1. Grass seed. One of the inevitable spring and fall tasks here, thanks to the resident dogs, is regularly reseeding the back yard to patch up half a year of wear and tear. Everyone likes to pretend we’re oh so advanced sitting here in the 21st century. If we’re so damned advanced here in the future, why is it I still have to wait between 14-21 days to find out if I’ve grown grass or just created a deeper mud pit?
2. The Biden “infrastructure” plan. Mentioning a few roads and bridges in a bill doesn’t make it a bill about infrastructure… especially when those features account for a minority of the overall appropriation. What the president has really given us is the first of two absurdly large revenue bills – a plan not so much about infrastructure as about jamming the federal government as deeply as possible into all manner of economic areas… and, of course, finding new streams of revenue to feed its insatiable maw. There are already hints that the administration will back off their promise that no one making under $400,000 a year in taxable income will see a penny of new federal taxes due. But, I suppose, telling people up front that in your first 60 days in office you’ll be proposing a massive bill to raise taxes isn’t really something advised by the successful politician’s handbook. So, call it an infrastructure plan, of course, because everyone likes infrastructure. Call it French toast if you must, but you and I will both know it’s a tax by any other name… and this administration’s hunger for more tax dollars is just getting warmed up.
3. Anticipation. This Friday is going to be the first day I’ve taken off since the glorious two-week weekend stretching across Christmas and New Year’s. Thanks to various federal holidays it won’t be the first long weekend of the year, but it feels like the first one in months… which it is. With every hour that ticks by, it’s in increasing distraction to even thinking about getting productive work done… and though I’ve got no defined plans, the anticipation is absolutely killing me.
Six years ago today the spot where I’m sitting to write this was covered by a stack of boxes freshly hauled inside by three guys from Allied Van Lines. If you find yourself in a position to move your entire household after the age of about 30, I promise you hiring the job out is absolutely worth the money. You’ll have plenty of time to throw out your back moving furniture into just the right spot or lugging boxes once they’re already in the house. Moving is chaotic enough without personally schlepping every item you own in from the curb.
For most of these last six years, every spring has involved a minor crusade against the green algae that appears inevitably on the north and east sides of the house. Usually, it was a minor annoyance that could be beaten back with a good scrub brush, a hose, a few helpful chemicals, and half an afternoon of concerted effort. It’s not the kind of yard work that’s particularly fun, but necessary for the sake of keeping up appearances.
Over the last year or two, the algae has been creeping higher than can comfortably be reached, even with a ladder. Worse yet, the roof is now showing undeniable signs that good growth of moss is starting to take hold. I love my woods full of old oaks and poplar, but this is one of the inevitable inconveniences – and not one of those that can be remedied by ignoring it until it goes away on its own.
I’ve long since gotten too old and fat to risk falling off my own roof… a result that feels almost inevitable if I were fool enough to take on the job myself. Since I’m going to have the roof done, I might as well let them take on the gutters while there here. The fascia and soffit are filthy too. The algae needs taken care of. Since there’s a spot of it up towards the gable end, they might as well deal with that while the equipment’s already going to be here.
Yeah. I’ve apparently become one of those people… but at least the exterior of the old place will look better than it has since I took over the management here. Even if that means I’ve got to pay someone to scrub the place from roof peak to foundation.
About a year ago I made the decision to stop hammering the front lawn with weed killer, fertilizer, and most of the other treatment products I had been using to keep it golf course green. The studies showing that chemical treatment for lawns is a large contributor to bee and insect die off and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake are sufficient to convince me that I could tolerate a slightly less lush look out front in exchange for not contributing unnecessarily to those issues.
I can report now that the yard definitely looks different than it did a year ago. It’s still surprisingly green, though that’s in part due to favorable sun/shade conditions and soil that holds moisture like a sponge. From the street it still looks remarkable “lawn” like – although closer inspection will show it is increasingly going over to clover with a strong presence of dandelions and other groundcover weeds mixed in during the early part of the growing season.
I’m still mowing once a week, which seems to be enough to keep the faux-lawn looking neat and tidy enough to not give off the appearance of having given up on the idea of yard maintenance. I’m helped significantly by the looks of next house up the road, the owner of which apparently does not believe in any kind of lawn care than can’t be achieved with a 42-inch riding mower. The unsurprising result is a landscape edged all over with tall weeds and “missed” patches. I’m a little surprised the HOA is letting him get away with that, really, but it provides ideal cover for launching my own experiments in lawn maintenance so I don’t complain.
