Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cost/Benefit Analysis ―Or ―How Much Guilt is Enough?

I had to mow the lawn today. I had already put it off longer than I should have but I knew, next weekend, mowing wasn’t going to figure into my plan of freaking out as I pack for our trip to Ecuador. So, because thirteen days from today I will be in a strapless gown, even though the temperature called for a tank top and shorts, I donned clothing appropriate for a cool and cloudy day, slathered sunscreen on the few bits of skin still peeking out, plugged in the mower, and sweat like I was in a hot yoga class.

Partway through mowing, I took a short break and did a little pruning. Over the summer the bush next to our mailbox did what bushes do. It grew. Recently it had been getting harder to find the mailbox, let alone close it without a pine branch getting mashed in the mailbox door. I did a mental cost/benefit analysis and determined that the benefits of being able to open and close the mailbox without fighting through the bush were greater than the 99% possibility Dean would be mad at me for an hour or so after he discovered what I’d done. He has been busy putting the garden to bed and I knew he wasn’t going to want to deal with the composting of those branches.

In our house, there is always the issue of compost — or to be more specific, the pre-composting chipping and shredding. I knew this would be the cost to the benefit. I knew when he saw a wheel barrow piled high with pine branches he would not be happy. Chipping and shredding was not on his list of things to do this weekend ― even though he goes into a zen-like state of tranquility when he’s doing it. Because we have a “baby” chipper, said chipping and shredding must be done while the branches are green and soft. So I knew the cost of my benefit was going to be immediate.

Dean was inside making spaghetti sauce from the garden tomatoes while I was mowing and pruning. I came inside just as he was getting ready to head outside. I had a mini debate with myself. “Tell him about the pile of branches before he discovers it himself, or let him be surprised and pay the price later.” I went for the surprise factor and hoped it would be much later. 15 seconds later he was stomping through the house to the garage mumbling to himself. Something about women and shredding. I offered him a solution. “Just throw them away. Just this one time.”  But no. That is not an option in this house. Not yesterday. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

Dean stomping through the house mumbling was a cost I could live with. What I hadn’t factored into my formula was the guilt, which amazes even me because I am the Queen, the Empress, and the Goddess of Guilt. The guilt I felt from knowing that he was out in the backyard chipping and shredding branches I had created, when he really wanted to be putting his garden to bed, was too much for me. To rid myself of the guilt I would have to make amends. I offered to work in the garden. “Really? You’re serious?” he said. I nodded and held my breath … hoping it wouldn’t be “turn over the dirt in the beds … by hand … with a garden fork.”

But I got lucky. All I had to do was harvest the rest of the beans ― even though our bean crop was inedible this year. I don’t know why, but they were stringy. And I don’t mean stringy as in string beans. It felt like your mouth was full of dental floss when you were finished chewing them. But there is no way Dean would throw perfectly good but inedible beans into the compost. And if somebody else will sit in the hot sun and pick them ― so much the better. I didn’t dare suggest we throw them away, but personally, I think they might enjoy being with the other members of the vegetable variety in the compost.

So ultimately the cost/benefit breakout looked like this:

Cost: Dean grumbled.  I sat in dirt, sweating in the blazing sun picking beans.

Shadow got filthy from flying chipping/shredding bits.

Benefit: A bush won't attack me each time I open the mailbox. Shadow will get to eat stringy beans. I didn’t have to turn over the dirt with a pitchfork. Dean gave Shadow a bath.

I think it’s clear the benefits outweighed the cost.

The nasty, stringy, inedible beans are waiting to be sorted, cooked and shelled. I could help with that … but you know what? I’m not feeling that guilty.



Abby said...

Maybe now that you can find the mailbox, you can get a new one that closes so you don't lose mail.

Art Elser said...

Strange that your beans should be so stringy. Perhaps it was the crazy growing season this year. In the spring we had a peach tree with a gazillion--I read that number in this blog a while back, so you'll know how many--tiny peaches on the tree. I culled about five or six for every one I left.

As summer went on, the peaches still on the tree seemed to be doing that thing rabbits do, because soon I was propping up branches loaded with small hard peaches. The peaches got heavy, but never got ripe. So I could have used Dean and his shredder--does Shadow eat hard unripe peaches? That might make the back yard somewhat slippery. ;-)