Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Potpourri: Waging War on "The Scary Area"

I love most things about our 84 year-old cottage house.  Not all things, though. 

I don't particularly mind that we don't have a garage, although this has become more of an issue now that Stripling and Cox is no more.  For the un-Fort Worth-initiated, Stripling and Cox was a local department store, with some really quirky buyers.  You could get some really cool treasures if you sifted through all of the old lady clothes (think Koret of California) and country-"cute" (I use "cute" loosely) housewares.  Also a point in S and C's favor:  the covered parking lot.  Couldn't call it a garage, because it was all one level, but the housewares section was built all over it, making it the perfect place to park a car when you knew that a hailstorm was coming.  All Arlington Heights, North Hi Mount, Monticello and Ridglea dwellers lacking parking garages seemed to know about the S and C thing, judging by how many cars you found crammed under there on a bad weather day.  If you didn't want to drive up there and wait out the storm, then general policy was to send a family member of driving age up to S and C in the car that you deemed to be "the keeper," and another family member would follow behind, retrieve the first driver and chauffeur him back home.

Then they leveled S and C - meaning that residents of our particular neighborhood now jockey for six choice positions under the I-30 overpass when the sirens go off.

Our driveway is shaded by a ginormous tree - ginormous enough to shelter two cars - so we don't get direct sun on our cars, and the upper branches tend to deflect hailstones.  In fact, our front yard trees are dense enough that you don't really get rained on when you are standing under them.  So, basically, "no garage" and "ginormous trees" offset each other.

I do mind that the people who built our home chose to orient the carriage house some ten feet or more off of the back fence line - notwithstanding that the deed restrictions didn't provide for a setback.  As a result, we have a decent-sized backyard between our house and the carriage house, then the carriage house, and then a bunch of unused space behind it.

Yes, we could rebuild the carriage house in a different location - maybe spring for a functioning garage, even.  But that would be quite expensive, based on our numbers.  And we already oriented a large patio based on the carriage house's orientation.  So, pretty much, it is what it's gonna be back there.

But I would like to use that dead space.  Problem is, much of the vegetation on our property has been growing for as long as the house has been in place, if not longer.  As a result, said vegetation is - um, I would say "entrenched," but entrenched is not a strong enough word.  Searching for a metaphor for the war that we have been waging against unwanted plant life since moving in twelve years ago.  Um, Vietnam?  Afghanistan?  Iraq?  Pick your favorite unending conflict.

I hack at stuff until there's nothing left to hack.  Then I dig - but the roots are too flippin' deep.  So I get out what I can, thinking, "I'll just monitor it and remove stuff as it grows."  And then, I SWEAR AFTER NO MORE THAN A 24-HOUR TIME LAG, it's all back to full height again.  No, not just full height - it's gotten bigger.

I have begged and pleaded with my spouse to recruit his brothers for a work day.  We're due, I think - they helped us move in, but that was twelve years ago, and we've helped several of them with similar projects since.  It's our turn.  And I would be totally fine with them calling it my birthday present, and/or my Christmas present.  I know that they can do the job, because they grew up on a ranch, and I have seen them attack brush.  That's what this is, really - brush and woodland undergrowth.  Crazy-invasive vines, "woody weeds" (this is, apparently, a technical term - just saw it on a bottle of vegetation killer), and what my husband refers to as "crap trees."

So, my thought was, recruit the brothers-in-law, feed them, provide them with tasty beverages, and turn 'em loose with shovels, pole pruners, etc. 

My spouse had a different take on things:  "Brothers?  I don't need no stinkin' brothers."

So, armed with a grubbing hoe, my weekend warrior (actually, this took place on a Friday), attacked the long and narrow space between the side of the carriage house and our neighbor's fence.  And, not too surprisingly, after removing most of the green stuff, he determined that what I have been not-so-affectionately calling "weeds on steroids" were, in fact, the various branches of a tree.  Specifically, we appeared to be fighting a banyan tree.  A BANYAN TREE, people. 

Banyan trees grow like this:

See all of those skinny parallel trunks?  Yeah, we were dealing with THAT.

Did you know that banyan trees will actually eat humans?  Seriously, take a look at this one in Indonesia:

Okay, so most likely, someone placed the skulls there - but I'm fairly sure that our tree would have eaten you if you stood still long enough.

That was before my husband killed said tree. 

This is the location of the former tree, now deceased.  Well, it's mostly deceased - like the dude protesting his placement in the Dead Wagon in "Holy Grail," it's not quite dead yet.  There's still some stump there, but it is about to meet its maker, in the form of stump killer, or bleach, or stump killer followed by bleach, or bleach followed by stump killer.  Then I'm putting black plastic down, and then mulch, and possibly some ground cover (I'm thinking that ground cover has shallow roots and wouldn't ever come in contact with the poison - but I'm going to ask the guy at the garden center first).  But, ultimately, there will be ground cover.  And paving stones.  And that's about it.  Maybe some potted plants, but, really, the highest and best use for this space is a road to the "scary-area-behind-the-carriage-house."  Which, I guess, makes it the Road to Nowhere.

Except that the scary area is not so scary, now that my own personal Paul Bunyan took his grubbing hoe to it.  Here are before and after pictures of what I refer to as "the scary-possible-snake-habitat."

Okay, I realize that the "after" picture still looks pretty green, but most of that is stuff that needs to be raked up.  Also, once "Paul" has recovered from his exertion, he will be donning heavy work gloves and boots and doing something with that pile of bricks (the bricks that WEREN'T EVEN VISIBLE in the "before" picture - they had disappeared into the undergrowth!).  Then, I guess, we're putting down more chemicals, more plastic, more mulch and, ultimately, ground cover.  Or . . . vegetables?   I tend to think of the space as being shady (in more ways than one), but I'm not sure how much of that shade was being cast by the overhead trees and how much was coming from stuff on the ground, vines, etc.  So I'm going to watch the sun patterns, and then maybe do a little pruning (or, you know, ask the spouse to do some pruning).  I want to do SOMETHING back there.  But - what? 

Soliciting suggestions . . . .

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