We have a diverse and ever-changing population of wildlife in our neighborhood. Beyond the stray cats and birds, we also regularly see possums and raccoons in our backyard. For the most part they are harmless and haven’t posed a danger to us, so we put food out for whoever wants it. We have no restaurants in the area, so ur trash pickings are rather slim. I believe that a well-fed possum is less hazardous than a starving sickly one.

This is Petunia – Petunia Possum. She appears once in a while, but this was the first time I was able to get her photo. Yes, I am assuming it a girl. It thought it rude to have to ask.

And yes, we name them all.

 

WE HAVE GRASS!!!

For two weeks we didn’t see anything and then suddenly one morning I saw a haze over my dirt-yard and bent down to see GRASS! Thin spindly barely-there grass. Let’s just say that I could finally release the breath I had been holding. I was secretly terrified that we had done something wrong and would never get grass to grow again. Glad that fate was dodged.

It was a difficult couple of weeds that didn’t see much activity due to rain, but I did add a brick platform for our rain barrel. We have a spot along our rain gutters where the water just pours out onto the ground. A hole had been drilled into the yard where it had been eroded away by years of rain.

Fixing the gutters would be the best solution, but not one we can tackle at this point, for reasons. However, we have a drain in the middle of the yard that allows rain to go directly into the sewer. I suggested we rig it so that the water off the gutter would drain to there instead. It took a while to find a workable and aesthetically approved solution, but I located a wine-barrel planter on Craigslist for $20. I then drilled a hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain out into a hose and ran the hose in a trench to the drain. The drain and hose are now hidden and not an eyesore.

The yard will need a little repair, but it’s still growing and will cover my damage in time.

The next project is to add a path extension along the garage. Then I think I can relax and just watch the grass grow.

In the last month, I’ve had to replace two laptops, a CADmouse, and Bluetooth earbuds. I find that technology is being more of a hindrance than a help lately. I can write on any-old-thing: a grocery receipt, the back of my hand, etc. But I can’t publish or post anything without the technology that is failing me.

My wife has been working from home for the last month and relies heavily on her laptop. She works in customer service and is essentially hogtied without it. Around 10am Monday morning, it decided to go tits-up and would only show the Blue Screen Of Death. She called me at work (cause I’m still working a day job) frantic because she was in the middle of a busy morning and was completely offline. Luckily my laptop was available and practically new. – Yeah, she got to touch my stuff!

I am pretty good with computers, but a computer with a dead harddrive doesn’t really have a fix – it’s a ‘replace’ situation. Our options were to either replace the drive or replace the computer. We went with the new computer. At $499 they’re cheaper than a good set of tires. Which, I found, rather eye-opening for two reasons.

  1. I remember paying $2000 for a laptop that was a Model T compared to this thing and cost more than my car at the time.
  2. I remember when $499 would have made me choke. Now, it barely gets a ‘meh’.

Times change, technology changes, and the value of things changes. But I am only slowly catching up. I’ve got more money than I’ve ever had in my life and the things that used to be expensive and impressive have become mundane commodities. I used to drool over ads in PC Magazine and Computer Shopper for PC’s capable of doing CAD drawing and music recording. Now you can do all of it on your phone. I even worked at Gateway Computers for a short time and remember when 60megabyte harddrives were the size of small carry-on luggage.

Now I’ve only succeeded in making myself sound old and crotchety. I think this is what growing up feels like once you realize you’re there, when in reality, it is already miles behind you.

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Weather and life teamed up to delay our concrete work and tilling, but this weekend we took advantage of beautiful weather and hammered through both tasks in two days. I am exhausted and sore but also done with the heavy work.

Last weekend I laid down the brick path to the garage. It was cold and rainy all week so it just sat there waiting for me. So, on Saturday it was above 60F and sunny. It was perfect for some concrete work. My wife and I were on our hands and knees for over three hours pushing mortar between bricks. I don’t think I will ever do it that way again. It turned out great but I can’t really say it was worth it. There has to be a better way to do this.

