Yard Chores


I rarely set out of a morning with a plan for doing yard chores. I’m afraid the prospect would put me off my breakfast, and we wouldn’t want that.

Instead, what generally happens is I’ll head out to the yard early as usual, inviting Travis to join me in finding out what happened in the garden while we were asleep. I may still have a cup of coffee in hand. I’m afraid I must admit I may still be in my pajamas. Sorry, neighbors.

My first quick move of the day will be back into the house for the camera, to capture something attractive in early morning light. These days I’ll usually set out with the macro lens first, a move that absolutely guarantees a stiff breeze within seconds. Then back to the house for my regular lens so I can at least get some photos, shamelessly employing any auto-focus setting I can get away with.

While I’m wandering around looking forDSC_0156 photogenic things such as these pineapple guava blossoms, I’ll notice a plant that needs dead-heading, or a branch in need of a trim. Might as well pull up a few Mexican primroses on my way to find small clippers, so this cactus and that little rosemary can get more light. There’s always a few weeds to deal with, and while I’m at it I should scoop up some dead leaves tangled in the beds.

Then there’s a branch thick enough to need the lopper. While I’m in the garage, it makes sense to grab a few leaf bags and a pair of gloves. A couple of branches I want off the pistache (Pistacia chinensis) in the side yard will require the ladder, but I can get away with the six-foot for this job.

Now that the loppers are in hand, I might just as well tackle that creepy tangle at the end of the driveway. Every yard I’ve ever had has at least one area that more or less gives me the creeps, and even this tiny yard has that triangle of yaupon holly, euonymus (Euonymus japonicus) (I know, it’s a DO NOT PLANT, but this one remains amazingly free of mildew so what the heck), American beautyberry, that one weed tree that must come down today, one little nandina, a straggly Texas sage, a big shrub that looks like some sort of laurel or other, a wonderful bright low-lying lantana on the end, and a few canna lilies I just cannot love because mine always have hideous foliage but these came with the house so what can you do? All this in about thirty square feet.

It’s a jungle in there, with a floor composed of dead leaves, old mulch, a couple of Christmas ornaments obviously stolen by the rodents who obviously live under that laurel-like number. If branches are in the way of the meter reader, I know he (yes, he’s a he) will rip them down with his bare hands to gain access to the manhole cover under which the meters reside.

Not to mention that the whole corner of the yard smells like certain canine citizens like to use it as a pissoir, clearly fancying themselves Parisian gentlemen from another century. Which is why I avoid the whole area like the plague.

Until today.

If I tell you that this image on the rightDSC_0001 is the after shot, following the removal of four leaf bags, half a dozen twig bundles, and a twelve-foot weed tree – do you get some sense of the before? I hope so.

That’s some nice dark mulch on the ground in there now. The forbidden euonymus is the big bush on the right, and American beautyberry stands to the left, the heavy cover to the meters at her feet. I really hate to see her branches torn off just because I haven’t taken the care to trim them back.

What you can’t see is a bunny about the size of my fist who waits for his mom in there as long as he can stand it. Then if you’re mowing too close he comes flying out to hide motionless in the grass till it’s safe to go back to his hiding spot. I hope he survives, even while I find it impossible to imagine how.

You can see why planning certain yard chores would be like sentencing yourself to hard labor for an indefinite period. You wouldn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning. No longer a child, no one is going to punish you for some misdeed by sentencing you to yard work, either.

So over the weekend I made spontaneous use of lopper, clippers, gloves, bags, twine, rake, and dustpan. I also made use of my supremely helpful husband, who was kind enough to take down that weed tree for me and cut the trunk into several pieces for bundling. I didn’t even have the heart to complain that he had more fun with the saws-all than I did. We also mowed, trimmed, and edged the entire yard which is never more beautiful than it is in May and June.

I feel the best approach to certain yard choresDSC_0018 is the spontaneous, the organic (if you will permit me such a term in this context), the spur-of-the-moment. Here’s a little piece of the side yard that’s been waiting for mulch ever since I put those shrubs in a couple of weeks ago. No wonder so many people hire yard help.

However, I took the need for a few bags of mulch as a chance to make a quick run to The Natural Gardener, walk around the grounds a while, ask advice about pruning the Nellie Stevens holly outside the kitchen window, and pick up three basil plants. Nothing like some yard make-up to get the landscape looking even better than the sum of its parts.

The generous helping of rain we had earlier this week has shoved the green world into lushness, and inspired all the flowering things to get very busy. Sometimes it really does feel like living in a tropical zone here, especially when plants grow like -yes, well – weeds and there are flowers and about-to-be-flowers everywhere. When I bike around the ‘hood, there are many places where the air is absolutely perfumed.

You may be sick of cactus flowers by now,DSC_0006 but I cannot tire of them. I do think that when you relocate to a place that has flora and fauna you’ve never seen before outside of books and TV, you hold such things very close to your heart. This yellow character on the right is sitting on the pavement next to the curb alongside the sidewalk garden. Cactus are truly crazy.

I’m happy to report that one of the new DSC_0176rock roses has begun to bloom. This one sits beside a spineless prickly pear, and I think she’ll look fresh and pretty all summer. Rock roses are short-lived, I’m told, but generous in their inclination to spread themselves around before dying. Kind of like people.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that any space worth having is going to need some TLC. It’s still early enough in the season that I can putter around at one yard chore or another with no complaint; it’s all exercise and fresh air to me unless I’m so sore and tired I should have quit an hour ago.

Because I have so many different growing spots around the yard – which most people who grow things do – I can do a little here, a little there, and not feel I have a hundred acres of cotton to bring in a la “Places in the Heart.”

When our growing season’s over and clean up must begin, of course, I’ll be singing a different song. It will feel like a hundred acres of cotton and then some.

A really long summer can be a really good thing.



Leave a Reply