Sometimes the Grass Isn’t Actually Greener…

Speaking of “lawn care” (which I mentioned had taken a small bite out of writing time this last week) I thought it not entirely inappropriate to post about this random bit of life that has recently intruded, since I’ve already previously talked about it.

So yeah… Back in May Dear Wife and I embarked on a mission to rehabilitate our sad lawn.  We saw early success, which I blogged about.  But today… what I see on my front lawn is an unmitigated disaster.

Grass is dying

The vast swath of brown that is now my front yard

What happened?

Well… drought.  And record heat in June.  And a few missed days of watering.

With those factors taking a whack at the lawn, the tender new shoots of fescue that we’d planted really didn’t stand a chance.  Added to that: we completely underestimated the aggressiveness of several particularly ugly varieties of crab grass.  now, what little green we have left comes in these scraggly, ragged, ugly clumps.

Le sigh

We are even now contemplating options for what we can do to fix this or reverse course.  But nothing more in the summer, while the temperatures are still high and the drought still in full swing.

Grass Is Always Greener…

Today I’m going to talk about something different… Why?  Because there’s another project Dear Wife and I have been working on.  No, not the writing-related project I mentioned before.  This one has nothing to do with writing, but I’m proud of it so I’m going to share it anyway.

About a month and a half ago – maybe two months, I’m not sure – Dear Wife and I embarked on a quest to grow a more beautiful lawn.  Our front yard had turned into a hive of scum and villainy bed of weeds and grotesque grasses.  So we dropped a Roundup bomb, so to speak.  By which I mean, we killed everything on the lawn: grass, weeds, and all.  (We left the garden and trees intact, of course.  The garden we’d have to weed by hand.)

To our great embarrassment, the lawn sat fallow and barren for weeks: I was still working on projects at school and we were having trouble finding the time to finish the job.

The New Grass in my Yard

The first signs of green peaking through the layer of yellow straw in my yard.

Well, a couple weeks ago, now, we couldn’t stand it any more.  Continue reading

Snow Days

It’s been quite the time here in Casa Chez Watkins these past few days.  Sunday night we got hit with as wintery a storm as our part of the world has ever been hit with for at least as long as I’ve lived here.  We accumulated between 5 and 6 inches of snow during the storm, along with a fine layer of ice over the top of it all.  When we awoke Monday morning, the world was blanketed in white – and there was no way I was going to make the drive the work safely.  So, I didn’t.

Neither did the rest of the city, for the most part.  Nor, for that matter, did they on Tuesday.  The entire city has been locked in ice, the roads impassable – a rarity in this part of the world.

Being at home these past few days with the family has been terrific.  I love spending time with my family.  B.T. has been an absolute joy – scooting about on the floor, pulling himself up on one thing or another whenever your back is turned, babbling and laughing all the time.  He wasn’t absolutely thrilled about the snow… curious, perhaps, is more the right word.  But I think he’s loved having both his parents home all the time.  He’s certainly pulled out all the stops to put on a wonderful show for us.

Though I’ve spent some time working from home as much as I can, Dear Wife and I took part of the day off during the snow days to go sledding.  The local dog park had some wonderful hills for just such a task, and filled the bill nicely.  I haven’t been sledding since childhood, so it was a lot of fun to get out there on the snow-covered hill – even if what we used was a folded-up cardboard box covered in a trash bag (hey, it never snows this much around here, so there’s sure no room in our little house for a gets-used-once-in-a-decade honest sled).  It was also little B.T.’s first time sledding – but again, he mostly displayed a peculiar curiosity more than joy.

But he’s had joy enough the rest of our time together.  He’s positively ecstatic to have his mommy and daddy home with him all day each day.  He’s had a ball scooting around on his toosh, grabbing on to chairs and other things to pull himself up to standing.  I knew he liked to stand and pretend he knows how to walk (he can’t, but that doesn’t stop him).  And I knew he liked to scoot around.  But I had no idea he could get himself into so much trouble, as soon as you turn your back.

By Wednesday, I believed I needed to brave the still-icy roads to try and reach the office of my employer… but after a half-hour on the road, having slipped and slid all over the road, having gotten caught on the ice and I was far less than halfway to my destination, I grew concerned for my safety.  Once, while stuck on the ice, I even needed to get pushed up the hill to find solid asphalt by the good Samaritan in the car behind me.  As I got out to push, I lost the hand-knit cap Dear Wife had knit for me a couple years past, which put me in a foul mood.  I soon gave up on my quest to get to work, and returned home again, having determined the roads still to be impassable.

Which is all a very long way of saying I’ve been home, I’ve been connected, but spending time with my family, and trying to work remotely, has sort of taken precedent over blogging these past few days.

So… how has your week been?

Update:  The sad part of the story – the missing hat – has happily been resolved!  Dear Wife found it in the driveway, in the snow, right next to where my car is normally parked.  I had apparently dropped it there while scraping ice off.  And, since the hat is a light-gray in color, it blended in well with the snow and gray concrete.  It’s still in perfect condition, none the worse for wear.  Huzzah!

