Saturday, April 24, 2010

Suppose you could call it a turf war

Talk about not taking a hint. They’re back. They leave phone messages and send me letters. They aren't stalkers, but if they were I might take them up on their offer. Because then, I’d know they’ve prowled around the property. They’d know precisely what the lawn needs, and might thus have some solution other than randomly spraying chemicals at everything wider than a blade of grass.

Yes, the lawn folk are back. They go by various names, but they might as well be the same company. Imagine if you went to your doctor for a physical, and—instead of doing the usual examination—he immediately handed you a prescription that most other people your age, gender, height and weight needed to take. That’s what your lawn gets. I might as well hire someone who spent the first two-thirds of his life in an apartment.

Come to think of it, that’s exactly what I have by doing the job myself. And as I dwell a little more on this matter, I realize I had all the necessary experience even before we got the house.

I hadn’t planned, as a teenager, to go into the yard-care business. What credentials could I have shown, living in the tenth-floor apartment with do-not-walk-on-the-grass signs everywhere I looked? It started while I was delivering for a corner grocer. Mrs. Harris, a widow from around the corner, asked if I knew how to mow grass, and I said “Sure.” (It works for politicians.) After a couple of times doing that, the widow next door asked if I could do some work for her. I wondered, while saying no thanks to all Mrs. Weber’s offers of soda, what it was with these dead husbands. And it turned out I wasn’t far off.

Mrs. Weber asked me to transplant some pachysandra from one part of her yard to another. I’d never transplanted anything before, though it didn’t look hard: Dig enough under it, put it in a hole the same size, pat it down and soak it. As I recalled with pride when I was done, the hardest part had been shoving some annoying flagstones out of the way with my foot.

When I reported back, Mrs. Weber seemed interested in one detail. “Did you move any of those flat stones?” she asked.

“Um…I don’t think so,” I’d replied.

“Because they’re where I buried my cats.”

My fine performance led to recommendations, then a job offer working with “Doc,” a local landscaper who often stopped in at the grocer. Doc needed a helper; for some reason, his son could no longer lend a hand. And I needed a lesson in what not to do for a living. At each job site over one very long weekend, Doc told me half of what I needed to know about whatever he needed me to do. The other half? It came, in a blood-freezing scream, after I botched up each job—as I was destined to do, armed with only half-instructions. “Open the hatch on the side of the truck and put away the tools…NO, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRUCK!” I believe he was an editor in a past life.

On our own property, I think I do okay. The front lawn looks pretty green; lawn-company mailings make good fertilizer. In fact, it looks healthy enough to ward away not only the weeds but also the most diligent of lawn-care company reps—were one to actually drive by to see the lawn. The back is another story. I do the best I can against dandelions whose roots extend down to the Earth’s mantle. I yank out the clover when I can, but much of it must be four-leafed; it seems to have more luck than I have time. Much of the rest has evolved over the past, oh, 16 years to grow with three broad leaves that resemble poison ivy or oak. So it gets by, untouched, for much of the summer.

Someday, of course, I’ll need more help with the property. If we haven’t fled altogether to the planet Condo, we’ll know it’s time to let in the landscapers and lawn-care pros and let them at the property. And by the time I’m ready to hire one of them, I’ll be more than polite as I walk onto the stoop to offer positive criticism on their work.


1 comment :

  1. have you been hearing any meowing late at night -- another good one thanks