Not mucking around
It’s hard to avoid the mud these days. With our recent (and epic) rainy streak, I’ve come to grips with getting some dirt on my shoes. My only umbrella was somehow misplaced during the second day of downpours, so I’ve just been dodging raindrops by sprinting to and from my car ever since.
All this soggy weather has been good for something: the plants. Our grass — the subject of both my husband’s affection and frustration — looks great. But to Spencer? Something is still off. Incomplete.
When my husband points out “imperfections” in the yard, I act like I’m at an art gallery trying to appreciate bubblegum stuck on an old shoe: I squint, wrinkle my brow, nod appreciatively, pretend to “get it.” But I don’t. The yard looks fine. Perfectly respectable. To me, anyway. Our home had been vacant for years when we bought the foreclosure in 2014. The bare minimum level of maintenance had been done to the exterior — and it showed.
Spence and I first went to see the house in March, but taking ownership — and doing the 1,248 hours of paperwork — wasn’t a done deal until nearly June. In that span, snow melted. Weeds sprouted. The tulip poplars shed their blooms, covering our stretch of road with bright petals.
Because the house had been empty a while, our sudden presence attracted attention. The neighborhood is quiet with many friendly folks (hi, everyone!), and many of our neighbors have resided there for decades. Moving trucks draw eyes anywhere, but especially in our corner of the woods.
Though there wasn’t a moving truck, per say. We had a caravan of friends and family schlepping our junk into the basement of our new digs, generously subjecting themselves to sweat and sore muscles to help us out.
As we dragged in boxes, I saw my sister chatting with a passerby. I didn’t catch most of the conversation, but one word did jump out at me: grass. She made a joke about when we were going to cut the grass.
The lawn was shaggy, I’ll admit. Not on-the-open-prairie long, but certainly unkempt. She meant no harm at all, I’m sure, but I still bristled. We were literally just moving in! And, coming from an apartment, we didn’t even own a mower. I was more concerned with making roundthe-clock coffee than tending to weeds, and I guess that was my first mistake. Appearances do matter. If we’ve been together for a while, friends, you know I’m not a nature girl. Bugs — anything creepy-crawly, for that matter — freak me out. I’m terrified of bees (like, you know, the gigantic colony once living inside our house), and I really hate to sweat.
I do get outside a few times a summer to help prune, weed or carry off fallen branches, but my husband is commander of that domain. And since our son arrived? Well, I’m usually inside watching “The Muppets” with Mr. Man while Spencer tries to tame nature.
Having grown up in the country, Spence is no stranger to physical labor. I, on the other hand, have spent the better part of three decades avoiding anything more strenuous than raking leaves. My sister and I would help Dad shovel snow and pick up sticks, and Mom dutifully planted flowers every spring. But no one at our house really had a green thumb — or any interest in cultivating one.
Spencer is different. With the lawn (mostly) under control, he’s turning his sights to more adventurous matters: like a garden. At a market in Charlotte Hall last weekend, we were both lured in by adorable starter plants swaying in a rare moment of sunshine. Zucchini! Tomatoes! Cucumbers! Peppers! As we settle deeper into domestic life, growing produce ourselves is appealing.
We have only a vague idea of what we’re doing — but Spencer has never met a problem he can’t face with Google and a YouTube tutorial. We’re now the proud caretakers of three plants in a patch by the driveway.
But it wasn’t all fun and vegetables. Before Spence cleared away the leaves and brush, our new garden site was apparently home to . . . a long, black snake.
Relating this story, even Spencer cringed.
“And that’s why I don’t go outside,” I joked.
“Well, on the bright side, that’s probably why we don’t have mice,” he retorted.
And if we do? Guess they’ll soon have tomatoes to snack on.
If the snake doesn’t get them — and us? — first.