Archive for the ‘Yard work’ Category

I love Beaver Lake on a hot Sunday afternoon. Actually, I love the lake most of the time, but there’s something especially nice about Sundays.
I like to go out in the hottest part of the day and do just a little yard work. With the weather we’ve had around here lately, there really isn’t much yard work to do. We haven’t even mowed the lawn in weeks because it’s been so hot and dry. But there’s always a few weeds to pull, a couple of buckets of water to dump on the compost pile, some stray trash to pick out of mulch in front. I like to get all hot and sweaty and then walk down to the dock by myself.
Sundays are quieter than Saturdays but there’s still stuff to watch on the lake. One of the neighbors is working on a boat. Somebody’s grand kids are swimming in the cove. Out in the main part of the lake, water skiers and tubers are pulled by and there’s always one sail boat somewhere between me and the horizon.
When we go down to the boat on Saturdays, we drag down coolers and carriers, towels and cover-ups. We meet friends and trade side dishes. Going out on a Saturday is production that’s planned days in advance. I love going out on Saturday and cooking elaborate meals on the tiny gas grill. But I also love walking down the path on a Sunday with just a towel and an insulated mug. I love letting down the ladder on the front of the dock and climbing aboard an air mattress.

From my air mattress I can watch the neighbor working on his boat. I can watch him put up his tools and stop to talk to another neighbor checking the dock. I can watch the tubers gliding on the edge of the own private wakes. I can watch a sail boat lazily tacking back to the marina and listen to the kids I may or may not even see as they celebrate the lake and the wonders of summer.
I suspect the neighbors think I’m a little crazy when I saunter past them all alone with a towel and an insulated mug. Sometimes I leave something on the boat on Saturday so I have an excuse to go down there on Sunday, but even when I know they all think I’m crazy, I still go down. I love Beaver Lake on a Sunday.

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The battle begins anew every year about the time the last of the snow has melted and the first really warm day has arrived. There was a time in my life when that first warm day was spent out in the garden spot, turning over the soil that would provide the vegetables we would eat all summer. In truth, I only had a big vegetable garden for about four years when we lived in Kentucky and didn’t have children, but somehow if felt much longer. It felt like the kind of thing people had always done and would always do, but then we moved to Arkansas and left all that rich, muddy soil behind.
In Arkansas, I put the energy I had used to grow baskets of juicy tomatoes and bushels of squash into the front yard although I don’t know why. Each spring I battle the rocks, the trees, the dogs and the sporadic rains in an effort to have an actual lawn.
When we first bought this house I looked at the front yard and tried to analyze the problem. First, there’s way too much shade. The house faces east and it shades a big section of the yard itself. Then there are the giant oak trees that shade another big section. A battle plan was needed.
So I drafted the husband and the middle child, bought a bunch of mulch and gravel and landscaping timbers and created a planter box and a gravel walk that should have solved the problem of the heavy shade in front of the house. We put down that black screen stuff that’s supposed to keep out weeds and below that I actually laid out chicken wire to keep the dogs from digging up the black screen stuff. Then we added pretty brown gravel and a few flat paving stones leading to the front door. Now the best grass we have in the front yard grows up every summer in that gravel. Every summer, the actual lawn, just inches away beyond the “front walk” is brown and barren, but the walk itself is green and lush. It drives me crazy!

But I have not given up. I will not be defeated by stubborn and untrustworthy grass. Every summer I try again.
I invest in the best grass seed, or the best that I can afford. Grass seed can be really expensive! I usually buy the kind recommended for dense shade but some years in a spirit of experimentation, I try other kinds of grass seed. It doesn’t seem to matter much.
Usually the first warm day of the spring finds me out front with a metal rake, trying to clean up the “thatch” that might be killing my baby grass seeds. All sorts of stuff gets raked up that first day including bits of trash that drifted out from the garage over the winter, gallons of acorns and souvenirs of the two dogs. Then I wrestle with my inner environmentalist about whether to use chemicals to kill the weeds and fertilize the lawn. I can calm my guilty conscience by promising myself that I’ll only do our small front yard. Our large backyard will remain pure of chemicals and very weedy.
One year when I felt especially determined, I bought bags of top soil to put under the grass seed and bales of straw to spread over it. The dogs loved to dig in the straw, so I laid plastic orange fencing on top of the straw and pegged it down with tent stakes. No one could understand why our front lawn was covered with orange fencing, but it worked. The dogs couldn’t get through. The only problem was when I unpegged the fencing and pulled it up, the straw came up too and so did the fuzzy green baby grass. Either I waited too long to pull it up or not long enough. I’ll never know which. The top soil all washed away into the back yard and nourished the weeds.

What is it about a front lawn that suburbanites lust after? We used to laugh about our next neighbor in Indiana who spent his vacations building irrigation systems for his yard. We always knew exactly where our property line was and told the kids they could only play on the sick looking, yellowish grass on our side. Sometimes we’d see them secretly pressing a bare foot over the line into the forbidden soft, green carpet on the other side.
Luckily by June each year my obsession passes. By then I’ve invested in a new sprinkler and forced our water bill up in an effort to turn my expensive grass seed into a soft green carpet. But every year I have to admit defeat and console myself by going down to the lake and jumping in. Ahhhh.

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