November 16, 2016

Worldly Possessions

Our over-wintering plants in their
home for the next four or five months
Each year in late October or early November, Betty and I go through an autumn ritual called ‘turning over the garage’.  It’s a grueling, day-long task that starts with pulling apart upwards of two dozen large, terra cotta summer containers, washing and disinfecting those containers, making a sunny space for the plants we’ll over-winter in the garage, and switching around ‘gardening stuff’ (e.g. carts and wheelbarrows) to make ‘winter stuff’ (e.g.,  our snow blower) readily accessible.
We also take everything out of the garage, spread it out over our driveway, and look at each item with a jaundiced eye.  Do we still have use for this?  Are we ever going to use that again?  Is this beyond repair?  When we moved out of Wild Holly Lane (with its three-car garage) and into our new home (two-and-a-half-cars wide), we threw away a lot of stuff, but kept some questionable things that we thought might prove useful.
The rototiller awaits its fate
Well, at the end of our first full season in our new home, the jury is back with a unanimous verdict. 
We no longer have a use for a rototiller.  It served us faithfully back in the eighties and we kept it around like some superannuated family retainer, carting it from Massachusetts to Connecticut to Virginia and back to Massachusetts.  Despite a $200 overhaul, our old Troy-Bilt was no match for the rocky ‘builder’s crud’ at our new home site; and now, with that crud replaced at great expense by new screened loam, a simple shovel will suffice to open planting areas.  However, a notice on a Facebook ‘swap meet’ page has thus far failed to find a taker. Until it does, our venerable rototiller resides in an obliging neighbor’s shed.
Our former clematis
at our former house.
Note the lattice.
But the Troy-Bilt is a success story, relatively speaking.  You see, it takes two votes to oust something from the garage.  Take, for example, three pieces of plastic latticework.  For several years, they provided support for an autumn clematis that climbed twenty feet up the side of our former house and spread six feet wide.  The emphasis in the previous sentence should be on the word, ‘former’. We no longer live there and the clematis most definitely stayed behind.  Why do we still need pieces of lattice cut to fit a plant at a house we left behind?  Betty says we may well again have a climbing vine or hydrangea, and the lattice might come in handy.  And, besides, it stacks neatly against a wall and takes up almost no space.
The lattice stayed.
Our blade-less hoe
earned a reprieve
because it is useful
to swab out barrels
Over the summer, the blade broke off from the handle of one of our hoes.  It proved impossible to re-attach the blade but we kept the sturdy, six-foot-long handle because it gave us an interesting hook that might prove useful in, say, pulling down tall branches that needed to be trimmed.  Well, a summer and fall have come and gone, and there was never a time that such a tool was even remotely required.  We both agreed that, however handsome and intriguing was our decapitated hoe, its time was past.  The handle actually went into our car and made a trip to the transfer station.  But, somehow, it did not get thrown away.  It came home with us.  Then, that very afternoon, I was attempting to swab out the interior of our now-emptied rain barrels with a bleach-soaked rag.  I needed some kind of a long pole with a hook at the end to thoroughly scrub the walls and base of the barrels…
The headless hoe is back in the garage.
The French drain sample.  Coming
soon to a flower show near you?
There is no grace-saving employment, however, for an eighteen-inch long sample of an innovative prefabricated French-drain: a perforated-pipe-cum-packing-peanuts-plus-netting contraption.  Betty scored the sample at a trade show two years ago.  We knew we would need subterranean drains to carry off rainwater from our gutters to the wetlands behind our new home.  The salesman’s pitch was this: rather than digging a foot-deep trench, filling it part way with rock, laying in a drain pipe, then complete the filling of the trench with more rock and covering with topsoil; two steps could be eliminated.  Just dig the trench, lay in the pipe-and-peanut contraption, and cover with soil. 
A 40-foot drain I dug in the
back of our property.  The
pipe cost less than $40.  The
French drain would have
cost $250.
Well, we have six such drain fields, the longest of which stretches forty feet.  But when I went to price this labor-saving prefabricated system, I discovered that a 25-foot-section of plain, perforated four-inch plastic pipe is less than $20 while an eight-foot length of prefabricated French drain is fifty dollars.  And I didn’t really need the drain feature; having most of the water make it to the wetlands was beneficial.  Multiply that cost differential times the roughly eighteen, eight-foot sections that we would need install, and the premium quickly soared to more than $700.  Such an investment made sense only if someone was paying a work crew by the hour.  I work for love.  I made my case to Betty that the drains are already in place and the sample is redundant.  She was adamant.  It may come in useful someday.  Possibly in a highly creative abstract floral design.
The French drain is still in the garage.
Without grass, my cherished British
edging tool has no purpose.  But it
isn't going away...
And then there is the lawn edger.  I fell in love with this tool a decade ago on a trip to England, came home and located one via my local hardware store’s specialty catalog, and used the tool religiously thereafter.  Unfortunately, “thereafter” ended when we moved to our new home.  There is no lawn to be edged.  By design, there is not a blade of grass on the property, nor will there ever be.  My beloved tool has no place in this New Horticultural Order.  But will I part with it?  Not a chance.  It is a family heirloom and it will be removed only when it is pried from my cold, dead hands.
It, too, is still in the garage.

There is a list of other gegaws and gimcracks that will populate our garage for another season, but you get the idea.  I will even readily confess that I am more sentimental about keeping things than is Betty.  There is, after all, room.  Room, in this case, for things where possession is less a function of logic than of human nature.

1 comment:

  1. Neal, since we don't have a garage I don't have much room for garden stuff. All of my "yard art",including a glass bird bath in the shape of a daisy and my wonderful crow now resides in the guest bedroom. They will stay there safe and sound until spring. I will enjoy looking in on them when winter winds blow.