Sunday, June 17, 2012

Adventures in Gardening

So I've mentioned that yard work isn't really our thing.  We have a crappy house in a crappy neighborhood.  We do not have a lot of money, and we have prioritized what we do have so that we are spending it on things that are meaningful to us and that we enjoy.  Keeping up with the Joneses is not on the agenda.

Every now and then, though, I go on a stereotypical why can't we have nice things? rampage.  I'll be reminded of people who have less means than us, but lovely yards or gardens or homes or whatever.  Maybe they don't have top of the line things, but they put the work in.  They put the hours in.  I start to think - well - we don't have the money to pour into the ideal of the beautifully landscaped and manicured suburban dream lawn - but that's no reason to completely resign ourselves.  Tom is kind of an all or nothing guy, but I am not.  I like to think of myself as more of a do the best with what you've got kind of guy.

Sometimes that goes terribly wrong.

The first spring that we lived here, I wanted wildflowers.  How hard can wildflowers be?  They grow on the sides of the interstate, for Pete's sake.  You don't have to patiently cultivate wildflowers.  So I chose a very small patch in the back yard and I pulled up the turf and sprinkled some seeds and built a little border from small stones I'd found elsewhere in the yard.  I watered it when I thought about it and in almost no time at all I had a completely random profusion of wildflowers.  Which was kind of the effect I was going for.  I had cut flowers in the house that whole summer.  I thought it was pretty, although not everyone agreed.  It was crowded and arbitrary and undisciplined.  It suited me.

The next summer, a few of the flowers came back, but it was sparse.  I didn't reseed it.  It became more weed than wild.  I chalked it up as a fail and turned my attentions elsewhere.

Because I had blocked it off, first with stones and later with railroad ties, the fine folks from TruGreen won't touch it.  The thistles have been known to grow to shoulder height before I get around to pulling them.  Nasty muthas that they are.

A year or two ago I decided that I was going to put pavers in in that spot so that we could move the grill there and give ourselves a little extra deck space.  I worked hard on it for a couple days - digging up weeds and stone and trying to level this tiny area.  I gave up.  It was harder than it sounded.  No one would help, because they'd all thought it folly to begin with.  It was abandoned.  Weeds now grow in the plastic tub in which I was collecting the rocks.

Now, when I do get a bug up my butt about fixing up the yard, it's one of the areas where we just don't even know where to start.  It is a complete disaster.  The space where I'd made an effort to create something beautiful turned into something completely unmanageable.

At least it's a small space.

The same cannot be said for what was once our vegetable garden.

No halfway for us.  We cleared a huge portion of our back yard and fenced it, sinking the posts in concrete.  We followed all of the rules and had a beautiful vegetable garden.  One year.  We probably spent as much for plants as we would have for vegetables from the farmer's market for the entire summer.  But that's beside the point.  It was a trip to be able to put a whole meal together just by walking to the backyard with a basket.  We had marigolds bordering three sides of the garden to discourage any critters able to make it under the fence.  We had sunflowers along the back wall.  We had several rows of tomatoes and peppers in many different varieties.  We had herbs. We had eggplant and zucchini and even carrots.

It was hard work, it was beautiful, and it was awesome.

We hadn't realized that it would be exactly the same amount of work the next year.  I think I thought that once we had the area dedicated we would just have to go in and replant the following year.  I was wrong, of course, as you probably already know.  We planted about half of that garden the next year and weeds took over the rest.  I kept after them half-heartedly.  The following year, we left the weeds take over completely.  Such spectacular weeds took up residency.  We called it our butterfly garden, because it attracted butterflies and tiny birds like crazy.  It was an eyesore and we knew it, but we spun it and made it work for us.

For a year.

Then we just abandoned hope.  We knew we'd never bother with a garden again.  We took down the fence, but still have those posts defining the area, making it difficult to mow down the weeds.  Again, because it was not a part of the lawn when we contracted with TruGreen, they don't touch it.  Tom and I often say the only thing it's missing is a car on cinder blocks.  We're only kind of kidding.

There have been other attempts, failures and abandonments.  None of them quite so grand, though.  I think you get the picture.  It's the enthusiastic attempts to make things better that tend to result in making things so much worse.

You would think, perhaps, that the lesson was learned.

But no.

Last week I went on a little martyr-driven spree.  I weeded another of those little this-was-gonna-be-a-cool-feature-until-it-was-abandoned areas and then noticed a vine growing on the side of the house.  On it - in it - it was under the siding and all the way up to the second floor.  It's a cool effect on an old stone  building but on and in my vinyl siding it was less ivy league and more weeds growing right in and through an abandoned car.  On cinder blocks.  So I pulled.  It was stubborn.  I fought and won.  Well, at least as high as I could reach.  "I will dominate you, you stupid green bitch!" may or may not have been actually uttered out loud.

As I write this, a week later, my typing is interrupted sporadically for a mad scratching session.   


Welcome to the Poison Ivy League.

The first signs showed up Wednesday.  Today, Sunday, it has pretty much migrated everywhere - including my face.  It's getting hard to open my mouth on one side, the swelling is so bad.

This is crazy stuff.

THIS is what happens when I try to improve my yard.

