Tag Archives: Yard Work

Courage at Twilight: Flower Garden

Field grass had grown up through the thick ice plant groundcover in the front flower bed. Dad had sprayed with a product that avowed “kills grass, not flowers,” which did not kill the grass and did kill the flowers, just not the plants.  He had spent hours poking at the grass with a long weeding tool, from a seated position.  But he finally gave up.  “Rog, I have made a decision.  I want to dig all the ice plants out.”  I began to dig in the dense matt.  “Make sure to shake out the soil,” Dad instructed.  I did so (and would have done so), tossing the dirtless plant clumps in his direction.  I did not look as I tossed them, and was confident I was not hitting him with the clumps, but did toss them in the vicinity of his feet, where the remnant soil filled his shoes.  “Roger’s revenge,” I quipped playfully.  “Did you know you dig with your left foot?” Mom asked randomly.  No, I did not know.  I am fairly confident my long life of garden digging has been ambidextrous (or as the local newspaper recently headlined, “amphibious”), but for some reason my left boot liked this job.  Dad had stumbled out with all his hand tools, but sat in his chair talking to me as I strained at the earthy tangles.  Several times he enthused, “I’m enjoying just visiting and watching you work.”  As long as he is happy, I am happy.  Using a leaf rake, he pulled the clumps together and lifted them into the garbage can, which I had positioned near his chair.  The filled bags were very heavy, and the wheeled can, with four filled ice-plant bags, felt full of rocks.  After two hours, we had an 8×9 open space, penned in by old bushes, with soft sandy soil, an empty pretty, space.  “I like it just like that,” Mom insisted.  “I don’t want any more bushes that you have to take care of.”  But Dad and I really wanted to decorate the space with new flowering plants.  We took ten-year-old Amy to the nursery, and carefully selected the plants based on tolerance of full sun and low water, plant height, and especially color and beauty of flower.  The empty space is now decorated with beautiful flowering plants, seen by every car that passes—a thousand a day, easily—and every person that walks by.  They all know: That’s Nelson’s yard; look how nice he has made it.  “You did a big job today, Rogie.  I didn’t think we would even start this job, let alone finish.”  Truth be told, neither did I.  Both my back and my attitude held out.  We finished at dusk, and I felt too tired to cook, so out came the leftover whole-wheat lasagna Sarah sent over days before, with canned corn and peas, warmed in the microwave.  Remembering the ravenous mule deer roving the neighborhood, I ventured into the dark and chill to grate Irish Spring bar soap on and around the plants.  Though we like seeing the deer, having our plants eaten overnight would have made us very sad.  But the next morning, the plants were intact and happily boasting their blossoms.

(Pictured above: Dad’s ice plants, before the non-killing spray killed them.)

(Pictured below: our new flower garden, before and after.)

(The string is not to keep out the deer, which would easily step over it, but rather the neighborhood children congregating at the corner bus stop who always traipse through.)

Courage at Twilight: First Week of Spring

With heavy snows and sub-freezing temperatures just three days ago, today reached 65 degrees, made warmer by the bright sun and blue sky. I found Dad settled heavily in his recliner, looking exhausted, which he was.  He explained that he had worked “all day” in the yard, raking out thick mats of pine needles and milkweed stalks from the landscaped beds.  He had reached above the rock wall and stretched the rake as far as he could—he can no longer climb to the terrace.  “Can you help me?” he wondered, asking me to pick up the piles and compact them in the big garbage can.  I used the technique my son Brian taught me, scooping a snow shovel underneath the pile and pinching from the top with a rake, then picking up the pile and dumping it in the can.  Before long, the piles were gone, and the can was compacted and full.  I jumped up onto the terrace and quickly raked the area Dad could not reach, filling the can beyond the brim.   “Doesn’t that look nice and tidy?” he asked, pleased.  He was thrilled to have worked in the yard after the long winter, though he characteristically worked too hard and too long and barely made it staggering back to the house, to settle heavily in his recliner, too tired even to eat.  But Dad came outside and sat in a chair to watch me finish the work he once did, to crow over the tidy beds, and to sigh at his beautiful snow-capped mountain view.  “Isn’t the mountain just beautiful?  Lone Peak is now a designated wilderness area.  There are no maintained trails.”  He had climbed to Lone Peak 20 years earlier, exulting on the 11,253-foot peak, neglecting to take enough food or water, and making it back thanks to nice young hikers who noticed and shared.  “Did you hear they just found a wolverine in those mountains?  A wolverine!  Here!”  We had seen the story on the news, of game wardens in a helicopter filming a black wolverine racing through the snow in that wilderness.  They trapped it without injury, anesthetized it, measured and weighed it, radio tagged it, then released it, excited to track its forest wanderings.  Relatively little is known about wolverines, but the solitary aggressive carnivores often roam 15 miles a day in the most rugged mountain wilderness.  “I just love sitting here looking at the mountain,” Dad said as I went in the house to cook dinner.  He had me leave his tools outside, ready for tomorrow’s spring yard work.

(Pictured above, a view of Lone Peak, from YouTube, used under the Fair Use Doctrine.)

 

Dad and great-granddaughter Lila by the landscaped terrace and rock wall.

Courage at Twilight: Emptying the Grass

The cut grass and Fall leaves from the riding mower shoots into two rear-mounted canvas bags, which Dad empties into a large plastic can lined with a plastic garbage bag.  He thumbs two holes into the sides of the plastic to vent the vacuum and allow the grass to sink and settle.  Mom ties the handles.  Together they lift the can, heavy and with wet grass clippings, and dump the bag into the large trash container, which goes to the curb on Sunday night for Monday morning pickup.  Several times, I lifted the heavy bag out of the can by myself, not to show off, but just to get it done—and I was strong enough to do it.  In the following weeks, I found Dad bagging the grass himself and wrestling the can up to dump the bag into the trash container.  I felt bad I had done it by myself and made him feel he needed to be able to do it by himself.  When I ask if I can help him, he says, “I got it.”  So, now I ask him to help me hoist the can up so we can share the effort of dumping the bag.  No matter one’s relative personal strength, collaboration is often the best solution for all involved, young and old, and middle-aged.

Courage at Twilight: Pruning Pine Trees

I ducked under Austrian Pine boughs to step around its trunk to prune the Arctic Willow. The blunt end of a lopped pine bough jabbed me hard and square on the temple.  I swore, thanked God it wasn’t my eye, and trudged off for a saw to cut off the offending limb.  Dad’s neighbor, Terry, regularly shapes the enormous Blue Spruce that sits just inside his property line.  One day he decided the bottom boughs were too low, and cut them all off to a height of about eight feet.  A little aggressive, I thought.  But Dad chose to admire how the pruning had opened up the view of the neighboring yards, “park-like.”  We looked at the Spruce’s companion Austrian pine on our side of the property line, and decided its bottom limbs drooped too low.  We had to duck to walk under them, and Dad hit them when riding his lawn mower.  He consented to me providing a “slight haircut” to the pine.  Underneath their canopy, I discovered a mass of dead limbs invisible from outside.  I lopped off all those I could reach.  I carefully pruned the lowest hanging limbs, lifting the canopy bottom up a couple of feet.  The result looked natural and less cluttered, bringing a better balance to the landscaping.  Mom and Dad were really pleased.  Following my normal clean-up routine, I snipped the boughs into short lengths that could be compacted into the garbage can, which these days seems to be filling up long before pick-up day.