About those nails

Before he died, one of the Hollywood gossips wrote that Howard Hughes had six-inch fingernails like a Ming Dynasty Emperor, and that he lived on Oreo cookies.  The two things probably killed him. I have nothing against Oreo cookies, but a diet of them without gardening will kill you. 

Right—> A Swoe, click to enlarge and read description of this tool.

David and I spent the morning swoeing and sweeping.  Between the two of us, we make a whole person.  I have back issues, and he has one working arm, so I swoed the weeds and scraped them to the walkway where he picked them up with his good arm.  Because some of them have gone to seed this spring, I also scattered next year’s crop of weed seeds.  

Most of the weeds are grass, blown in from my neighbor’s yard.  My neighbor, a young Mr. Brown, lives with his sister in one of the houses old Mr. Brown owns.  None of them have a love of lawn mowing, and will not do it until David or I catch one of them in the driveway, and begin a greeting with “About your lawn..” before we can finish a sentence, the culprit says something like, “I was just on my way to buy gasoline for the mower.”  

When the neighbor’s father (David calls him the “Slumlord”) drops by to check up on his house, and presumably his kids, he always tells me I have a nice yard. What can I say about his lawn after this? Our relationship has been ongoing many years (28) and began when the boy next door was a child. 

We don’t complain as much these days because the Brown kids are a huge improvement over the renters who lived in the house most of the past few decades.  The renters, a group of youngsters, were a fraternity of young men, or clutch of women who had just graduated from college, or were attending college nearby (GUTS, the Georgetown University bus covers our neighborhood).  Many of these kids worked on Capital Hill, which explains the turnover. During those years, David was on a first name basis with the police who now patrol our street regularly. 

The alternative to this dilemma has always been a move to a gated community of one kind or another, Having lived in a gated community with his first wife and hating it, David is not yet ready to try that again. 

When David met me I owned a unit in a condominium complex and I loved it. Yes, there were rules, but the rules (you must pick up dog poop) made sense. Plus, the grounds were cared for by a landscape company contracted by our condo association.  After we married, David wanted to move back to Arlington, and buy a detached house, so we did.  I kept my Condo for several years afterward, sold it before the market crashed and made a bit of money, which I promptly used to pay cash for a new car, make a few home improvements around here, and take a trip to Europe.  

I have never regretted selling the condo, because I had no washer and dryer and I could not picture myself in my dotage climbing down two flights of stairs to a wash room.  However, the upside of the Condo was that it sat about 100 feet from a hospital, so I would not have had far to go if I had a heart attack while washing clothes. Plus the grounds were like a college campus, filled with mature trees and a beautiful well-kept community garden lay across the road.   

Living on the bottom floor would have been better because I would not have had those stairs and could take the dog out the back patio door. But if you have heve lived next to a wash room, you know how awful the noise can be as people come and go and the door slams constantly. 

So we bought a house in Arlington with a small yard.  Over the years, we have improved the house and yard substantially, but we are older and more stiff these days, so mending and bending are almost a thing of the past. Plus, I won’t let David on a ladder over 3-4 feet high, so lately, I have hired people to do the maintenance work we once did.  

I am going to improve the back yard this fall by replacing an area next to the house with either a small deck or a stone/rock/brick extension to the patio. At present, I have covered the area with pebbles and large pots, but I did not line the underside of the pebbles with a weed proof barrier and the weeds have grown through the pebbles and up the sides of the pots and made a fine mess, especially in years like this with six months of spring.   

By weeds, I mean plants that once graced someone’s garden and now have run rampant…violets, strawberry, Arum lily, turf lily and an assortment of wind bourne plants like cherry, maple and oak trees. I could live with anything that stayed small, like the violets which spread close to the ground, but the trees and lilies must go.  Plus I am going to rid myself of a cluster of self-watering troughs which were fine when I was younger and could climb  over them without pain.  I have mints growing in those pots because I learned early on not to plant mint in the garden, but even the containerized mint annoys me these days. 

In recent years, I have lured David into the garden to help me with the tedious stuff, like weeding.  He doesn’t complain too much because he has seen the 1,001 brochures I have received from gated retirement communities. One peep, and I say, “So, are you ready to move into that retirement community?” and he goes back to weeding and breaking his nails.   


Right —> How the side garden looked a year or two ago.  (Taken with my older camera. Click to enlarge.)    

7 thoughts on “About those nails

  1. David doesn’t want to hire a yardman on a monthly basis ($100), so I hire him sporadically when something needs pruning and David isn’t up to it. We hope to die in our house. No assisted living for us.


  2. We live in one of those three story condo’s…with washer and dryer, thank got. No yardwork. I who used to love the stuff, hide from the sun now. Can you afford to hire someone to help pull weeds? Lovely yard.


  3. I can envisage the two of you pottering about in the garden, moaning a little, about this and that, perhaps even a little irritable at times, but otherwise being friendly and on good terms. Just like so many other elderly couples, doing what they can on the days when the joints creak a little less than on others.

    I also like the gentle blackmail you exert on the neighbours and David. So very human and so very recognisable.


  4. But the physical activity involved in taking taking care of that garden will mean you won’t NEED a condo by the hospital since you’ll so much healthier.

    And remember, “weed” is a four letter word, not to be used in polite company. A weed is better viewed as just an unappreciated offshoot of local flora environmentally suited to the indigenous climate.


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