Green Pastures

If you ever find yourself in need of a good fairy tale, just flip on a commercial for one of those big box home improvement stores.

Lowe’s and Home Depot would like us to believe that home projects are magical family bonding experiences.  Have you seen the Lowe’s commercial featuring a young, attractive couple skipping through the store aisles before giddily loading their truck with all the necessary supplies?  Back at home, the happy duo straps on cute safety glasses and high-five each other as they knock down walls.  Fast forward another 2 or 3 seconds:  the mess is gone, the project complete, and all that’s left is to sit and enjoy a mocha in their newly renovated retreat.

If only.

In this house, we divide and conquer any time a trip to the Homer D is required.  Have you ever tried shopping for kitchen cabinets with toddlers?  They like to hide inside of them, and it’s not terribly relaxing, let alone conducive to making good choices.

And what magical place actually has every item in stock for this happy commercial couple?  Why aren’t they spending half the day stuck in construction zones as they run to 5 different stores for a few galvanized deck screws that are holding up the entire project?

And most misleading of all… why are these commercial couples still so in love while they are remodeling their homes?  Is this actually anyone’s reality?

Last year Clark and I started our enormous landscaping project, and we were naive enough to think we could finish it in a single summer.  You can read the messy details here and here, or just check out these before and after photos for a quicker recap.  The neighbors’ shed in the upper left corner helps give the photos some scale.

Last summer:

yard before

Two weeks ago:




It’s truly a thing of beauty, and my heart can’t quit skip-skip-skipping along with the sprinklers’ tick-tick-ticking.  I can barely fathom the joy I will feel when our little grass babies actually sprout!

But it’s been a journey, I tell you.  I’m not sure which was more painful:  shelling out $4000 for 13 dump truck loads of top soil:


Or dealing with this vicious beast that we rented for $15:


This piece of crap lawn roller was brutally heavy when filled with 26 (million) gallons of water, so Clark decided to MacGyver it to the back of our riding snowblower so he could drive it around the yard rather than push it by hand.  I will admit the idea was ingenious, and it was through no fault of his own that it failed so miserably.  The lawn roller had seen better days.  The rusted handle kept popping off of the barrel, and the drain plug had a nasty habit of falling out every fifth rotation.

Clark entered a quiet fit of rage after an hour of hopping off the snowblower every few seconds to reattach the handle or scavenge for the black drain plug in black top soil.  His temper isn’t as explosive as mine, but I could see he was nearing a breaking point.  Since he doesn’t hit people, he picked up the phone and started punching the poor numbers instead.  He was calling the roller rental place about their P.O.S. (the newest phrase in Maggie’s vocabulary) tool, but they were closed and didn’t even have voice mail.   His only option was to hang up and beat the roller’s handles into submission.

It didn’t work, and next it was my turn to fly into a fit of rage.  We needed to get these seeds in the ground, and we were losing daylight.  (Actually, it’s almost summer solstice so the loss of daylight wasn’t the real issue.  It was more about the lost energy, sanity, and patience.)  I fired MacGyver and went all Little House on the Prairie with the roller.  If I had to roll the entire yard by hand, so be it.

Clark watched, hands on hips, as I struggled to lug the roller uphill, but anger creates some powerful adrenaline and I’ll be damned if I was going to ask for his help.  Going downhill was almost worse, as the barrel careened out of control and pulled me along with it.  The drain plug still kept popping out, but after Clark attacked it with a rubber mallet and some psychotic arm swings it finally decided to stay put.

And so we were off.  I was rolling, and he followed with the leveling rake..  You would think that with a common enemy – the roller – we would have been more unified.  But every time we passed each other there was a snarky comment.  Luckily I mumble and he is going deaf, so hopefully no permanent damage was done to our marriage.

Where are these moments in the commercials?

This went on for a few hours, and in the end I think we were both envisioning yard tools as murder weapons.

The mosquitoes started feasting on us and suddenly I didn’t really care if our yard was as flat as a putting green.  It was nearly 10 pm when we finally started to seed.  I thought my work was done as I watched Clark frantically trot around the yard with the spreader.  He was being chased by a buzzing, swirling tornado of hungry insects, so I fear the seeds might be spread a bit thin.

I started to feel a little bad for him, but then he yelled, “Grab that rake and follow me so you can agitate the seeds.”  Excuse me?  He dropped the spreader and demonstrated.  “Just shake them around a little, and then tomorrow morning you can give it all one more roll. We’ll start watering tomorrow night.”

Double excuse me?  Rake the entire yard again?  Right now?  Fine.  It was Father’s Day so I was actually trying to be nice, but I was ready to build a bomb in that barrel.  I certainly had no intentions of rolling over the entire yard a second time when the first nearly killed me.  As far as I was concerned, if he wanted the yard rolled again, then he could stick the barrel in front of the mosquito swarm and let them push the damn thing.  There were certainly enough of them to levitate the handle, I assure you of that much.

I went to bed as agitated as our seedlings, but it’s amazing what a cold shower and 6 hours of achy sleep can do for a person’s attitude.  I awoke with a renewed sense of energy, and a master plan:  drain the barrel.  Don’t worry, I only drained about half the water, but with the reduced weight I was able to roll every inch of topsoil in about two hours.  And I did it before the bugs woke up for the day.  Booyah!

Real life isn’t anything like those fairy tale commercials, but this yard has definite happily-ever-after potential.  Clark and I are once again unified, working the sprinklers around the clock to nurture our little seedlings.  The end of this project is in sight, and I’m confident that one day soon our family will gather on our fresh grass, perhaps around a fire pit or maybe just to watch the sun set over the inlet.  The kids will be flipping cartwheels and chasing each other, and maybe we’ll even be ready to open our hearts to a new puppy.  A warm breeze will carry the kids’ laughter throughout the neighborhood, and the freshly planted perennials will smell that much sweeter because we built this space together.

Maybe that’s just my fairy tale, but you’ve gotta admit that pastures really don’t get much greener than that.

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