Tuesday, September 21, 2010

yard work

I haven’t had such a bad yard, or cared about what my yard has looked like, for a LONG time. Several years of country living; grassy areas filled with clumps of grass rearranged by moles, voles, and groundhogs; kept my caring at bay. It wasn’t an issue. If anyone happened to drive down our country road, the last thing I’d worry about them commenting on is the shabby shape of our yard! 
Nothing changes that faster than moving into a neighborhood. We aren’t “yard snobs” here, and our neighborhood is reflective of that; but they still keep their grass trimmed nicely, plants thoughtfully landscaped, and things are placed intentionally. It’s a welcoming neighborhood, and we feel blessed to be a part of it.
That being said, we felt we were not being a good neighbor when we saw how poor a shape our yards were in. Now you’d think that the back yard wouldn’t matter, but our property lies in a way that the house in back of us, which happens to be uphill from us, can see our entire back yard. The spotty grass was ok, until Mark discovered some mutant form of grass growing that looked more like corn sprouting amongst the grass, and it grew 2 - 3 times faster than the rest of the yard; so he killed it. Then Abbey (our dog) discovered that there were critters out there; and being the good part-terrier dog she is, decided that it was her job to play pest controller and rid us of the critters. So, our now half dead, dug up yard was an eye sore - even for us. Something HAD to be done.
Mark had envisioned a perfectly manicured all ONE type of grass yard, like a FEW of our neighbors have. He insisted that they had yards filled with perfectly grown Kentucky Bluegrass, that all grew at the same rate, was mowed a little longer than the grass we grew out in the countryside of Barry Co., and would stay green and lush. To use a seed mix was out of the question. It would pollute the yard he dreamed about from the start. No need to go there. So the bag of grass seed that I had bought earlier this summer sat on the shelf until I could get a BIG bag of Kentucky Bluegrass. Once I got it, I spent a day - in the second week of September (I’d always heard that was the best time to plant grass seed!)  - spreading it out over the patches of bare yard, over the grassy areas that were slowly browning from the weed killer that Mark had sprayed down the week before, and of course the trenches and holes - compliments of Abbey. I made a point to water it a few times a day for the first few days, and didn’t worry when we had to go out of town as there was rain in the forecast - it WAS - after all - the second week in September. 
So we left town, and ended up staying midway on our trip out of town, for the rain forecast was causing traffic nightmares in the next large city that we’d have to travel through. We were tired anyways, not a good combination for sleepy eyes and rain slicked highways....and our yard was going to get watered!! YAY!!
Well, the rain didn’t materialize at OUR house...it fizzled out instead. And Abbey, our dear part-terrier wonderdog, decided that she was bored of staying in the comfort of her yard for the night; thought that she needed to dig some more trenches for us. So we had NEW holes in the bare spots of our grass seeded yard. But no grass.
It was clearly time to move on to plan B.
We had discussed the memories of planting seed in our yards when we lived in Georgia and Arkansas. We carefully scattered the seed using a broadcaster (like I used here), but then were quick to cover it with straw, to protect the seed from the Indian Summer days, and birds that wanted an easy meal, and even from washing away from the watering and rains. So when I spotted bales of straw at a local nursery, I took it upon myself to pull in and get a few - only problem was that the back of my car had a Christmas tree in it - another story for another day - and there was no way that the store would be open by the time Mark got off work (they weren’t). But, this was an all-purpose nursery, and in addition to the bales of straw, they had a wide variety of plants and trees, all in beautiful shape - all would look lovely in my yard - however I’m not “there” yet, and have no idea what I want growing where....besides the luscious lawn that my husband desires. Then I had an “AHA!” moment and saw that they had piles of dirt in the front of the nursery, different varieties of soils, rocks, ground covering mulch. I asked how much it would be for a load of top soil - just $15 a scoop (I didn’t see the “scoop” size, but thought it would surely be enough to fill Abbey’s holes). I asked if they delivered, and yes, in fact they do - and NO CHARGE for delivery to our home since it was so close to their location!! SOLD - one scoop of top soil and 2 bales of straw!! I had my work cut out for me for the next day!!
