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* 26 September 2008 - I Fought The Lawn and The Lawn Won *

I live in a house that is located in your typical suburban neighborhood. It's actually
a pretty nice neighborhood, which makes me wonder how I ended up here in the first
place. Make no mistake about it... my family is most certainly the "trailer trash" of
our street. That's not to say that we have domestic disputes in the driveway or have
cars up on blocks in the middle of the lawn. For this particular neighborhood, it just
means that we paid less than $50000 for our cars and that I don't measure each
individual blade of grass in the yard before trimming it to perfection with a pair of

In other words, we place far less of a premium on "appearance" than most of our
neighbors do. Many of our neighbors are pretty nice folks, so it isn't like everyone
around us are all about perception and status. It's just that they prefer to spend
their money on cars and boats while we spend money on things like mortgages and
retirement investments. Why try to convince everyone around you that you are a
millionaire when you can actually be one?

In keeping with the general trailer trash motif, I have long since adopted a laissez-
faire approach to lawn care and maintenance. Our grass gets tall. Like "the housing
association is threatening to fine you" tall. While I find the whole concept of a
housing association to be rather distasteful, it does generally keep people like me
from moving into the neighborhood. I suppose that's a good thing. I certainly
wouldn't want to live next to me. If I did, I can tell you for a fact that I'd be
living next to someone who doesn't take care of his lawn.

At one point, one of the neighbors actually gave us a lawn edger. Yes, he gave it to
us. Was it a none-too-subtle hint to get with the program, or him just being
neighborly to the poor people with the unkept lawn? Perhaps it just unnerved him to
spend all that time measuring his grass and cutting it with scissors, and then looking
across the street to see the Amazon growing. Either way, hey... free lawn edger.

I generally am not so crotchety that I yell at kids to get off my lawn. I figure that
the fact that the kids have to wade through all the tall grass to get through it is
its own punishment. Occasionally, I'll use the hose to shoot at children that wander
across the property line and into my personal jungle. This seems to delight the
children, and water the lawn as well, so it is generally a completely counter-
productive process. Perhaps I should just plant landmines.

Earlier this summer, I was performing lawn triage. I had gotten another nastygram from
the homeowner's association telling me to either mow my lawn or pay a fine and then mow
my lawn. While I hated the concept of mowing an overgrown lawn in 95 degree weather in
95% humidity, I disliked the concept of paying a fine before doing the same thing quite
a bit more. I was attempting to figure out just how little I had to do with the lawn
to get by for now without getting fined.

As I swept the grass back and forth with my foot to get a good look, I noticed that
there was a small mound of fresh dirt in the middle of my yard. A brief inspection
uncovered perhaps a dozen more of these little mounds all over the place. I figured
that it had to be a mole digging up my backyard, so I decided to fix the critter's
little red wagon.

I stuck a water hose down one of the holes and started the water flowing. I had this
image in my mind of it being like Caddyshack with water blasting up out of a dozen
little holes all over the yard. Sadly, it just made the yard soggy. The grass looked
even greener after it watered it directly via the roots, so maybe I just discovered the
secret to maintaining a good yard. Not that the yard needed the help, of course...
all of the rain that we get makes the grass grow about an inch per day.

I briefly pondered adopting a "scortched earth" policy by dumping kerosene down all of
those offending mole holes. Once everything was good and flooded, I could just toss a
match out into the yard and wait for all of the soil launched into the air by the
explosion to fall back to Earth. I've found that fire can solve many problems if it is
applied to the situation correctly.

You know what they say... build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for one day. But
light a man on fire, and he'll be warm the rest of his life.

There is a patch of grass around the mailbox that requires weed whacking. My weed
whacker and I are not friends. I hate the little bastard. It takes well over 100
pulls on the cord to get it started, and the nylon string of the weed whacker breaks
and tangles with astonishing speed. I spend more time futzing around with getting it
working than actually using it for something productive.

In order to reduce the amount of weeds to be whacked, I made a command decision to
tear out the grass around the mailbox and replace it with gravel. This way, I could
avoid maintenance of that area while making an attempt at putting in landscaping.

I began tearing up the sod around the mailbox, which is quite a trick when you have a
well-established lawn. You need to chop up the sod and then get under it to tear it
loose from the soil beneath. The roots of the grass go down rather deep, so you have
to get a very good grip under the piece of sod to rip it up.

I poked my fingers under the sod and started pulling. I noted that my fingers were
itching, which I attributed to the dirt and grass. When the itching turned to burning,
I brushed the dirt off my hands and took a closer look.

Ants. Thousands of ants. There must have been a huge colony of them right around the

I was already all worn out from chopping up sod, and I was in no mood to deal with the
little jerks. I grabbed the garden hose, turned it on full blast, and dragged it over
to the mailbox. Then, we got the party started. I covered about 98% of the hose's
opening with my thumb and turned my simple garden hose into an ant-drilling beam of
doom. I pointed the water stream at the ants and went for broke.

While I was having a bad day, it was a complete birthday party compared to what the
ants had scheduled for them. They were flying everywhere, either drowning from the
water or getting mashed flatter than a pancake from the impact of the stream. I began
dancing around the mailbox while I blasted the ants into oblivion. I yelled "SHOW'S
OVER, SYNERGY!!" while I cackled and delighted at the agony of the ants.

Neighbors were beginning to peek through the blinds of their windows and wonder what
in the hell the neighborhood's resident lunatic was up to. No one came out and said
anything to me, though. I think that they were just relieved that I was actually
taking an interest in my lawn for a change, and they weren't going to do anything that
would interrupt the process.

Eventually, my wife and I gave up on the lawn and just hired a service to do it. I
leave for work and the grass is tall. I come home and it is short. Who does it? How
long does it take? I have no idea. I just know that I don't have to do it.

I still go out and shoot the ants with the garden hose, though. It's a very satisfying
part of the lawn ownership process.

When this .plan was written: 2008-09-25 11:25:47
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