Thursday, April 30, 2015

Boxing In Spring

All I wanted to do was plant some pansies.  I thought it would be a simple matter of pouring potting soil from a bag into the planters attached to our front porch, grabbing a pansy by its neck, yanking it out of the little plastic rectangle without leaving half the roots behind, sticking it in the dirt, watering it and then waiting for it to bloom. 

I’ll just mix in some new potting soil with this old dirt and then plant.  Right?  I don’t need to replace all the soil with new stuff do I? It’ll be good enough without all new soil, right?

That should work.  But you need to dig the dirt down and line the inside of the boxes with heavy plastic before you add the potting soil.  If you don’t, the wood is going to rot out because those planters weren't built correctly.

And that was my mistake.  Asking.  Because Dean thinks that projects need to be done “the right way” not just the “good enough way.” I never learn.  I should just proceed with my plans quietly, but no, I have some idiotic need to double-check the procedure with Dean before I begin. 

There’s no end to this dirt.  It’s just one huge box with two sides and some front boards.  The dirt goes all the way to the ground.  There is no bottom to the boxes.  How do I line each box with plastic if the dirt goes all the way to the ground?

Isn't that why we have children?  So we have grandchildren who will feel sorry for us and do the hard work?
I heard his heavy sigh from all the way over by the garage.  He tore himself away from sorting the pile of screws scattered among all the other “you never know when I’ll need this” bits and pieces of detritus covering his workbench and walked over.  He looked.  He thought.  He looked some more.  He sighed some more.  And finally – delivered his verdict.

I need to rebuild it.  You can’t plant flowers now.  I need to take it apart and put in new wood.  See there?  See where it’s getting ready to rot?  If you just add dirt, even if you line it with plastic, it’s going to rot completely and then in a year or two you won’t have any boxes at all for planting flowers.  It needs to be done “the right way.”  It won’t take that long. 

And then he went to get his “tear down almost perfectly fine flower boxes tools.”

My jaw clenched, the back of my head began to throb, and my shoulders tensed because I knew his sense of “not that long” was not the same as mine.  I cursed myself for not just throwing in more dirt and quietly pushing in those pansies.  I had a sinking feeling the planter was going to go the way of my favorite rocking chair which has been stored in a box somewhere in the wood and metal strewn jungle, otherwise known as Dean’s garage, waiting to be reassembled – for over 25 years – all because I’d once innocently mentioned one of the joints was loose.  I didn’t want the planter parts to also disappear into a forlorn heap never to be seen again.  I wanted to plant flowers in those boxes and I wanted to do it now. 

Fortunately, over the years I’ve become a bit more skillful at offering creative solutions to a problem.  And let’s face it, what I’m really saying is I’ve figured out how to manipulate Dean to get what I want pretty much all the time … usually … mostly … a lot … for sure sometimes.  

What if we just dig out all the dirt and enclose the boxes by putting boards on the top?  I can fill pots with flowers and set them on top and that way there won’t be dirt inside to rot out the wood.  Plus, the best thing is you won’t have to rebuild the whole thing (and I won’t have to wait 1,000 years until I can plant flowers.)

He looked, he thought, he looked again, he thought some more, then he nodded just slightly and agreed that was a good solution.  He started sawing boards for the top, I did my part and attached the boards, and before the day had ended we had planters built “the right way” with pots of pansies soaking up the sun.  

If only I could find that box of rocking chair parts.  I could start to cobbling it together the “good enough way” and ..... maybe .....


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Don’t Choke On Your Cookie

It’s a cold, wet, grey day today and seeing a snowflake or two mixed in with the rain reminded me about shoveling snow which reminded me how sad Dean must feel since he can’t feed his snow-shoveling obsession now that we’ve  moved to Sheridan.  Oh, I suppose he could shovel our rocked driveway and parking area but it would take him about three days, and why would he anyway, when our very nice neighbor plows it out with his tractor? Sadly, all he can shovel is about a 10 foot square section of pavement at the bottom of the front porch, and the back deck which, hey, now that I think about it, he never shovels.  I shovel the back deck.  Does that mean he really wasn’t obsessed with shoveling after all, but only lusted after snow-free pavement?  OR does that mean he only seemed obsessed over shoveling our driveway in Casper because he didn’t like the way I shoveled?  I know he didn’t – like the way I shoveled – because he would always go back over any portion I cleared, slowly and methodically scraping his shovel under every tiny bump of snow I left.  And then, even though the newly shoveled driveway and sidewalk were practically snowflake free, he would sweep them!  But that obsession is behind us now, replaced with his pruning obsession.

Oh, yes.  He didn’t stop with the cottonwood trees.  He moved on to the chokecherry forest. 

Last summer I’d hacked, slashed, whacked carefully pruned the parts that came close to putting my eye out every time I mowed.  This week Dean decided to take care of the branches that were hanging over the fence and, as long as he was at it, cut out the dead wood.

Unfortunately his pruning obsession involved me – again.  I had to pull cut limbs through eye-gouging, skin scratching branches which pulled out hunks of my hair, grabbed at my clothes, got tangled in the limb I was dragging out, and gave me lots of chances to practice the words Dean used when his baby chainsaw threw off it’s chain – again and again and again.  I dragged those limbs (and my exhausted shaky-legged body) to the slash pile somewhere between 572 and 1,529,023 times. And the worst thing about it?  There were no cookies waiting for me at the end.  Again.