They were going to drop it off that afternoon, which was sooner than I really wanted it, but then their schedule backed up and they called and asked if first thing in the morning would be ok - it was fine. Then it occurred to me that when we moved - we had to leave our wheel barrels behind. Yipes. I bribed my husband with a dinner out at our favorite Chinese restaurant, which just happens to be next to the local Lowe’s store. As we walked up and down the aisles my husband looked at the bags of top soil...just over $1 a bag...”we could have just gotten them here...” he reminded me. I sighed, realizing that this wasn’t about the dirt, but the fact that it came in bags, and if I’d waited we’d not be shopping for a wheel barrel that night - and he’d be home watching Monday Night Football on tv after his LONG day at work. Point taken.
He settled on getting a “yard wagon” instead of the wheel barrel, insuring that I’d be able to use it for more things than dirt, that it would be easier for me to use, and that the “dumper” feature was worth it. I quickly looked online on my smart phone and saw that it was about the same price as the cheapest Radio Flyer at another big box store, but would carry much more weight (“2 of me,” Mark said) and that dumper feature would come in handy (not to dump Mark or the grandkids out of it!). To top it off we had a gift card from some unknown return we’d made months ago - which ended up being 1/2 the price of it!! (Thanks God!!) We took it home in the box, and Mark envisioned himself sitting in the living room, able to watch the end of his football game....but by the time we got it home and opened the box, the fumes from something on the plastic or the wheels was so strong that he ended up moving it out to the garage. He was a good sport about it though, and got it put together and moved it to the back yard for the night. Perhaps the smell would keep the moles and voles away from the remaining grass.
In the morning I awoke with an “oh NO!” feeling, having forgotten to set an alarm. It was ok, the front yard was still empty, and the truck pulled up with my scoop of top soil and 2 bales of straw JUST as I finished my morning glass of water. I ran out and greeted him as he was getting out of the truck. We exchanged pleasantries and discussed where the dirt should go, and he got to work. I admit I was a bit disappointed when my idea of top soil was pretty far off from what the local top soil looked like - I was expecting dark, rich, river enriched soil...but what it was in fact, looked JUST like the “top soil” that Abbey kept digging up in our backyard - red, silty, dusty, dirt. Oh well. The bags would have made a better nurturing soil for the grass seed - but this was here now, and delivered to our door...or side yard, as it was.
He left without incident, and I took to the task of loading the wagon, shovel full of dusty red dirt at a time, and toting it to the back yard to fill in ALL these holes. I packed it with my Croc covered foot, amazed at how the dirt packed down, and wondered if one scoop  of “top soil” would finish the job. I knew already that I’d concede to getting bags of it from Lowe’s if I needed more - and that Mark would have to assist with that job, my days of throwing bags of soil around were numbered. 
After filling all the holes in, I took to spreading the seed. I know that we had a partial bag of that prized Kentucky Bluegrass left over, but thought that I’d reserve that for attempt 2 of the front yard, where it would be seen from up-close - and used the smaller bag of the “mixed seed” for the backyard.  After all, as long as it didn’t look like corn growing, was durable, and most importantly GREEN, will it really matter what type of seed it is back there? More than anything I want it to NOT be mud all winter long!! That was my main goal, and for it to not look horrible for our backyard neighbors as they peered out their windows into our yard.
I scattered seed, which happened to be mixed with a mulch agent and some sort of special nutrients to insure that this seed would grow grass ANYWHERE. Yeah, we’ll see about that!!
