Fences Make Good Neighbors

Fences make good neighbors? Mine probably think I’m nuts. I can hardly blame them considering my “throwing rocks at squirrel in gutter” escapade. A lot of them seem to question my landscaping methods.  And again, considering the current–and past–state of my yard, is still not particularly unreasonable.

I use organic and natural methods almost exclusively.  One, because I’m frugal (nice word for cheapskate, isn’t it?); two, because it’s better for the environment; and three, because my Dad died of a cancer caused by chemicals.  All of those things combined in my psyche created the monster that is DIY-Stephanie.

Old-school methods take time.  Leaf mold doesn’t grow overnight.  Our yard gets tons of shade, because of the half-dozen mature trees in, and around, our lot.  We could rake them to the curb, letting the city of Raleigh vacuum ‘em up to turn into soil that is then resold to various homeowners.  I have no interest in buying back the finished product when I can make it myself in the relative (dis)comfort of my neighbors.

Last fall, I raked leaves, not to the curb, but into various piles around the yard. To the casual observer it might look like I forgot to finish raking, but those piles actually represented future beds.  Beds that I planned from the cool indoors during the sweltering August heat.

The past few days have been gorgeous—60 degrees—after an abnormally cold few months that included TWO significant (i.e., more than 2 inches, lasting longer than a day) snowfalls.  I totally become part of the clichéd rush-to-Lowe’s-folk when warm weather approaches after winter, my hands itching to dig in the dirt.  Unlike a lot of others, my SAHM status means I can rush-to-Lowe’s on Friday morning instead of Saturday, which limits dealing with a hundred other mulch-eyed gardeners.

My supplies included humus, compost (yes, I know I can make this myself, and we do), and some more of the border edge stuff.  Pushing a shopping cart loaded down with children while pulling a garden cart loaded down with product takes skill; doing it without looking like a moron takes grace.  I was managing the skill part, but failing on the grace, when two store employees came up and offered help.  When you happen to be the lone customer it’s harder for the employees to pretend they don’t see you struggling which often means they might help. Being a girl and having a few kids–also helpful.

Once I trek everyone back home the fun begins. Play, play, dig in dirt.  Drag sand table, sand toys, and sand into the front yard.  Set up small children with shovels, buckets, and cars.  Screech, “Elliot, we don’t eat the sand,” a hundred times.  All while I’m hoeing and placing the edgers around the new bed.  Open humus and begin to pore.  Stop to chase Elliot back into our yard while trying to explain to Zach why it’s cool for him to hunt for grubs, but not to just put them in a different, safer spot in the yard.  Rinse, repeat.

As to my neighbors thinking I’m nuts—I thought it important to defend myself before just blurting it out.  Apparently, everything was okay until I started watering the dirt.  You see, humus is light; you can’t just spread it around and expect it to stay put.  You have to get it wet enough in order for it to be heavy enough to not blow away.

Sadly for me, all of the people walking the ‘hood and/or arriving back home from work didn’t see that DIY-Stephanie bought all of the makings for soil rather than just buying pre-made soil.  All they saw was a crazy woman entertaining children (at this point teaching them how to stomp down molehills) and watering dirt.  I wonder how they’ll feel when I bring out the old area rugs to use as a super-heavy weed barrior for the bed in the back yard?  Aw, we put up a privacy fence to hide the majority of my experiments. Too bad for shock value, probably good for heart health.