Yesterday Otto got a wild hair—and by “wild hair” I of course mean that he set out to do EXACTLY what he’d been telling me for two months he was going to do, but I was just sort of hoping ignoring him and practicing denial might stave off the inevitable—and declared it an Outside Work day.
We have a couple of acres, here, and the best part about it is that most of it is WOODS. Woods are awesome, because they’re shady, and they present lots of opportunities for your children to go out and muck around and turn over logs and find gross bugs, but BEST OF ALL, woods do not require mowing, digging, pruning, or other maintenance. They just sort of stand there.
Unfortunately, we also have a rather large garden plot across the front of the house, and then that whole area inside the fence back around the pool, and both areas are not unlike Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. There could totally be bobcats hiding in there, is all I’m saying.
We decided on two goals for yesterday: Clean up the front garden, and open the pool.
You may recall from our adventures in learning just how stupid we actually are LAST summer, that as new pool owners we were pretty much a classic case of the blind leading the blind. Taking care of a pool is complicated and we had a lot to learn. (Mostly Otto learned it, while I provided useful auxiliary support in the form of shopping for pool toys.) Once everything was straightened out and we’d spent all of our money on pool chemicals, though, HOOBOY, we did come to love the joys of pool ownership. I mean, if you have to live somewhere that the temperature regularly spikes over 100 degrees, I believe having a pool is pretty much the only way to survive.
When the season ended last year, Otto followed the pool-closing instructions to the letter, prepping the water for its hibernation, and then we dragged the pool cover over the top and secured it with bricks. Perfect!
Except, of course, that the pool cover had a tear. We didn’t know it, of course. Not immediately, anyway. After the first big rain, Otto went out to vacuum the excess water off the cover, and he returned looking grim because the more he’d pumped, the more there was! Like magic! Except this kind of magic causes algae growth!
So yesterday we wrestled the cover off of the pool to reveal our classy new swamp. The children were horrified. We had to explain that the water won’t be ready for about a week, maybe two. In the meantime, I feel that the swirling green foam lends an air of mystery to the backyard. The pool pump and filter seem to agree, as they find it SO MYSTERIOUS that we have to monitor the mechanism closely for overload as it struggles to filter out the new ecosystem we created over the winter. Lovely.
After unveiling the pool, we turned our attention to the front garden. It seems to me that Otto tore out and hauled away all kinds of plants from there this fall, but somehow there was still plenty of stuff growing. Otto wanted to dig up the entire thing and essentially start over, and I wailed and gnashed my teeth because LOOK! There are lilies in there! And daffodils! And also I am far too lazy to dig all of this up!
As it turns out, I’m such a delicate flower, myself, I needn’t have worried.
Otto grabbed a shovel and would spear the tip of it into the ground, then jump on the back of it to drive it the rest of the way down. Then he’d pull down on the handle, levering the chunk of earth to the surface for removal.
I grabbed a shovel and needed four tries to even get it to break the surface of the ground at all. Jumping on the back of it didn’t cause it to budge one bit. Lest you think me as wispy as a handful of feathers, let me assure you that Georgia clay is really, really, REALLY hard. Also, all of me except my ass is as wispy as a handful of feathers, and it’s really hard to use your ass for shovel leverage.
So Otto dug up the entire garden, except for one small plot he set the kids on with little hand spades, where they dutifully ripped the tops off of all the weeds. Very helpful.
I did get to participate in deciding what to toss and what to keep, and we both felt a little bit of glee as he disposed of the gargantuan trumpet flower at the corner of the driveway. When we moved in to this house, one of the neighbors came over and went on and on about how that plant was an heirloom and passed down in the previous owner’s family for generations and they’d not had enough time to transplant it and it’s extremely rare and blah blah blah blah. She asked us if she could dig it up to send to the previous owners and we said sure. She never dug it up and what we discovered as it grew and bloomed and them made a mess everywhere is that yes, it’s rare, and yes, it smells pretty nice, but it’s HUGE and sort of UGLY.
Now I guess we can brag on our heirloom compost pile, at least.
Otto dug up the daffodils and moved them around and we transplanted some weird bush grass that we have edging the front beds intermittently and of course he moved the hostas around, making them actually look organized and pretty, because that way the deer can have a more pleasant dining experience when they come up the house to devour them.
Otto worked really hard all day, and I corralled the kids and did laundry and cleaned the kitchen and backwashed the pool filter periodically and trimmed back some hedges and ran wheelbarrow loads of displaced vegetation out to the compost pile. By the time the kids were getting ready for bed, the front garden had been transformed into a freshly-turned blank canvas.
(And the pool was still green and foamy, but you can’t have everything.)
While on my way to tuck Monkey into bed, I picked up a few things in the kids’ playroom upstairs. In doing so I picked up a sofa cushion, under which I found several long, half-pipe-shaped pieces of paint. I stared at them for a moment. Then I slowly forced my eyes upward to the nearby corner of wall, where I was faced with a long edge of exposed metal. Where the paint had been meticulously peeled off.
I. Lost. My. Shit.
I called both children into the room and showed them the paint peelings, and the naked corner of the wall, and asked who was responsible. I may have also asked on what planet it is appropriate to peel paint off of a perfectly good wall.
Neither child fessed up. Both, in fact, claimed TOTAL IGNORANCE. As in, “What now? I don’t understand. What? Where? I would never do that. I don’t know what you’re talking about, really. Who are you, again?”
My original suspicions lay with Chickadee, both because she tends to be more destructive and because Monkey is a lousy liar. But as the inquisition wore on, I began to see how this was possibly a joint endeavor. Still, no one knew anything.
I was sweaty and tired and cranky and I’d had it.
“OKAY THEN!” I announced, pocketing the paint curls. “Fine, it wasn’t either one of you. Okay. Well, see, the problem here is that I need to know who did this. But that’s fine, you don’t need to tell me. I, however, need to tell YOU that until someone comes forth to tell me what happened here, NEITHER of you are going swimming. There will be no children in that pool until this mystery is solved. So think about it.”
Monkey burst into tears and I felt like the biggest asshole on the planet, while Chickadee merely shrugged and muttered something about how the pool was completely disgusting, anyway.
“Well I’m sorry, kids, but that’s how it’s going to be. The pool will be ready in a week, and if someone tells me the truth before then, well, that’s great. Otherwise, no swimming. The choice is yours.” I started to leave the room.
“But what if it WASN’T either of us!” Chickadee burst out. “It could’ve been SOMEONE ELSE! That’s NOT FAIR!”
“Yeah!” agreed Monkey, snuffling behind her.
“Well you two are the only ones who’ve been up here, so if it wasn’t either of YOU, then we have a nasty case of GOBLINS! In which case I hardly think it’ll be safe to go swimming. So.”
I turned and left, heading downstairs and praying hard that no one would ask me to clarify the goblins-swimming connection. Are goblins known for drowning people? I had no idea what I’d meant by that comment. I was just really pissed off about the corner of the wall.
No one wanted to talk about the paint chips this morning, but both children were quick to tell me that the pool still looks “totally disgusting.”
Hey, at least the front garden looks nice.