But that’s okay.  I made up for it today because yep, today I baked.  For my bees.  The two replacement windows for my sewing room finally arrived yesterday and Troy and Darrin buzzed on over this morning to install them. These windows were so loose they rattled every time a car drove by and if you slid those little tabs at the top to the side, the window would fall out.

Since I wouldn't be seeing them anymore after today I thought I’d send them off with not only the lemon crinkle cookies which were a big hit last time they were here, but also Magic Cookie Bars.

Of course before I gave them the plate of cookies I had to eat taste-test one or two or, heck, I don’t know…. a bunch.  It was kind of strange and a little sad knowing everything was now finished and I wouldn't see them again.  But guess what?  I will!  Because one of the windows had a broken pane.

Can you believe that?  I’m sure it arrived that way and my bees had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that they will now need to come back to replace the pane in two or three weeks.  As they were leaving, Troy sighed and wistfully told me that of all the cookies I’d made, today’s lemon cookies and the rum balls I’d made when he was first here installing our upstairs windows, nearly  a year and a half ago, were his two favorite.

And Darrin asked me for the lemon cookie recipe.  Oh..........gosh, you don't think they’re developing a cookie obsession ..... do you?  


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Just Down the Road From Hooterville

There was a pruning workshop at our local greenhouse last weekend and Dean suggested I go along with him so I could learn a better way to cut back the chokecherry forest trying to take over the yard.  I agreed it was probably a good idea since randomly hacking at them with big scary shears while I yell “die you chokecherry bush” or “you’re outa here sucker!” hasn’t really been very effective.   Thankfully Unfortunately I came down with a head cold the day before the workshop (which is what I get for mentioning one too many times that I haven’t been sick since our last trip to Ecuador almost 2 ½ years ago) so I got to had to miss that stimulating lecture.

What?  Doesn't everybody wear Christmas socks and sandals when they're sick?
It might have been better if Dean had missed it.  When he got home he was obsessed with the two huge cottonwood trees in our yard.  He took me outside and told me they’d never been properly maintained.  He swept his hand up and around.  See?  They should only have three main limbs and this one has way too many.  And theyre shooting out to the side, not straight up like they should be.  And look at the other tree.  It’s not as bad but it still has too many limbs and those limbs are growing out, not up.  And look at all those dead branches.  They need to go.

Oh, it’s not like he hadn’t been out there trimming trees already.   And it’s been a good thing because the more dead wood he’s cut out of those cottonwoods, the fewer little branches and twigs I’ve had to rake up off the ground – which seems to be my obsession.  But after this pruning workshop he came home determined that something had to be done before those two big trees fell on the house and garage.  The longer he looked at the trees the more convinced he became we needed to have them cut down.  All I saw was money pouring out of our savings account into two big holes in the ground where trees used to stand.  I mentally tried to calculate if the value of the firewood they would provide would offset the cost of cutting them down.  And that’s when I made my mistake.

Why don’t we just cut as many of the limbs off as we can ourselves, and then we can get a bid to remove the trees, only we’ll leave the trunks and you can carve them?  That should reduce the cost, don’t you think?  It wasn’t long before Dean was decked out in his coveralls, safety glasses, boots and earphones and he was up on a ladder with his chain saw.

“If you want to help, you could drag the branches off,” he told me.  If I wasn’t so dang obsessed with a twig-free lawn I would have played the head-cold card.  But instead, my chest slathered in Vicks and my head filled with snot, I filled my pockets with Kleenex and started hauling.

Our very own slash pile.

I knew we were in trouble when I saw him standing on his ladder eyeing one big branch that reached over the garage roof.  It’s going to fall on the garage if you cut it!!  Insurance doesn’t pay for stupidity!  He acted like he couldn’t hear me through his headphones but I knew he could, because earlier when I’d asked the boys, in a in a normal conversational voice, “which of you dug this hole in the pen?” Dean had lifted his earphones and said, “what?”

Yes.  You see two dogs.  That's another story for another post.

He cut the branch partway and then tied a rope to it and handed the end of it to me and told me to “hold it tight.”

In his infinite wisdom he must have thought I would be able to guide the branch away from the garage as it came crashing down once he finished sawing.  It didn’t work.

After he nonchalantly pointed out to me that he could easily pound out the dent in the roof, he moved on to the second cottonwood.  The house and garage were safe from any branches falling from this tree but that didn’t mean it was without its pruning challenges.  At one point Dean’s eyes were bigger than his toy chain saw.  

He told me he’d need to finish sawing the branch with a hand saw.  I pictured him walking back with a hand saw.  You know.  The kind you hold in your hand.  With no power cord attached. 

I didn’t even waste my breath expressing my opinion this time.  I just counted his fingers and watched for spurting blood as the tree branch fell very nicely ...

... and settled snugly into the V of another tree.

Dean stared at it for a while and then decided the two of us could just pull it out.  But the vaporub had cleared my head by that time and my brain was functioning, so I suggested he hook a chain to the ol’ John Deere instead.

When he finally decided he’d cut every branch within his reach I swear I saw the cottonwood branches sag in relief.  But, if I was a chokecherry, I’d be nervous.  As we were picking up the tools and cleaning up the branches, I saw him staring intently at them, gently stroking his chainsaw.

The end.