A house with hedges
It was long overdue. If I’m actually noticing the gnarly weeds, deer-bitten hostas and overgrown yard, you know that ever yone else is, too.
Though my husband and I divide chores pretty equitably, yard maintenance is generally his domain. I do try to pitch in, though, when it gets too wild . . . and it’s too wild. Officially.
Unfortunately for us, the only time we had to get the landscaping under control fell during the hottest weekend of the summer (so far, anyway). I occasionally make overtures about pulling weeds on a weeknight — but getting dinner done and cleaned up while simultaneously catering to our toddler’s demands means that, by 8 p.m., there’s no way I’m battling bugs and prickly plants outside. It’ll have to wait.
After having a baby, some tasks — even basic tasks, sadly — have fallen by the wayside. I didn’t like gardening before I had to operate on four hours of sleep, but I will admit that pulling weeds is pretty therapeutic. Especially when it includes that satisfying snap of roots coming loose.
Growing up, I liked helping my grandparents with yard work on summer mornings. Like most kids, I was immune to concerns about sun exposure or overheating; I just wanted to run through a sprinkler. But heading into my teen years, helping Gram with the actual gardening felt sophisticated compared to hanging with the “little” kids. I wanted to be helpful.
Once a teacher’s pet, always a teacher’s pet.
Grandma hated — and probably still hates — the shrubbery along several sides of their property. Though it looks nice and stately, the bushes grow overnight. It’s a never-ending battle to keep them in check.
Her refrain, especially in the heat, was familiar: “Megan, don’t ever buy a house with hedges.” And we thought we hadn’t. When we first arrived at our future home on a snowy day in March, everything was dead or dormant. Apparently the bushes had gone wild while the house sat vacant, so a company was hired to “trim” them. Only it was more like a clean shave.
I thought they were goners, really. Looking at the stumps, Spencer and I assumed someone had been “helping” us by just getting rid of the bushes. Maybe they knew something we didn’t.
But they came back — with a vengeance.
We moved in during a heatwave two years ago, and now we’re sizzling in one again. After finally getting Oliver down for bed on Saturday, Spencer and I talked about our lengthy to-do list. We do this often: sitting together to discuss what we want to accomplish before another work week resumes.
It’s fun, really! Especially when we do exactly zero of those things, loafing around with ice cream and the new “Divergent” movie instead.
But not this time. By 8 a.m. Sunday, I was on my second cup of coffee while Oliver chattered at my feet. The pull of the couch was strong, but we had to get out there before the heat intensified. We’d waited too long already.
With Ollie watching curiously from his stroller, I pulled weeds, pruned shrubs and kept one eye out for lurking spiders as I moved through the yard. Insects buzzed in my ears. The sticky air settled like a second skin. Sweat poured down my back.
And Spencer, working nearby with hedge clippers, stopped me in my tracks.
“Careful — that’s poison ivy,” he said, pointing to a vine creeping along a drain spout. Where I had just been working.
“Um . . .” My stomach flipped. “Do you see it anywhere else? In the flower beds?”
He pulled the vine himself, carrying it into the woods. We couldn’t find anything else close to the house.
But that didn’t keep me, Ms. Power of Suggestion, from suddenly feeling a tingling on my hands. “How quickly does poison ivy develop? The rash, I mean?”
“Not that fast,” replied Spencer. And he would know. The vines climbing many of our trees are thick and gnarled. He fights them back constantly, careful to avoid the vines — but his worst case of poison ivy still required a trip to urgent care. Out-of-state, even.
After an hour outside, I felt I’d done my time. The yard looked passable. Oliver was bored and cranky, kicking his feet in protest. I desperately needed a shower.
But I’d accomplished something: something with my own two hands.
Ones that could soon be covered in a rash — but still.
Never buy a house with hedges.