I grew up in a house with a plain, old yard and it wasn’t until my adventures in west Tennessee suburbia, with our houses packed in elbow to asshole that I started to develop an obsession with a pure, emerald green lawn… ironic, perhaps, because the Bermuda grass faded to dormant brown three months out of every year.
Over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve come full circle with what elements of the landscape I choose to care about. I’ve gone from craving a proper lawn to enjoying a yard again. It’s straight bonus points that I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of bees and other pollinators I see going about their business on the property. It’s a small win, but one that both the science and I agree is worth having… now if I can just gin up the time and money to rework two large front planting beds with something the local deer are less apt to eat, we’ll be making actual progress.
1. Memory. My memory isn’t what it was. Although it was never particularly strong, I find I need to write down ideas more quickly now than before. At least twice this week while driving I had ideas that passed the “this would be something good to write about” test. Sadly between the time I had that good idea and when I safely parked the Jeep, the thought had completely flown. It seems I’m going to have to start sending voice notes to myself just to stay on top of random thoughts throughout the day – and *that* is a thought that annoys me to no end.
2. Rain. Enough with the goddamned rain already. I’ve had to mow the grass three times in the last 10 days just to keep the place from being completely overrun. I’m not looking to turn the mid-Atlantic into a desert or anything, but a little moderation would go a tremendous way towards letting the yard be something other than a muddy hot mess.
3. Thoughtcrime. I’ve come to the conclusion that despite what good it may also bring, social media is essentially toxic – or at least it has become toxic at the hands of its users. Wide swaths on the left and right are committed to their ideal of thought purity where anyone expressing any except the conventional and sanctioned opinion must be set upon and beaten down by one side or the other. Deviate from approved goodthink and the thinkpol will be johnny-on-the-fucking-spot to make you pay for it. There’s no interest in rational discussion or differing opinion. Thoughtcrime must be rectified until goodthink prevails. At the risk of being declared an unperson in the eyes of social media, I’ll continue to live my ownlife. To do otherwise in the face of popular adherence to minitrue orthodoxy is cowardly and fundamentally doubleplusungood.
1. Late breaking winter. I had a passing thought that I might get through this winter unscathed in the landscaping department. It would have been the first winter since buying the place that was the case. Clearly that’s the kind of thing that’s a homeowner pipe dream. In the bright light of afternoon – and now that a lot of yesterday’s snow has melted off, I can see at least three boxwoods that appear to be broken at the stem, several other shrubs that may have been bent and twisted beyond recovery, and a reasonably good sized maple limb that landed squarely on top of a forsythia that was just starting to take off. Some people love nature for what it is. Me? Aside from the adorableness of the fuzzy animals, I find nature to be something to be pushed back against at every opportunity. Seems like I’ll have reason to break out the chainsaw after all.
2. Six hour days. I use to enjoy two hour delays. That’s until I ran into a short day that felt like it lasted at least 2,476 hours instead of just the six that the “clock” says passed.
3. Congress (again). These asshats literally only have a handful of things specifically named in the Constitution as part and parcel of their responsibilities as elected representatives. The fact that they fail so spectacularly to get those few things done even when one party controls all the levers of government speaks to both their uselessness and our stupidity for continuing to elect 90% plus of the same 535 people time after time after time. Truly democracy has given us the kind of governance we so richly deserve.
I’ve had it with this week. It hasn’t been particularly busy. It hasn’t been particularly trying. It hasn’t been anything other than completely ordinary, but I really have had it. Neither my head nor my heart are in it. If I can feel it that strongly, it’s got to be showing.
Fortunately, I’ve been hoarding vacation days since the beginning of the year and pulled the trigger to double the size and duration of this weekend – Effectively pulling Friday right up into the middle of the week. It’s remarkable how much my mood improved by firing off just that little bit of paperwork.
Some people would drown that extra-long weekend in Netflix or find their way to the beach or the mountains. Me? Well, I’ll be mulching if anyone needs me. There’s something deeply satisfying about working in the dirt. Maybe it’s hard-wired from pre-history when our hunting and gathering ancestors gave way to their agrarian progeny. Then again maybe it’s just nice to see a finished and physical product coming together at the end of a day’s work. That’s not something you find much of in a world ruled by spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides.
Whatever the reason, I know I’ll feel better once my hands get in the dirt – and maybe after a few days of going to bed physically tired instead of just mentally worn out.
Due to the extreme plenty of hours on the clock last week, I now find myself in a position of having a few extra days to myself. Those are definitely the days I like best.