Then I took the wagon (which had already earned it’s weight in our deflated dollar by now) and loaded my first bale of straw. I had to call Mark to see where the wire cutters were (it was the first time I’d seen straw bales wrapped with WIRE, and not STRING!!) and got it moved to the back yard, released from the wire that held it tightly together, and peeled it “flake by flake” off the bale, allowing it to gently cover the seeded ground. Despite my gloves, my arms were covered with little red “scratches” from the straw - like a grass rash - which by now added insult to injury of the sunburned areas of my body. Shoulda, coulda, woulda was all I could think about - sunscreen, long sleeves, long pants, tennis shoes....all were in my hindsight. Oh well. I started to dream of being clean, free from the red silty dirt that covered me...ready for a nice cold glass of water - or juice - or better yet, a Throwback Mt Dew!! I was getting pretty worn out...but the task wasn’t finished.
As I was scattering straw over the seed and soil, I started feeling my heart being tugged by God to look at all the obvious comparisons of soil and seed stories in the Bible. Then I started to look beyond them, and seeing my own stories develop, a little list of do’s and dont’s and what if’s for the sower of the seed. I laughed at how my friend Laura and I had decided a while back to meet weekly to study a book “Eats With Sinners”, and how perfectly that has prepared us for a season of teaching at church on personal evangelism through the “Just One” series; how even God prepares the soil of OUR hearts to receive His words, to allow that seed to take root and grow into actions.
So now, cleaned up and in the comfort of my air conditioned home, belly filled with PB and J, a variety of anti-inflammatory drugs floating in my blood stream to relieve the pain that I’m feeling in many places, I am pondering these things. Thinking, not out loud verbally, but written words that will be committed to blog space soon - and contemplating what really needs to be said, to be taken to heart...lessons I don’t want to forget about planting seed...
  1. Know what you’re doing, and be prepared with the proper tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a pro - but you have to know what the goals are, what steps need to be taken to achieve the goal, and what effective tools to have at hand, as well as the quality of the tools you will use. If you don’t know God’s word, how effective can you be to show someone else how important it is? Lead by example, and use the tools HE has given us.
  2. Cover yourself. In the yard I should have not only worn a hat and shoes, but long sleeves and sunscreen. Before you go out to sow seeds among the crowds, make sure you’re covered in prayer. 
  3. Know where you’re going. Even if you can’t foresee the events or the atmosphere, you can have a general idea of where you’re going to be sowing. What I need for the front yard is different than the back...and yet the results (growing grass) will be similar. If I was trying to grow grass in a sandy location I’d need to be prepared differently. I might throw grass seed down on top of snow (I’ve heard that works!) but might not want to do it in a flooding rain. 
  4. Know your soil. Obviously the soil I thought I was going to get, was not what I got! Take time to get to know the soil that you’ll be working with, and as you build relationships with people, refresh your memory as to what kind of soil their hearts may be like by reading the parable of the soils in Mark 4.
  5. Be willing to be changed. The way my body was changed today is similar to the way our spirits are changed, or our hearts. I might be a little sore today, and MORE sore tomorrow, but the long term investment of gardening all the time would be beneficial to my overall well being. If I spend time sowing spiritual seed on a regular basis, not only will I get better at sowing seed, but it’s going to make me a more fit follower of Christ too! 
  6. You might get burned! I was not prepared when I went in the sun today, and likewise, sometimes we may not be completely prepared to go to the fields. There have been times that I think that someone who has changed, has not really changed; and we get disappointed. Does it mean that we never sow seed again? NO!! But we may want to pay attention to the things earlier on (knowing God’s word, the soil, being covered in prayer, etc) to be ready to face challenging circumstances. It might take stronger tools to get that soil to change, but be willing to keep working on it - or to bring in the pro’s for support!!
  7. It takes time. Be willing to cultivate relationships...it takes time too!! Chances are the stranger on the street will not be affected with one encounter, but they might; someone else may have been working that ground before you got there!! You’ll have a better chance of making an impact by planning on being there for the long haul - not just haphazardly throwing seed around, or sprinkling the hose here and there. Go back, again, and again!! Nurture these seeds into seedlings, then take care of your lawn! It may need to be weeded, watered, fertilized, and cut - over and over - but it’s worth it to have a grassy spot - or a wonderful friendship with a new believer...

From the backyard, and the kitchen table...
blessings, grace and peace...
marina