One of Many Blunders

front yard garden

Six years ago, my fiancée and my brother talked me into buying a house here in Lakewood. We found a nice house on Coutant and have been busy fixing it up. By nature I am a lazy sort so I thought rather than having grass in my front yard I would plant a garden. What could be easier than pulling a few weeds as opposed to mowing and trimming once or twice a week? Boy, was I wrong!

At the end of the first season it was a cinch. The flowers bloomed and there was beauty all around: front yard, back yard, gardens galore. I amazed myself. Since it was the first season there were not many weeds, and it was quite manageable.

The second season brought more foliage and blossoms but also more weeds, requiring weeding daily, watering daily when it didn't rain, and fertilizing once a month. It turns out my plan backfired and I was busy working harder than if I just had a lawn.

During those two early seasons, total strangers would comment on the beauty of the garden. I would peek out my living room window and watch as cars would slow down and people would point and comment. My neighbors would come over and give me advice on how to better garden or tell me the gardens needed more watering and how to trim my roses, since I also planted those darn things that attack me and stick me everytime I trim them or cut them back. But still I was on a roll. I developed a green thumb that went well with my bloody fingers. I even put a bench or two in the front so people could sit and enjoy my work. I hung bird feeders throughout the yards. To my dismay, the birds came and fed and left lots and lots of presents all over the ground and the benches. Now, once or twice a week I have to wash or paint the benches.

If it wasn't enough that the birds called my house their home, then came the squirrels and chipmunks, those cute little creatures that dig and burrow and hide in any and all places. Those critters that find a way into your house and stampede around in your attics and basements along with the mice. It seems those critters loved the bird food, so they decided to become squatters. Every night at bedtime I could hear them running around. I would break out the flashlight and try to find them, not knowing what I would do if I did. I could never poison anything and was too afraid to try to catch them, but they didn't know that. They would hide when I went to where I thought they were. After no success I would leave the area and they would come out and start scurrying again. They were playing hide-and-seek with me and they were winning.

Being a dog lover, I figured I would rescue a dog that would play with the squirrels and chipmunks and mice and hopefully chase them away. My first dog was (and still is) an American Eskimo Spitz. My brother gave him to me and I love him dearly, but it turns out he was more afraid of them than I was. My neighbors were moving and had two Shih-Tzus. I thought they were small strong animals that could get the job done for me by chasing the critters out. Nope! They turned out to be lovers and not fighters. Now I am surrounded by dogs who want nothing more than my total attention and love and an attic and basement full of critters who just want to annoy the hell out of us.

Another neighbor who was moving had a cat that needed a home. Now they are predators; they are stealthy, quick, unafraid gladiators. His coloration and build reminded me of Morris the Cat, so that is what we named him. The problem lies in his name. That is who he is: Morris the cat. Sure he will play with strings and cat toys, but he runs the minute a creature he is not familiar with approaches him. He is great at chasing and swatting at flies and bugs but nothing bigger.

Then my fiancée wanted hamsters. I tried to tell her that there were enough rodents running around the house, but how do you argue with your sweetie when it comes to something she considers cute and cuddly? She took me to the pet store to look at them. Knowing I am a softy, she picked one out and gave it to me to hold. That soft furry coat and cute face won my heart and she picked another one. I converted our old 40-gallon aquarium into a hamster display and filled it with wood chips, food, water bottles and hamster toys. Hell, they were living better than I was and they didn't have to pay any of the bills.

Those tiny cute critters were smart though. At the pet store they let us play with them as they ran all over our hands and arms and on our chests and rubbed up against us like we were long-lost family. Now at home just minutes later my fiancée reached in to get the first hamster out of its carrying box. As she reached in, it bit her and drew blood. She screamed, the dogs barked and the cat jumped.

We are now at the present, six years later. I still have the front garden, I still have the fiancée, 3 dogs and the cat, along with the two hamsters, but guess what? No squirrels, chipmunks or mice, at least not in the house. I still am working hard as ever to keep the garden looking nice, still spending a fortune on bird food, dog food, cat food and hamster food. Still spending a fortune on my water bill for watering the plants and the light bill to light up the garden at night. Oh, and don't forget the vet bills. And all of this because I didn't want a lawn.

David Skolyak

Writer, pro ballroom dance instructor, musician and photographer.

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Volume 8, Issue 15, Posted 10:55 PM, 07.24.2012