Instead of going blind on PowerPoint I got to:
– Put more shelves in basement
– Read 200 pages (of something other memos or regulations)
– Play fetch
– Restock the bird feeders and watch the deluge of feathered critters
– Cleared the deadfall from the back yard
– Walked the back 40 marking trees to cut down this spring
– Made lunch
– Watched two episodes of great British television
– Left Italian sausage, sautéed peppers and onions, and marinara to simmer 3 hours before dinner
– Sat down to write this post at 3:15 and wrapped it up by 3:30
It’s not what most would call exciting, I’m sure, but it felt like just about the perfect day.
Under last night’s onslaught of sub-freezing weather the last of the summer’s potted plants gave up the ghost. It was dollied through the back gate and unceremoniously dumped in the woods at dusk without even the courtesy of a shallow grave. I feel like I should have done more to mark the indisputable passing of warm weather for the year. That was the last gasp of the summer that was – and Casa de Jeff is now fully winterized and rigged for the coming unpleasantness.
Between inhabiting a world that’s only lit during business hours and the arrival of Thanksgiving in a few days, it’s just another in a long string of reminders that we’ll soon be hunkered down till spring. It’s not quite the Starving Time, but it’s frankly as close as I have any interesting in getting.
I regret the (temporary) dying of the light. I’ll even miss the yard work for the next few months. There’s something about freezing your ass off blowing snow that’s just not nearly as satisfying to me as keeping a well trimmed yard.
1. Neighbors. Tuesday night, one of the strong storms passing through the area cleaved several large branches off a tree in the neighbor’s yard. Two of those large limbs landed squarely in my yard, so after work I got out the saw, cut them up and piled them neatly for burning once they’ve hand a few weeks to dry out. The third of the limbs to come down fell in the neighbor’s yard, but landed in such a way that it snapped one of my fence posts and buckled several rails. Two days later, I’m still looking at that downed limb lying across a crumpled fence from my kitchen window. The neighbors have been home. I’ve seen the kids playing in the yard and I’ve seen their vehicles come and go, but neither of them has broached the subject of the limb, or the fence. We’re now engaged in a great game of seeing how long it takes the neighbor takes to do some basic yard work and if they’ve got the personal integrity to at least offer to take care of the repairs. Given my observation over the last four years, I won’t be holding my breath waiting for either of those things to happen. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’d have addressed the issue already… and therein clearly lies the problem of holding others to the standards to which I hold myself.
2. Standing corrected. I hereby retract that mean things I said about my credit union yesterday. I discovered today that the fault was all mine for making a boneheaded mistake writing out the damned check. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
3. Attempted guilting. Since the office is now officially down to four, there’s apparently going to be a self-appointed chief of attempting to make everyone feel guilty about taking time off, “because then everyone else is sooooooo busy.” Maybe if I were a better person, I would feel guilty. Then I remember that I didn’t create the staff shortage and that I’ve earned every hour of leave I’ve banked over the last eleven years, so I’m going to go ahead and schedule it when I need it rather than when it’s convenient for someone else. I’ve got problems enough of my own without giving in to attempted guilting. Nice try, though.
The arrival of spring has created plenty of angst and gnashing of teeth here at Rental Casa de Jeff. The biggest change, of course, is that instead of staying holed up avoiding the sub-zero temperatures of the polar vortex, there’s outdoor maintenance to do. Now, I’d much rather be working in the yard than scrubbing the kitchen, but there’s a problem this year that that I haven’t dealt with before – for the last month, there hasn’t been any real indoor cleaning because pushing the vacuum or bending over with a dust pan sent near-blinding pain rocketing up my back. It’s better now than it was, but bending is still something to be avoided if at all possible. With that said, it basically means the inside of this joint is “grubby” to put it politely.
With the rain and warm weather the past two weeks, the grass and weeds are growing, the shrubbery needs cut back, and the whole yard needs a good going over to get it looking a little less like a foreclosure waiting to happen. Of course, the yard is also a victim of the same problem that plagues the inside – anything that requires me to bend more than 15 degrees off vertical is a fiesta of pain.
I think the compromise is going to be getting the yard cut as best I can with the tractor and trying to hit the most unsightly bits with the weed eater this afternoon. Next week, if the weather holds, I’ll lay down a coating of suppressive fire with weed killer along all the other edges. I hate the idea of things looking less than manicured, but that seems to be the only middle ground between letting the whole damed thing go to seed and well and truly crippling myself getting to 100%. As with all manner of compromise, I find it deeply, deeply unsatisfying.