BUT… it is complete and looks great.

The next phase of the project was tilling the yard for new grass. I was able to borrow an old Troy-Bilt tiller from a friend and fired it up on Sunday. I then spent the next three hours being drug around the yard like a dog toy. It was comical and, again, exhausting. This ground hadn’t been worked or dug up in decades or ever. It was full of bricks and nails and mystery trash along with long-dead roots and buried steel posts. It was an adventure in itself.

The ground is now fluffy soft and waiting for seed. It’s supposed to rain on Wednesday, so we plan to have it seeded and fertilized by then. All the hardest work in our project is complete and our yard has been beaten into a semblance of submission. Right now, every muscle in my body is sore and I need Chiropractor. 

My wife has already announced that we will be contracting someone to do the sidewalk next time. I am in full agreement! I won’t even ask the cost.

Uncertainty is a terrible catalyst for creativity. When the Coronovirus transformed into a pandemic and we began to see social distancing and stay at home orders, I was excited. Wait, that may not be the best word. I was encouraged and expected to get some alone-at-home time to complete my book and even had some new ideas for other material. The reality of the situation has proved to be far different.

I have had zero alone time at home. My work schedule hasn’t changed an iota and my wife thought this would be a great time to landscape the yard. So I have had far less time to write than I did before the virus, not more.

I have made daily attempts to write, but it comes in fits and starts and rarely flows like it did or needs to. The uncertainty of our current situation is weighing on me, I think. I expected the United States to be able to handle this situation better than most.  Irregardless of our incompetent President and his lackeys, I expected there to be enough quality adults in charge to offset them and get us through this smoothly. I was sadly mistaken.

A month into a weak national lockdown and we’ve got more cases of the virus in this country than all the rest of the world combined. We as a nation have failed and as a people are continuing to fail. I have little confidence that we will be out of this crisis soon or undamaged. Our economy, our world standing, our healthcare system and our self-confidence will be damaged and changed.

I’m just trying to complete my novel. I made the conscious decision to not address the virus in my writing, but it has definitely affected my work-mind. I need to be in the correct frame of mind and emotion to produce quality work and the uncertainty of today is not making that easy. Most days I get little accomplished and end up getting lost in the pity/bitch party that is Facebook/Twitter.

I hope everyone is safe and taking this seriously. The only way through this a concerted effort to stop it. And that can only be accomplished by social distancing.

See Ya!!

The weather has held, but the labor is not fairing so well. I’m getting worn and tired. But I am plugging forward. We completed the small patio area under the deck. The place where my grill was parked didn’t have a full brick underlay so my wife wanted to use larger paving stones to redo it. I’ve done larger sizes before am not a fan. I’m not sure why maybe my technique is not up to it?

However, our cat Turkey has turned into quite the assistant. Has to have his paw in everything.

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Turkey supervising.

But we finished that area on the weekend and then did the next section in the original repurposed red brick. The smaller bricks were much easier to work with. They are more forgiving. The area is NOT level or uniform or anything else professionally expected. I mortared the joints on Monday after work. It took a lot more than I expected. However, they are pretty and permanent. That is enough for me.

My knees and feet are killing me. Today, rather than tackle the next section, we broke mandatory isolation and snuck to Menards for more mortar and sand. I think we had 1000lbs of materials in our old beat-up minivan. It was NOT happy.

Tomorrow we’ll tackle the run to the garage. It should be easier than the patio. I might know what I’m doing now. My goal is to survive this lawn. I haven’t bled into it yet, but I gave it all my aches and pains. This is why people hire professionals.

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The weather here in St Louis has been cool and sunny. Perfect for DESTROYING… I mean remodeling a yard.  My wife is still working from home and it is beginning to wear on both of us. (I go to work daily to get away from her.) She is taking her frustration on our back lawn. Weekend #2 is coming up, so I’m sure there will be some significant activity.

During the week we work on it in the evening. I have sprayed chemical death on everything living and it is all turning brown. I’m assuming that is a good sign. We also decided to dig up the sawtooth leaf thing on the side of the yard.