I.  Give.  Up.

(till next time)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Talkin' 'Bout My G-G-G-Generation

A friend and I were recently discussing what comprises a generation. Defining a generation is rarely as easy as having a year that ends in a zero pop up on the calendar. For example:  I graduated from high school in 1980. You got an automatic visual, didn't you? 80's conjures up a certain image. But think about that. I graduated in May of 1980. I was in high school for 5 months in the 80's. I went to high school in the 70's. That conjures up an entirely different image. One didn't end and the other begin at midnight on New Years Eve, though. I belong a little bit to both and fully to neither.

So that can't be it.

But what DOES define a generation?

I have a rule of thumb. I made it up myself, so it is based on nothing but my own experiences and intuitions, but this is it:  People who are five years younger than me to five years older than me are my peer group. People who are ten years younger than me to ten years older than me are my generation. Try that on and see how it fits for you. I told my friend this and she found the fit to be good. We then set about discussing why that was. There were a few factors that we settled upon - political climate, clothing and hair styles, but most importantly - we felt - was pop culture.

We shared the same music, TV shows, movies, crushes - we have automatic common ground.

I mentioned to Tom that I was thinking of throwing a challenge out - I need some new music to listen to - but here's the thing - I started listening to popular music around 1972 and stopped around 1992. That is a twenty year span - the very span that I had arbitrarily decided defines a generation. Coincidence? Probably not. I wondered if that was typical of other people's musical history - to start at ten, peak at twenty and be done by thirty. If anyone were to truly manage to turn me on to new music there would have to be some little thread of recognition - it would have to connect easily to something with which I'm already familiar. There would have to be SOMETHING that sounded like SOMETHING that existed between 1972 and 1992.

And this leads me to my next point.

It's a confession, but I trust you guys. You won't laugh at me. You won't let me hear it if you do, anyway.

Now, it's no secret that I love hair bands.

I thought I loved them in a tongue in cheek, nostalgic sort of way.

But I don't.

I really love them.

This is what moves me.

When I listen to 80's rock on Slacker, and Motley Crue comes on, my energy increases by a million (that is a rough estimate). I never owned a Motley Crue album or CD! I may have owned a cassette or two - I honestly don't remember - I still have all of my albums and CDs, but the cassettes are long gone.  That's not the point. The point is - I wasn't really a fan in their heyday. I was aware, certainly, but it didn't MOVE me like it does now.

I stayed on the elliptical three minutes past it announcing that I'd reached my daily goal this morning because a KISS song came on.  (You can ask which one, but I'll either lie or I won't answer. I trust you, but not THAT much.)

I'm not proud of this, but it's true.

I am de-evolving.

At a festival this weekend, there was a band playing that Tom and I agreed sounded really good. When we got close enough to see them we were surprised and a little taken aback by their young age - it was a big, solid sound. As we walked on a little further - we could no longer see them, but could still hear them. There may have been a little bit of a dance in my step, prompting Tom to say, "I think I know why you like this band so much."

"Because they're good?"

"Because the singer has a Vince Neil quality to his voice."

"You lie."


"I'll be damned."

What do you think defines a generation?

And more importantly - do you know any good tunes I should be listening to? Apparently I appreciate things that are best enjoyed through a thick haze of Aquanet.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What Would Mr. Rogers Do?

I grew up on Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers. Now, for the most part, I have nothing against the educational programming that followed, but there was something comforting about the gentle acceptance that Mr. Rogers offered. Even before Billy Joel loved me just the way I was, Mr. Rogers told me that he liked me. That he liked my ins and outsides. That there was only one of me in the whole wide world and that I was special.

Not a bad message to grow up with.

He also taught me that I'd never go down the drain, and that was very good to know.

A few years ago, my F-R-I-E-N-D and I were discussing the decidedly un-Christian behaviors we had been observing in people touting the WWJD slogan on their person or their vehicle. We decided that perhaps we'd try to live by the credo WWMRD. He would be gentle. He would be kind. If he wronged someone - even unintentionally - he would apologize - not necessarily for the word or deed, if it was something he believed in - but for the hurt.

In a word, he would be civil.

The world isn't very much like The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, though.

image source:

Re-runs of Mr. Rogers were still on the air when my kiddles were small, but they were quite uninterested. Gentle seemed boring in comparison to the fast paced programming to which they were accustomed. I would still put it on, though, even though they paid no attention to it.  I hoped some of the lessons that he imparted would seep in subconsciously. Plus, I liked watching the little segments where we would take a walk in the neighborhood, or consult Picture Picture to learn about how things are made. A little precursor to the Discovery Channel show by the same name - another good show, in my humble opinion.

I bet Mr. Rogers liked that phrase - in my humble opinion. A sense of humility is a good thing to have.  Even outside The Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

image source:  ohmygodot.blogspot.

Correct, as usual, King Friday.

But I've digressed.

The kids weren't interested.

It wasn't 'in your face'.

They liked 'in your face'.

Pink is 'in your face'.

She says good stuff, too.

I miss the gentleness - but I'll never tire of the sentiment.

Pretty, pretty please - don't you ever, ever feel - like you're less than fuckin' perfect.

image source:

Hard to imagine Mr. Rogers saying the 'f' word. (I just, actually, DID try to imagine that. It was funny. I recommend it.)

image source:

Well, neighbor, it's time for me to change my shoes and get on with the next portion of my day. Be gentle out there in the world today. Be gentle with your friends and be gentle with yourself. Because you are wonderful. Today. Without changing a thing.

Have a good day, friend.