The Grass is Greener

green grass 0919

Above: the front yard is looking pretty green, except for the completely barren berm (and Lynn’s unplanted garden in the foreground). The east side of the house , except for the swath near the house where the sprinkler doesn’t go, also looks promising, but the large expanse in back and along the west looks like this:

no grass 0919

A couple weeks back, Lynn was looking around her new house, and this is what she said: “There really isn’t anything here that I look at and wish we’d done differently.” And she’s right. There are some little things, like the microwave that’s never going to materialize, but as we look around, we’re pretty happy with our house.

However — you knew there was going to be one of those, right? — I now think we made one wrong decision, and that’s with the landscaping. In retrospect, we should have gone with the professional landscaper.

If you’ll recall, my friends Vikki and Karen, both gardeners extraordinaire, counseled for amending the soil and coaxing things to grow next spring. Dusty insisted they were wrong and, worried about weed overgrowth, wanted us to have him plant grass and wildflower seed.

Then, as he has done several times during this project, he made it seem like this was the most urgent decision on the planet, and if we couldn’t give him an answer that second his crew would go away and not get back to us for several weeks. So we panicked and went with seeding — and then we waited for more than a week before they started doing any work. And this was a few weeks after he’d initially said we needed to get started on landscaping right away.

At no time during this process had weeds started to grow like they did earlier this year all over the pile of dirt excavated from the foundation. In clear 20/20 hindsight, they weren’t going to, not in September.

So now, while everything around us is in its vibrant death throes, we are bringing to life the green sprouts of spring. In a very patchy fashion that suggests a good portion of the money put into this project will ultimately be wasted. While grass is growing, in places, it seems like it would have been much smarter to amend the soil and let it lie, or at least turn the process over to a professional with the time and expertise to devote to it.

Dusty tried. His plan was to make this a low-maintenance enterprise, with miles of hoses on timers. But he and his guys have yet to put in any appearance to check their handiwork, and this is what you should know about Lynn and me and sprinklers: the more moving parts it has, the quicker we are going to break it.

Karen, the gardener, once gave us her little tractor sprinkler that pulls itself along the length of the hose (come to think of it, that probably would have been the best option for this seeding project). She had used it for years, a heavy-duty sprinkler made entirely of metal, and we broke it within a month. We broke two others (made with more plastic) before we decided to quit spending the money on little tractor sprinklers.

We break rain waves and ratcheting sprinklers, such as the ones currently strewn all around our house. We are really only trustworthy with those little metal ones with two holes that look like eyes. Those are nearly impossible to destroy.

So once we noticed that about half the sprinklers aren’t really doing the job Dusty intended them to do, we’ve had very little success in remedying the problems. He left no instructions for the automatic timers attached to each of the three outside spigots, and I have no idea what I’m doing when I keep fussing with the one sprinkler that doesn’t ever seem like it’s coming on.

Maybe you are wondering why we haven’t called Dusty to come fix his set-up, but we have our reasons. Reason #1 is that grass only just started coming up at all, in quantities enough that lets us see where the system has worked and where it has (mostly) failed. Reason #2 is that he has moved on to other projects, including the unexpected demise of the boiler in his own house (which he is going to replace with the same model as was installed here, so that’s a good endorsement; and he’s having an extremely difficult time getting his own plumber to make time for that project).

And Reason #3 is that our latest bill arrived last week and included things like a charge for an hour (that I think was half that) spent looking at Lynn’s leaky shower. It seems to me, if the shower is leaking within a month of use, that suggests it wasn’t put together as well as it could have been, and it seems to me that this should fall in the category of “no charge.” But “seems to me” and “seems to Dusty” are two different things.

[When we were discussing just how far over budget we’d gone, he seemed to think I should have known that using a draftsman not him would be extra, while I seemed to think that since he was no longer going to have to do that work, we’d just be paying a different person the same approximate amount.  So that was a $4,000 argument I lost, even including the engineer, who was going to have to be hired by either the draftsman or Dusty. I find his logic suspect, but he’s the one with my money.]

So I don’t really want to pay more money to fix what I think should have been covered in the first place. Or at least, not chasing green grass into October. I think we’re better off at this point in consulting with our landscape professional and spending the money to better effect with him next spring.

Everyone in town is eyeing the skies and wondering what sort of winter we’re going to have. Lynn and I aren’t building a house, so I assume it will be mild, dry and verging once again on drought. I’m not sure that bodes well for our new little grasses, coming into their prime as we bottom out below freezing nearly every night.

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