Can you tell I’m not a plant guy? I have NO IDEA what these things are called. They all have leaves, a stem, maybe flower…plants, right?

Anyway, we dug up the hideous sharp leaved plants that were there when we moved in. The roots went deep, so I had to dig up the yard a bit. I expect to see them again. Nothing with roots like that dies easily!

Now, while we wait for everything to finish dying, we’ve decided to redo that path also. So, yesterday we dug up all the old bricks and trim. We even found some old path we didn’t know about hidden under an overgrowth of grass. Tonight, I’m researching how to install a bricked garden path. This should be interesting.

Please keep in mind that we are renting this property. I keep trying to explain that to the wife, but she must have what she wants. Because… Happy Wife, Happy Life.

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It has been beautiful here in St Louis and my wife is very much an outdoor person. She is currently working from home and going stir crazy. So, that means I get roped into going on walks, house hunting treks, and trips to Home Depot. On Saturday we went to buy a garden rake and came out with $400 worth of plants and planters and spreaders and hose and dirt in a bag and rocks in a bag and fertilizer and finally, a rake!

We have a little yard, merely a tarp-sized yard, really. But it has been populated by grass-like plants that are seemingly impossible to kill. We sprayed the yard with Kill-Everything juice last year and most of it just laughed us. This is back alley knife-wielding grass.

This year, my wife decided she wanted to till it up completely and start from scratch. Therefore, we rented a tiller and hired a neighbor to manhandle it. In the end,  the yard was tore up plenty, but I think the grass still won. It’s back there snickering at us now.

However, we did get a win out of it. Our master bedroom has a deck off of it that we use as a reading / sunroom area. It now has window boxes, a fern, some other flowery stem plant, and a palm, all nicely arrayed and pretty.

I am exhausted and ready to go back to work tomorrow. My wife is visibly more relaxed for having established her plant sanctuary. The yard is still laughing at me. I think a gallon of RoundUp is in its future. Yes, yes… its the evil Monsanto Monster Juice, but sometimes drastic situations demand drastic actions.

Die, Evil Grass-like weed, Die!!

I took my personal space for a walk today. It was a beautiful day. So, when I got home from my day job, I rescued my wife’s personal space and took it to the park. She has been working from home and was desperate for some air. Tower Grove in St Louis is a beautiful park not far from us. Not within walking distance but close enough that it is our goto for park walking.

The sunny weather had driven a lot of personal spaces out of the house, many with dogs. The park was scattered with them, but by watching you could still tell that they were keeping their distance more than usual. I tend to do that anyway. I’m am not a touchy friendly person and have a personal space that is much larger than most. There was a clear sphere of space around everyone.

It got me thinking about the ‘after’ of this crisis. Even if we are all suddenly immunized for this bug, the experience of knowing that we could get deathly ill merely by being near someone must leave an impression. Yes, this has always been true, sicknesses and plagues are nothing new. But we’ve never had that fact drilled home nearly as sharply as we now have.  Not many personal spaces will come out of this unchanged.

I can imagine a future where we no longer shake hands with any old willy-nilly stranger. We save that most professional of greetings for closer acquaintances or business contacts. Hugs and kisses will become fewer and more precious. Bars and clubs would not be nearly as crowded. Body-pressing will become frowned on. Etc…

Except I doubt any of those visions will happen. Humans are icky, ill-mannered, and hard to housetrain. However, I do feel us becoming less in-your-face than before. Being standoffish is okay. I respect your personal space and expect the same of mine. All personal spaces should expand a bit, be more free-range. Instead of man-spreading, we’re personal-spreading. This ain’t grand-dads personal space, know-what-I’m-sayin.

The future is cloudy and swarming with diseases and icky humans. We don’t know what, if anything, we will retain from this experience. But, yet, I am very sure my own personal space will remain large and hard to get into. I don’t invite people, even friends, into it very often. My spread will remain intact.

Space, people… Give Me Space!!