaming, “Take him over there! He’s a cactus. He deserves to die.” The only thing we couldn’t kill was weeds and they took over everything. There’s a vine that covers half of my yard and I leave it alone because it’s greener than the grass.

With our house being a mortuary for vegetation I found it cruel and unusual punishment when the girls announced they wanted to plant a rose garden in front and a butterfly garden in the back. I wasn’t going to just have one sand pit in my yard; I was going to have two. I blame our friend, Shel. She can grow anything and she’s the one who convinced the girls that they could as well. All I could see was the most expensive sand box to date and the kids were too grown up to enjoy it.

There is a huge difference between a few plants in pots decorating the back porch and a garden that actually resides in the ground. Now the subject has matured into landscaping and I’m expected to buy a shovel. Furthermore, I’m expected to know what type of shovel to buy. Do you know how many types there are? I mean, pointy shovels, round shovels, square shovels. Shovels with long handles and then those with short handles and some handles even have handles. I’ve never been good at tools and most of mine have always wound up in the yard, left there by growing boys. If the girls need something they usually call our son, Nathan, who has his locked up in his closet so that they don’t disappear. They sent me out for a hoe and then got mad when I came back with an anorexic girl in skimpy clothes who wanted twenty dollars. I figured it was one tool the boys wouldn’t lose in my back yard.

Creating a garden is also more expensive than just purchasing a plant and setting it on a table, especially when the girls are the ones in charge of landscape. There’s a wide assortment of plants to buy and seeds for the ones that can’t be found. Then there’s borders and stones and pebbles for a walkway followed by trellises to keep the plants growing in the right direction, which I thought was presumptuous since we hadn’t kept anything alive yet. Of course, a garden requires statuary and a bird bath and a seat to be able to sit and enjoy the garden. Furthermore, the rose garden needed mulch and its own statuary and then both gardens require lighting so as to have their splendor enjoyed at night while we’re tucked snugly in our beds. We can’t afford to go out anymore because all of our money is invested in jasmine and roses.

To make matters worse, after I’ve spent all of this money I have to go out and dig up perfectly good grass that someone else maintained in order to create this beauty that I now have to maintain. Digging. Planting. Hauling. Landscaping means work and I’ve spent forty-five years avoiding anything that sounds like that word at all costs. My back needed the pool and a hot stone massage, except now the stones were part of the garden.

There are people in this world who seem to look at sticks and turn them into a beautiful plant. Shel is that way. We take beautiful plants and turn them into sticks. The first two plants we purchased were gorgeous hibiscus trees ready to bloom. We took them home and planted them using bamboo sticks to hold them up straight and within a week I couldn’t tell which was the bamboo stick and which was the hibiscus.

However, and I’m not sure when, something changed and the girls black thumbs turned green; even the hibiscus plants returned to life. Now the girls are taking clippings from other plants and creating new additions for new pots. Shel sends plants home with us and the girls are always excited to go visit to see what new foliage they can snip and steal. Of course, whenever Shel visits our home the girls do a mad dash around the place watering plants and trimming stray stems. Everything gets spruced up so as not to be embarrassed or disappoint their vegetation guru. I invite Shel over as often as possible, but please, don’t tell anyone why. It’s our secret.

I no longer need a goat even though my trimmers may need replacing by now. The gardens look great the way the girls have designed them, peaceful sanctuaries that enhance our personal world, a world I prefer getting lost in rather than going out and getting lost in the chaos.

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