Sow There! Enough with the home improvement, already, 5-16-2020


Heather Hacking — Contributed

Magnolia Gift and Garden, with enough plants to fill a new planter box.

May 15, 2020 at 1:45 a.m.

Gardens in my neighborhood really are more beautiful than usual, and that’s not just because I’m wearing shelter-in-place glasses. On our walks in the neighborhood, my buddy and I often huff along 12th Avenue. We have admired a couple working elbow-to-elbow to transform their front yard. Each time we pass, there are more plants transferred from one-gallon containers into a careful nest of lush mulch.

When I checked my mailbox this week, I checked in with my neighbor Penny, who was painting long pieces of wood with some dun-colored goo. She was eager to share her technique for new planter boxes. First, she and her guy singed the outside of the wood with a flame thrower. I looked this up, and there is a technique called Shou Sugi Ban ), used for protecting wood in Japan. Next, they scraped off the blackness and put on a coat of some goo that should “protect the wood for 100 years,” Penny said with confidence, paintbrush in hand.

Days later, 1/4-inch mesh was neatly placed in the assembled boxes, to thwart the gophers that terrorize our neighborhood. Unloading the tow-trailer filled with soil will be the next big job.

I’m assuming that eventually, the industrious couple will buy some plants.

I wish I had put more muscle into my sheltering-in-place. For much of March, there was banging behind my back fence while they built a new two-story shed.

My excuse for not joining the home-improvement bandwagon is that I had work to do for my job at the college. My boss and I spent a week, each hunched over our keyboards in separate locations, writing a 67-page report. To celebrate the completion, I spent a day with power tools – leaf blower, lawnmower and hedge trimmer. I think there also might have been celebratory chocolate.

I read somewhere that most of the home improvement projects made to a home are completed within the first year of the home’s purchase. The remainder of home improvements is made the month prior to when the home is sold. Thanks to the Great Seclusion, folks have accomplished things that could have easily remained on a “to-do” list for decades.

On the move

And now, with all that idle energy put to good use, the Great Awakening has begun. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced we’re transitioning to Phase II of the pandemic precautions. What this will look like, exactly is still unclear. However, I think it has something to do with haircuts and I might shave my legs.

On my birthday a few weeks back, I knew I would feel lonesome and sad if I stayed home and scrolled through “happy birthday” messages on Facebook, listening to the radio to drown out the quiet.

I invited myself to my Mom’s house about an hour away and we sat in her backyard. This was nice, and despite the lack of hugs, it seemed like life the way we once knew it.

The next day, Anina had a little backyard gathering, again, with everyone in lawn chairs and entering through the side gate. We each brought our own snacks, which is a lot like the old days when we brought our own beer.

Sitting with people, talking with people, face-to-face, without Zoom — what a small but necessary joy!

I think I’ll continue this re-enter to society cautiously. I’m not ready to join the beer pong Cinco de Mayo party that was held on the front lawn down the street. I’m also not quite ready for a visit to the beach.

More recently, friends made excuses to entice me to see them face-to-face. Roger Aylworth and his wife Susan called ostensibly to ask advice buying star jasmine. They could have easily have googled the topic, but I agreed we were overdue for a chat. We met on a rainy day at Magnolia Gift and Garden, where everyone was wearing masks and meandering gently among the greenery. The shop has a table of vegetables from the Butte College Horticulture group and another long display from Spring Valley Nursery. If I had recently built raised beds that will last 100 years, I could have easily spent hundreds of dollars on plants.

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