Monday, August 29, 2011

The State of Gardening in 2011

I have said it before and I will never stop saying it: I hate grass.   More specifically I hate mowing the grass.  I don't really have anything against grass per se, I would just prefer that it stay at a predetermined height and spectacularly fail to grow.

I have even gone so far as to research replacing the green bits with concrete, but alas, the county has certain silly rules about drainage and flood planes.   Since I am the reason my county has an anti-Slinky ordinance*, I dare not tempt fate.

I have a long history with mowers.  Somewhere in the bowels of my shed, there's a push mower.  Just knowing it's there annoys me, although I can't ever remember using it.  Eventually an electric mower showed up (don't ask me how).  It lasted a few weeks, being the anemic piece of attempted machinery it was.

So we had no choice but to go to gas.  It lasted the better part of a season and died.  Mower Number Four was also gas-powered and ran like a top.  Well, it ran like a top right up until it stopped running.  I observed that it seemed to be a fuel issue, so I had no choice but to disassemble the carburetor/fuel system.

In retrospect, I'm not entirely sure why I felt I had the expertise to deal with a carburetor.  Perhaps it was because all of my cars had carburetors.  Perhaps because a friend rebuilt my carburetor on the dining room table once and it looked cool.  Perhaps I just figured that if I could build computers, I could certainly fix internal combustion engines.  Regardless of the reason, I was completely and accurately incorrect: I could not, in fact, do much more than put gas in the tank.  And with the cost of gas lately, even that was in doubt.

Oddly enough, I was correct, in that the cylinder wasn't getting fuel.  I was just incorrect about my ability to repair the issue.

Flash forward to the current mower: Mower Number Five.  We purchased a Craftsmen because they make great tools, so we just made the bizarre leap of logic that the mowers would be every bit as good.  To be fair, it ran flawlessly over a few  years, always starting pretty quickly (long before my back started telling me to stop pulling that ripcord, asshole).

Things being what they are, I brought out Mower Number Five at the beginning of the season, expecting to start the on the first pull.  And I suspect it might even have started on that first pull, had the ripcord not broken as soon as I started to pull it.  Why did it break?  Because it was made from stranded metal cable that was exposed to the elements and it rusted.

Not to be outdone (by yet another mower) my wife sprang into action.  She seems to like Lowes in much the same way she likes shoe stores, by which I mean to say expensively and fatally.  She managed to locate something called a Universal Choke Replacement Cable, which seemed perfect for the part.

And when I say perfect for the part, I mean it looked perfect right up until I tried to install it.  My wife is as fond of instructions as I am of all things Mac, so I am in charge of all assembly.  As it turned out, the cable was somewhat less universal than its billing.  So there sat Mower Number Five, having beaten two full-grown adults into submission.  My wife's idea for getting even was to take it for repairs.  I swear I heard it laughing at her as soon as her back was turned.  I simply gave up.

Giving up allowed me the luxury of not mowing.  It also meant constant `reminders' from the wife about the size of the grass.  I can only assume the construction hat with the flashlight duct taped to it and references to going out to locate the dog was her way of telling me the grass was getting rather tall.  Having given up, I simply pretended not to notice.

Then it happened.

I'm not entirely certain what happened or where it came from.  All of the sudden I remembered that I used to really like cars, taking them apart, and fixing things in general.  I used to be able to rig things so they'd work.  And there I was, beaten by a simple broken choke cable.

I got up off my well-padded posterior, grabbed some heavy wire, and rigged the ($*#ing mower so it would start on the first pull.   Since this is me we're talking about, it started on the third pull but who's arguing?  Just for fun I told the wife I refused to mow the lawn ever again so she'd get mad at me then walk out back to discover I had mowed anyway (we have that kind of marriage).

She was most appreciative and I felt like a Real Man<tm> for the first time in years (antidepressants be damned).

But speaking of gardening....
(that wins Segue of the Century)

My wife decided to exercise her green thumb this year.  Again.  Normally, this means that she goes to Lowes and purchases huge bags of dirt and moss, which sit on the front lawn until the following year when it's time to go back and purchase more dirt and moss (presumably because the previous year's dirt expired?).  This year there were actual plants, flowers, and real genuine vegetables.  The last time she planted vegetables, we became inundated with a plague of yellow squash the size of watermelons.  We couldn't give it away fast enough.

This year there was careful consideration given to which vegetables she would grow, including which side of the house on which to plant.  There were these huge tomato triangular cages that looked like medieval torture devices (but I won't make any reference to them not being similar to the medieval torture devices in the bedroom, as this is no doubt being read by children as well as adults without a strong constitution).

I saw genuine excitement on my wife's face as things started to bloom and grow.  This was quickly followed by crushing disappointment, as every $*#@ing thing she planted got eaten by various fauna.

Apparently it started with the bunnies (as it always does).  The bunnies came by and ate some of the vegetables.  Then the badgers, raccoons, and foxes came along to eat the bunnies.  As previously described, we had nightly 11:15pm skunkings for no apparent reason.

We are fairly normal suburbanites, living in a fairly normal suburb.  We don't live near the woods.  We don't live near animal sanctuaries.  So why is it that almost every species of herbivore known to the mid-atlantic portion of the US stopped by to munch on our vegetables?  My friends out in the boonies don't have this kind of variety (although the mother-in-law has bears, but that's a different story entirely).

My wife simply gave up.  I would have heartily applauded her but I was too busy pretending to ignore the entire affair, having given up on the outdoors long before moving into this house.

To add insult to near-fatal injury, while I was mowing the lawn, I unknowingly plowed the rest of the garden.  Fortunately my wife had already given up, so she was able to note this with some degree of dark humor (we have that kind of marriage).

Ah, the great indoors....


* I once heard that Slinkys make so-so antennas for shortwave radios.  So I strung four of them together and ran them from an upstairs window to a shed.  The neighbors, who already thought I was a few pennies short of a nickel, just stood and stared.   As it turned out, they were right: the antennas were so-so at best, so the Slinkys were just there for `decoration'.

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