Sunday, August 24, 2008

Working Relationships

Until recently, Don and I have been kind of bogged down regarding getting things done outside. Every time we went downstairs to work, we would end up wasting time wandering around, looking at everything, planning, talking. Generally about the same things that we'd already discussed, though, so not in a particularly useful way. So we'd trudge down the hill to start setting up the fence, only to get distracted by the Terrible Ditch*, start talking about the Upstairs Fence**, and end up trying to grub out a weed-tree with a hatchet. Every evening that we tried to work ended up being unproductive. One part of it is just that we're both really easily distracted. I won't say that he or I have ADD since that would require a professional diagnosis that neither of us have sought, but staying focused isn't an easy thing for either of us. Another part of the problem is that Don can borrow very useful tools from work, so instead of just attacking a problem with what we have, it becomes "tomorrow I could bring home ___ which would make this so much faster/easier/more possible"... and then the tool does not materialize the next day, or the next, and the project is delayed. Another part of the problem is that we communicate differently, and visualize things in a different manner. Since these are pretty large-scale planning projects, like Where Will the Fence Go and Show Me Where the Garden Is, being able to visualize them together is imperative. I am pretty good at drawing a plan on paper, and being able to visualize what it will be like full-sized and in three dimensions. It comes from years of practice, from a hobby of drawing scale floor-plans of imaginary houses, and from drafting and building a few pieces of furniture. So I sketch out our property, and describe it to him: "So OK, so here's the house, and this here's the driveway, and running along the edge of our lot is that concrete retaining wall next door. So this line I've drawn in is the fence, running along until here, then turning to go up along the drive. Then this squiggle is the gate in the fence..." and he always nods, uh-huh. But then when we get outside, says, "So show me where you want this fence you were talking about...", which I found incredibly frustrating, because hadn't we already been over this a few times? Finally he just flat-out said that he doesn't find the blueprints very useful and can visualize more easily by just staring around the place. So we have very different styles as far as that goes; I can't plan anything without the graph-paper, I have to be able to visualize it from above, while Don needs to see it head-on. At least now we both get that.

A week of two of frustrating slowness lead to a minor hissy-fit on my end that basically ended with, "... so let's just DO IT. Laser-focus! No distractions! Ignore the ditch, the walnut trees, the drainage problem-- focus on putting up the fence and NOTHING ELSE!" We*** went out and pounded all of the back-yard fence posts in, as well as hacking out several shrub-sized weeds, getting more done in an hour and a half than we had in the past week. Don kept the momentum going, and stretched the wire fencing around the posts the next day, finishing up this morning. Now the whole back-yard fence is done except for the gates. I can finally lay out my garden beds, the place is reasonably secure for the chickens I'm getting next month (or will be, once we build the gates), and the dog can finally hang out with me while I'm working outside. (She's a runner, one of the many reasons for the fence.) And the whole thing took maybe eight hours over three days.

It's really interesting, because we've been together for eight years. Married for one, but living together for the last seven. It's not like we aren't familiar with each other. But working together so closely is fairly new. Yeah, we've painted rooms, built furniture, done patio gardens, but the scale and scope of these house-and-garden projects is bigger, and more important. It's a weird feeling, to feel like I'm getting to know my husband better after so many years. I was originally going to post this in the new blog, but realized that it's not about the fence, but about us.

* At the far corner of our lot, between the downstairs driveway, the next-door lot and the (site of the future) kitchen garden is an awful ditch. It is bordered by the street, has the stabilizing lines of a telephone pole anchored in it, and technically most of it belongs to the city. It slopes from street-level down to the level of the garden. It is filled with weeds, woody brush left over from pruning other parts of the property, and stuff people tried to get rid of-- cinder blocks, bird baths. We are going to build a retaining wall, then just fill it with dirt, pack it down, get rid of the weeds, and plant some kind of ground-cover over it. Right now, though, it's an eyesore.

