A Month Late and Several Dollars Short

San Diego is a desert and the last few years have been completely rainless from April to November with a few light sprinkles in the winter months.  So I didn’t think too much of it when some of the lesser landscaping started to die off—an azalea here, a rhododendron there, a wilted geranium.  And the grass, well, you can tell I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to my dogs, and the worst case of bladder cancer I ever saw was in a young woman who worked for ChemLawn, so when the grass started to die I was philosophical:  maybe it will come back when it rains.  But “Sugar Magnolia” was always one of my favorite songs and when the beautiful thirty foot magnolia tree failed to sprout new leaves this past spring, I began to realize that the problem needed investigating.  The withered palm trees and the parched horse pastures were the proverbial last straw, but my water bills still came with a warning: “We are in a state of drought: PLEASE CURB YOUR USE OF WATER!”

Just before I left for Jamaica in October, the Santa Ana winds came from the east, and parched branches began to snap and fall heavily across the driveways and corrals.  As I walked out to check on the horses, a huge limb from a water starved eucalyptus was jettisoned towards my head.  I put my arm up to ward off the blow, and was rewarded with cuts and bruises worthy of a prizefighter.  That’s when I called Dave, my friendly arborist and landscaper. As we walked the property, he said, “What has happened here?  It used to be so beautiful.”  I looked at my old check registers and realized it had been six years since he had last done any work on the old homestead.  I was living on three acres of dirt.

Initially the plan had been to trim the trees for safety’s sake.  Just the trees.  The eucalyptus grow like weeds here, and mine were over 100 feet tall.  There are at least forty of them. The estimate was ten days at $1500 a day.  You have to pay people a lot of money to climb trees that high.  A month later, the wood chipper was a permanent fixture in my driveway, the horses no longer spooked at the noise, and I could heat my home for the next ten years with the wood piles, if such a thing were necessary in San Diego.  While the men who looked like Cirque du Soleil performers were lowering huge branches with ropes from treetops, Dave was investigating the sprinklers.  As he suspected, broken pipes underground were pouring water into the creek at the bottom of the property.  Over and out.  There was no water where water was sorely needed, yet I was using more than my share.

Ten weeks after the work started, today the men finished up.  I’ve gotten to know them, their children, and their preferences for fast food.  Matt took it upon himself to get my fountain going for free, with a pump that was being wasted in his garage.  That fountain which had not worked since we moved in sixteen years ago is now bubbling pleasantly, masking the noise from the street.   The dead juniper bushes lining the driveway have been replaced, and there are new pink and purple geraniums blooming amongst the azaleas and ice plant.  Norman and Dash have grass again in their pastures and the dogs will no longer make mud pies when they venture out at night by the fence line which was inexplicably always wet and dark.  A state of the art weather station will now dictate how often and how much the sprinklers sprinkle.  All is right with the landscaping.

I had hoped to go back to Africa for my sixtieth birthday, but that isn’t happening. I have a week off after Christmas and I will be taking a lovely “staycation” here in the paradise that is my backyard.  Today I signed over my end of the year bonus check to Dave, who complained, “We went so long over time and budget on this project, I could barely pay my men.  My children won’t be having Christmas this year. My wife is going to divorce me.”  I am very gullible and I have a soft heart.  I threw in an extra $200 and said, “Dave, please use this to buy presents for your wife and kids. “  I figure I’ve got about a week before the deerhounds start their landscraping.

An Exercise in Futility

I am working at home today.  And no, that’s not the exercise in futility, although it could be.  I have paperwork to complete, treatment summaries to write– odds and ends that don’t involve patient care. I am working at home because today, the carpet layers are putting in my brand new wall to wall carpet.  A month ago, when the painters were putting in my brand new wall to wall paint, I found myself relieved of a camera, an iPad, a Nook reader, my grandmother’s diamond necklace and $200 cash hidden, obviously, in an underwear drawer.  “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice—you can’t get fooled again” as George Bush famously said.  My new plastic bathroom is being installed today too.

The exercise in futility, as my fellow pet lovers will readily attest to, is the new carpet.  When we moved into this house fifteen years ago, the carpet was already worn and stained by the treasured and precious (aren’t they all?) beasts of the former owners.  No amount of cleaning or convincing could persuade the current inhabitants that my living room was not to be used as a toilet.  Especially the little dog, Jack.  There is most definitely an inverse correlation between dog size and ego, with ego proportionate to the compulsion to mark territory.  I was in luck, however.  The prior owners had considered the possibility that accidents do happen, and their choice of color was the sadly dated, but tremendously camouflaging “Harvest Gold”.  Circa 1970.  Yes, you read that right.

When I went to choose new carpet, I had only two absolute criteria:  That the color have not a HINT of yellow or gold, and that it be treated with Stainmaster to the max.  Actually I chose a wonderful distressed walnut hardwood, just the right amount of roughing up to disguise the toenail marks of the deerhounds as they chase each other around the house.  But my pocketbook chose otherwise.  So today I watch, as the carpet guys install a beautiful pale taupe ultra Stainmaster synthetic, with a subtle criss cross pattern, ever so tasteful and elegant.  And as I watch, I wonder, who will be the first to despoil my unbesmirched and freshly non-fragrant footing.

I leave for Colorado on Friday morning to transport my father’s art work to San Diego.  My husband is in charge of the animals. If I come home to a urine stain on my new carpet, or the contents of the unfortunate cat’s stomach, I swear, there will be a bloodbath.  And I’m not sure who—the guardian or the ward—will go first.  I’ll let you know what happens.