M. Giant's
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Tuesday, April 29, 2003  

Lawn Nazi

My first job, if you don’t count the paper route, which I don’t because it was two blocks once a week and it wasn’t a real newspaper anyway, was as a lawn waterer. The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I would go to this condominium subdivision at the other end of town and lay out sprinklers and soaker hoses outside a couple of dozen residential hives. It was less than ideal because I had to schlep out there and back two or three times a day, and my parents and my older sister got tired of driving me there after the first few weeks. Four and a half miles one way on a bicycle to water somebody else’s grass got pretty old in a hurry. I won’t say it was uphill both ways, but it was against the wind both ways. And there was the time my wheel came off a third of the way home and I had to carry the bike the rest of the way. This was some time before I first read about cell phones in Discover magazine, so calling for a rescue was out of the question. Aside from difficulties like that, I would have to be honest and say that the job really kind of sucked. And I sucked at it. I didn’t care if anyone’s grass was green. I didn’t particularly care if anyone’s grass was wet. I just wanted to get there, get back, and get paid. At the end of the summer, I could put “groundskeeper” on all the fast-food job applications I filled out, and I had a couple of hundred bucks which I used to get my bike fixed so I could park it in the garage forever when I got my license a year later. Oh, yeah, and there was all that character I built.

What a difference a couple of decades can make. Now I go to a job that I spend all day at, and instead of being a slave to other people’s lawns, I’m a slave to my own.

It’s now sixteen days since I scattered enough grass seed on the back yard to make it look like ground zero for some kind of botanical airburst. I’ve watered the area at least twice a day ever since, except for the days we were out of town. And that’s only because it rained those days. In fact, we even cut short our Easter visit to the relatives because the Monday forecast called for sun.

The first week and a half wasn’t encouraging; the neighbors frequently gave me quizzical looks as I hosed down the dirt. But I persevered; we hadn’t had a lot of terribly warm weather yet, and at this time last year I hadn’t even seeded yet. There was still time. Then on Thursday I saw the first fragile little shoots rising from a couple of spots where my rake hadn’t quite removed all the lawn debris. Little green blades were poking through bits of acorn, bark, and gray dust I’d failed to clear away. I figured that if this dry, barely organic slurry could nourish anything, some quality topsoil sprinkled over the yard would allow my grass to grow to rainforest height by Mother’s Day. Friday evening, I picked up a few bags of said topsoil and spread it around by hand. Not that that stopped the quizzical looks. I also administered a belated dose of Lawn Starter. Why not? The lawn hadn’t actually started yet.

The weekend was like a time-lapse nature film, only slowed down a little bit. And with some guy scampering around with hoses and sprinklers. As of this writing, my backyard is the home of waves and waves of shiny new green grass, some of it two inches high. The troughs between the waves are still jet-black dirt with maybe a blade of grass every square inch or so, but I’m concentrating on the waves right now. Green waves! Nature’s glory! That’s why I’m spending twenty minutes every morning before work holding a spray nozzle in my frozen wet claw and trying to keep the muddy hose from touching my khakis.

Now I have to water twice as much, because I’m also running a little experiment in the front yard. The front yard has always been everything the back yard isn’t: sunny, green and lush. Especially when the weeds arrive, it fills in quite nicely. Except this year there are some serious bald patches. I blame our lawn-care company, whom we fired after last summer’s lackluster performance. We dropped over three hundred dollars on those bozos and not only did our lawn get overrun by weeds, not only did our grass turn yellowish-brown, we could tell they weren’t even trying by the way Lake Harriet completely failed to glow in the dark from our lawn’s chemical runoff. Slackers.

So this spring I decided to try some of that lawn repair mix that has grass seed, mulch, and fertilizer all mixed together like granola in teal cotton candy. I’ve seen it on other people’s lawns as I drove past, and always thought that something that ugly was sure to work. It’s easy to think that when you’re driving past it and instantly forgetting about it. But when one walks out of one’s front door every day and sees sections of one’s yard covered in what looks like radioactive fungus, one wonders if it’s really worth it. Especially now that one knows it doesn’t work. I mean, two weeks of watering has only flattened the radioactive fungus and produced a few strands of grass in anemic little patches that look like my chin the summer I was riding my bike twenty miles a day. I think the best I can hope for is that the teal food coloring will leach into the soil and camouflage it while I wait for the weeds to come back and do their job.

Fortunately, there were still numerous bald patches that I hadn’t dosed. So on Friday night I covered those with plain old loose grass seed, which I have been busily rinsing into the street ever since. We’ll see how that works out. I can only hope they’ll take root before water erosion washes the rest of the yard out entirely. If nothing else, maybe the seed from my yard will make it to the park and make up for the ones Trash and I killed last week.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that my definition of yard work was “bringing an ashtray outside before the guests start smoking on the deck.” Now, reading back through this entry, and thinking about the money I’ve spent during the last couple of weeks on dirt (Dirt! I paid an hour’s wage for dirt!) and seed and fertilizer and sprinklers and a crap-ass bamboo rake that fell completely apart in twenty-four hours and a cunning little spigot-splitter device that allows me to water the front and the back at the same time, I wonder if I’m turning into someone’s dad. Not my dad, mind you, because our lawn always ended up looking good despite his being fairly relaxed about the damage us kids and the dog must have done to it. I mean, he did install that automatic underground sprinkler system by himself that one time, but I think that was just because he found himself with a free Saturday on his hands.

Anyway, I think I’m just putting off my ending here because I don’t have one. If the only thing more boring than a boring blog entry is watching grass grow, a boring blog entry about watching grass grow must constitute some kind of pan-dimensional tesseract of tedium. I’d promise to keep you posted on my lawn’s progress, but I’d like you to come back. Maybe I’ll just promise to tell you when it dies.

posted by M. Giant 3:22 PM 0 comments


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