2017-05-19 / Commentary

My Brown Thumb


Yard work is not my favorite pastime. I’m not very good at it, and I really don’t have much time for it...at least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Unfortunately, it is true that people with much busier lives than mine seem to be able to maintain immaculate lawns.

So, if I can’t blame a lack of time, then maybe I can blame pine trees, bugs, dogs, the heat...whatever...but once again, it’s not like I live in a bubble. Those same busy people with the immaculate lawns are dealing with the same elements I do.

How do they do it?

Honestly, I do what I can, but I was born with a brown thumb. I’m the grim reaper of grass and gardens. My only hope is that the weeds will keep my lawn looking green and cover the bald spots.

Luckily, I have a pact with my neighbor. Neither of us is to do anything about the bare spots in our yards without the other’s approval. Then neither of us has the worst lawn on the cul-desac... we both do. It’s not something I think either of us is proud of, but it’s something we share other than grubs.

I’m afraid I get my lack of skill in the outdoor maintenance arena from my dad...at least the one I knew when I was a kid. My dad’s idea of lawn maintenance back then was to hand a neighborhood teenager a 20-dollar bill. Granted, what grass we had stayed mowed, but we weren’t going to win any “Yard of the Month” awards with our 14-yearold lawn care professional.

Dad passed his “wealth of knowledge” on to me. Unfortunately, I’m too cheap to hire a local teen, so I just have to rough it out.

Ironically, once I was out of his hair, my dad suddenly turned into O.M. Scott. The guy who barely had time to lift his wallet out of his Jordache jeans (it was the ’70s) got grey hair and... a green thumb. He started planting his own sod and caring for every single blade of grass within his property lines.

My dad raised me in a sand lot, and then as soon as I was gone, he turned his yard into Wrigley Field. It was an amazing transformation. I’d go to visit him, and he’d disappear for hours just walking his yard.

Throw some seed there...a little fertilizer here...some water there.

His burden had become his obsession.

At the time I thought he’d gone crazy, but now I just think that maybe there’s hope for me.

My wife says all we need to do is get rid of the mass of pine trees in our yard, and that will miraculously turn our lawn into the envy of the neighborhood. While I certainly appreciate her patronization, I think I’m going to hold on to those pine trees as long as possible.

The endless supply of pine needles and pine cones relentlessly adds to my yard duties, but whatever cocoon my dad emerged from to become the Master of Lawn Care hasn’t found me yet. I need every excuse I can get and more neighbors willing to align with my brown thumb.

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