** We've got two different fencing systems going on here. Downstairs is welded-wire fencing, like the kind used in rural areas for keeping livestock. It's actually pretty common here, too, and is really useful. For one thing, you don't have to dig post-holes; the steel fence-posts are just pounded into the ground and the wire fencing is tied to the posts. Very utilitarian but not unattractive, at least not to my eyes. It's much better looking than, say, chain-link, especially as it starts to blend into the background after a little while, as the shiny steel oxidizes a bit and loses its brightness. But we're switching to a wooden picket fence for the front yard, just for how it looks, mainly. Actually I guess three fences. Because the picket fence becomes a privacy fence as it runs along the main road.

*** Let's not get carried away: Don drives the fence posts and does most of the other manly grunt-work. I design, direct, encourage, help stretch the fencing taut, and retrieve the tools that he is forever dropping on the ground. I did drive one or two posts just to prove that I could, but hell. As Don keeps pointing out, isn't this why I married a handy, hard-working guy? Chopping out the bad weeds with a hatchet, though, is surprisingly satisfying, and not as hard as it looks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

schadenfreude, or sympathy

One of my friends is pregnant. It happens to be someone who has said repeatedly that she never intends to have children, and that if at some distant point she ever changed her mind, she would adopt. She's a bit bowled over by this obviously unexpected event. She was kind enough to tell me before anybody, and preface it well. (I think she said something like, "you're going to hate this", or "don't hate me" or something.) Of course part of me is questioning the powers that be, "really? she gets knocked up? Is this fair?" but mostly I feel for her. I can't really imagine what a truly unexpected pregnancy would feel like since I have always, always wanted kids, but I can guess and it isn't pretty. I'm guessing that she plans to keep the little critter, but I think I might mention that Don and I have NO problems with interracial adoption, just in case...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It is mid-August, and the high today is 79 degrees. Unbelievable. Where I'm from, that's October weather. This is the time of year that I start jonesing for fall, just can't wait. It's my favorite season, absolutely, and I can just feel it hovering. There was something in the air this morning, not just the coolness, that felt autumnal. Certain bird-sounds? Smoke? The direction of the wind? I have no idea. It's a heady feeling because the arrival of fall always wakes me from the usual summer stupor and energizes me in every direction, but I'm already charged with so many projects happening. I feel explosive but not in a bad way, just that there's not enough hours in the day to do everything I want. Work seems to get in the way, a waste of the best part of the day. But how else can I finance my projects? A necessary evil. Trips to Lowe's and Southern States have to happen between work and home. Dinner is quick to make and eaten late, once the daylight is fading.

Monday, August 04, 2008

blue shutters

When Don and I were house-hunting, weekends took on a new pattern; searching online, taking long drives to see houses and measure distances, having long discussions about what we wanted in a home, what we could do without, how far from town we could live. When we decided to stop looking, weekends resumed their random, peaceful pace.

Since buying the house, though, we have a new pattern: Lowes/ Home Depot. Work on house. Make house plans. Sears. Work. Plan. Repeat. Suddenly, there isn't enough time to do everything we want-- we're looking forward to weekends not just as a respite from our jobs, but as the time we need to get all these things done. I guess we have a new couple's hobby, called House, and it turns out to be fairly effective about keeping my mind off of other, less joyous stuff.

It's almost overwhelming because there are so many things that we've wanted to do 'once we had a house'. I've been gardening in containers for years and years now, putting very little if anything into the ground. Now, I can plant a real, in-ground vegetable garden out back and flower garden to the side... I just need to decide how much garden I can handle. My idle ideas about keeping chickens and bees are suddenly a real possibility. Inside, it was always, "if we owned this place, I'd put a vent-hood over the stove/ add wainscotting in the kitchen/ rip out those carpets"-- and now we do own this place. Where to begin? Which plans were fantasies (the skylight in the kitchen) and which are we actually going to do? So we're making concrete plans and jumping into about six projects at once, and life is suddenly a bit chaotic, but in a fun way. I've started a new blog to keep track of everything re: the house and garden, so that I can keep it mostly separate from this one. I just can't wait until this weekend, this autumn, and next spring!