Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lawn and Gardens: Divide and Conquer

There are some things that my husband is simply better suited to do around the house than I am, and vise versa. This is not a man-woman thing. It’s more personal than that; the yin and the yang of keeping house and maintaining the yard makes me glad that we’re in it together.

The vacuum cleaner, a relatively simple machine, baffles my husband. He cannot figure out which button controls the power and which releases the hand-held hose. This confusion is confounded by the vacuum’s quirky electronics, which include its sporadic tendency to turn itself off.

Loading the dishwasher is also my job. My husband has learned that even if he tries, I’ll just reload it the way I want it done. Sick, I know. And laundry – that’s me, too. He puts too many clothes into the washer and too much soap, and he can’t figure out which shirts and socks belong to which kid.

Mowing the lawn, however, is clearly his department. In his brief absence recently, I attempted to take over the mowing. The lawn has been his responsibility since we moved in together nearly a decade ago. (Vacuuming was not always mine, not until we got the new vacuum about six years ago. Incidentally, that’s about the same time we started having children, and I started constantly worrying about what was on the floor that they might ingest.) Beyond the sneezing fits freshly cut grass triggers for me, I am not adverse to lawn work. Not really.

As a kid I happily rode the old red mini-tractor that was the family lawn mower around the 2-acre plot of the back yard. My brothers will say they spent far more time than I did using that mower, and they are probably right. But I mowed sometimes. For two of the summers I spent in Colorado, one of my jobs was mowing and weed-whacking the square, green yards of the second homes of absentee owners from Texas and Oklahoma. Our crew was myself and another 20-something woman, and we did good work.

These days I’d rather be in the garden, especially the vegetable garden. I like the satisfaction of growing a bit of my dinner, if only for a short couple of months. Even the perennial garden is OK. At least it provides beautiful flowers to brighten up the yard along with the copious weeds that need nearly constant rooting up. But mowing the lawn – I can take it or leave it.

We’re all probably better off if I leave it. I had to ask my 6-year-old son how to start the mower and steer it. When I finally got it going, I couldn’t believe how zippy that thing is! Definitely different than the old red tractor of my girlhood and the push mowers I used in Colorado. I took a few easy passes on the large rectangle of lawn out front before attempting anything tricky.

Apparently the straight lines made me overconfident, because as soon as I tried to swerve with the contours of the perennial garden, I jammed the old granite garden post firmly between the back wheel and the mower deck. I figure that takes a real talent, but I’m not the one who had to get it unstuck. I left that to my husband, who returned home the next day and took over mowing again.

For our wedding, some friends gave us a large garden cart and stenciled on its tailgate “McPhaul Lawn & Gardens” and the date of our marriage. It was a practical gift and has been well used in the years we’ve had it. Mr. McPhaul can have the lawn. The missus prefers the gardens.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul and posted on her Blog: Writings from a full life.

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