Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sneak Peek

Eventually, lots of flowers and NO lawn
Note to readers:  The house we recently moved into has no lawn; none, zero, zip, zilch. The previous owner landscaped with raised flower beds alone. This is a contrast to what we've had before, where the lawn ruled and the flowers were just added as an afterthought. I like the concept.

What follows is an excerpt from the second Of Moose and Men volume, which is currently under development. It is tentatively subtitled, Home is where the harm is, and should be available by the end of July.

The piece was written when we put the lawn in at the house we just left. The yard was entirely barren when we started, and the mutts were tracking in mud and dirt with every trip they took out. The full piece is significantly longer, but I hope you enjoy this shortened sneak peek.

We have never had occasion to use a rototiller before.  There simply has never been any need.  If we needed any ground in the yard torn up, we just let our dogs do the work.  We used one of those chain spikes and moved them around every day or so, and they would dig up a new spot.  With the dogs, and absolute minimal effort on our part, I’d bet we could churn up a forty acre tract in just a few days.

I wasn’t worried about joining the mechanical revolution.  After all, I reasoned, how tough could it be to run a rototiller?  I’d seen ads with a petite lady standing behind a rototiller, holding onto it with just one hand, under the caption, “ROTOTILL WITH JUST ONE HAND!”.  In the picture, the petite lady looks very happy.

In real life, the petite lady in the ad was smiling because the rototiller had been turned off for the picture.  She was holding onto the contraption with only one hand because if she’d have let go with both hands, she would have fallen over from exhaustion.  But those were things yet to be discovered as I merrily left the nursery, excited to begin the great lawn adventure.

After talking to the local nursery, I was almost looking forward to the job.  It wasn’t the thought of having some lush, green expanse of lawn spreading out for our enjoyment.  What seemed so fun about the entire affair was the prospect of running a rototiller.  This seemed like a dream come true: the opportunity to play with something like a super power tool without buying it.  Better yet, if it broke, someone else had to fix it.

I headed over to the rental place.  Once there, the first question the guy behind the counter asked was how big an area needed to be tilled.

“Oh... the lot’s about an acre...”

“An acre!”  The guy behind the counter became very excited.  He must have had a balloon payment on a condo in Hawaii coming up.  “We’ve got a tractor with a tiller attachment that would be perfect for a job like that.  It comes with a trailer and...”

“Great,” I quickly interrupted, before his drooling could spill over the counter and get my shoes wet, “but we’re only putting a lawn into a little perimeter around the house.”

“Oh.”  His enthusiasm waned visibly.  “I suppose you just want a regular rototiller then.  Go around back, and Jake will load it up for you.”

At the loading dock, the rototiller was wheeled out for my inspection.  As I looked it over, Jake asked, “You ever run one of these before?”

That was an unfair question.  No man, when standing in a public place, is ever going to admit he has no idea how to run something that has a motor in it.  That basic fact is what made the entire movie “U-571” plausible.  The fact the American crew had never even seen a German submarine before, and everything in it was labeled in German was of no consequence.  The boat had a motor and props- OF COURSE THEY WOULD KNOW HOW TO RUN IT.  Heck, a seventeen year old male from Coon’s Creek, Iowa would know.  It’s a guy thing.

With my assurance that I was fully knowledgeable about the world of rototillers, Jake gave me a complete rundown on starting the thing.

“Push that, punch this, turn that knob,” he explained as he waved his hands generally about the machine, “pull the rope and you’re set to rock ‘n roll.”  He finished up by swiping his hand across a set of levers.  “Drive, tiller, gears, clutch on the grip, and you’re good to go.  Good luck.”

Back at the hacienda, with the rototiller unloaded and the future lawn spread out before me, I mentally went through Jake’s instructions.  Miraculously, the thing started up.  It even started churning dirt after playing with the levers for a few moments.

Mrs. Poynor came out to observe the progress.  “How’s it going?”

“Piece of cake,” I replied glancing back at the thirty feet of freshly tilled earth behind me, “it jumps around a little but mostly it’s... YIEEEE!!!”

The rototiller had unilaterally decided it was time to stretch out and see what it could do on open ground.  It streaked across the hard clay, dragging me behind as I frantically slapped at levers with one hand and clung desperately to the other grip.  It wasn’t until the contraption outran my grasp that it stopped.

“Ah, yes: ‘clutch on grip.’  Gotta remember that.”

The race for life was repeated every time the rototiller encountered a tree root or particularly hard patch of clay until my smarter half pointed out the contraption had a drag.

“Good find,” I complimented her, “I was beginning to think my obituary was going to read like a marriage vow:  Tilled, then death did us part.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty hard to see that large print on the case.”

We outlasted the birds for too much lawn at the old place.
With the ground all churned up, putting in the lawn became a simple matter of raking it smooth and tossing out the grass seed.  From that point on, in my mind, the lawn was done.  Little did I know we would have problems with lawn predators.

Not a bird had been seen around the bird feeder since we had hung it immediately upon moving in.  It had sat there, pregnant with rich, black oil sunflower seeds and tasty black thistle, completely ignored.  Immediately after spreading grass seed, however, the place came alive with birds.  Entire flocks swooped down to pick off what was essentially $15 a pound bird feed.  It became a daily ritual to go out and spread more seed.  It looked like we were feeding miniature chickens.

Persistence paid off, however, after the second week, a light green fuzz appeared.  With the emergence of the new growth, the birds switched their attention to the feeder.

“Finally,” I sighed in relief, “the birds have given up.  I guess we just put out more than they could eat.”

“I think it’s more of a selective taste for seeds,” Mrs. Poynor replied. 

“What makes you say that?”

“Look closely at that green fuzz.  That’s chickweed.”

SHAMELESS PLUG:  You'll have to wait for volume 2, but the original Of Moose and Men is currently available for both Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook e-readers. At 99 cents, it's less than a third the price of the fancy coffee you'll spew out your nose while reading it.

1 comment:

  1. Just wish we could have seen your adventure! Can't wait for the next book!