Not mucking around

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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