Friday Flash: Where It All Began

Someday I’ll write a sci-fi or something else like that in response to T.S. Bazelli’s weekly writing prompt.  I thought it would be this week, if I wrote anything, but that’s not what happened.  Instead, as is often the case, fantasy happened.  The challenge this week was to focus on setting:

The Challenge: Write a story (1000 words or less) that is set in a place you have never been. This place can be real or imagined. The theme: “home”

I sort of cheated, though.  I used a place I really had been to (the Dun Beag fort outside Dingle, Ireland) as the source of inspiration for the setting of this tale, even if the place itself is “imagined”.  (Also, of course, it’s just over 1,000 words, but I do that almost every time, so that’s not new.  This one’s 1,306 words long.)  And so, let’s take it back to:

Where It All Began

By: Stephen A. Watkins, Jr.

Sea foam sprayed up as waves crashed against the cliffs of Dun Chuain, where Aran was born.  At the very edge of the cliff, as though a stray wind might rip it from the cliffside and send it plunging into the churning waters a hundred feet below, rose the House of Dun Chuain.  It was a small wooden manse – long oak planks, steeply-pitched roof, and a watchtower – growing out of a mortared stone foundation some seven feet in height.  The current House was built seventy-five years ago, and the gray wood showed its age, but the House of Dun Chuain had been inhabited for several centuries.  Around the cliffside manor were the remains of the old village – stone huts and walls built without mortar, stacked with exacting care, by Aran’s ancestors. Continue reading

The Return of the Revenge of the Son of…

Okay, this again?

To be fair, when the plumber came out last time, the problem of the sewage leak had abated sufficiently that the cure (replacing our entire sewage pump and sewage basin) had become worse than the disease (a sewage leak that was inexplicably no longer leaking).  So, basically, we did nothing.

Which, in hindsight, meant that the problem was not solved, and would almost certainly rear it’s ugly head again.

Only this time (1) we have an actual baby and not a hypothetical baby in Dear Wife’s belly and (2) it’s not freezing (we now being in the midst of some downright steamy weather) so we can’t blame the pipes freezing as the culprit of the problem.  Further, having investigated this myself, this time, I saw the leak first-hand again, and I daresay it’s worse than before.

Which means… chances are this time we are going to have to swallow that unpalatable (and probably too expensive) cure.

Paternal Paranoia

When you are about to be a father, it’s hard to know the line between what’s paranoid foolishness and what’s responsible caution.  On Saturday night I had the opportunity to explore that mysterious border country. 

My wife and I love to play board games with friends, and we returned home late Saturday evening from a game night.   As we got ready for bed, my wife detected an unusual odor in the bedroom.  After the usual jokes and jibes about where an unusual odor might come from, she started to get worried.  She thought the smell was like something sulfury or like rotten eggs.  My first inclination was that the smell was similar to the smell of burning dust when a furnace first starts working for the winter.

Google, of course, has the answer to everything – or so we’ve been lead to believe – and a quick consultation suggested that the most likely cause of the problem was a natural gas leak.  Our furnace, hot water heater, and stove are all natural gas-powered appliances.  If you have a look at that link, you’ll see it’s pretty serious.  A rotten egg odor is one of the most common signs of a gas leak.  And while the natural gas itself is explosively dangerous, an even more insidious danger of a gas leak is Carbon Monoxide poison.

You would think the obvious thing to do, then, is to call the gas company and report the leak, but there’s a slight wrinkle in this tale.  About six months ago, we had a similar “leak” in our kitchen.  We noticed the sulfury smell of gas around our stove, even though everything on it was off.  It was late in the evening at the time, and we called the gas company just in case.  They came out, confirmed the leak on our stove, and shut off the gas to our house.  Then we had to wait a few days for a contractor to come out and fix the stove.  In the intervening time, we were without hot water.  But that was during a warm time of the year, so this was only an inconvenience.  When the contractor came out, however, he found no leak to fix, he turned our gas back on, and we’ve been leak-free ever since.

This time, however, we’re in the middle of a particularly cold winter spell that has blanketed the entire eastern seaboard, from Florida to the North Pole in freezing temperatures.  With that memory of a gas-leak that wasn’t running through my mind, I faced a real dilemma: do we call the gas company, knowing that there’s a non-zero chance there’s no leak at all, but that they think there is, and shut off our gas?  Or do we stay cautious because the alternative – that there is a gas leak and we don’t call – is too dangerous to consider?  For a while, I started to feel paranoid.  It was particularly intense because, without gas, we’d have no heat, and it would quickly become unbearably cold in our house, while on the other hand, with a pregnant wife, I wanted to avoid anything that might possibly hurt either her or our unborn son.

We were about to go with a third option: set our alarms to wake us up in an hour, and if the smell had not dissipated by then, call the gas company.  But then I went back into the bedroom and found that the smell had intensified.  My brain switched over into over-protective, worried-father mode.  We called the gas company.  They instructed us to leave the house and wait outside – despite a temperature in the teens.  We bundled up, grabbed our dog,  and waited in the car.  For over an hour.

When the gas man finally did show up, it came as little surprise that, lo and behold, there was no gas leak.  In fact, the smell had largely disappeared over that hour spent outdoors.  The gas man also checked with his CO detector and found no carbon monoxide leaks.  He checked our furnace thoroughly.  Satisfied that we were in no mortal or immediate danger, the gas man left, and we went to bed, well past the witching hour.  Lacking anything even remotely resembling a full-night’s sleep, we ended up late to Church on Sunday.  But we asked around with a few friends there, and did some more Google research.  What else could that rotten-egg like, sulfur-smell be?  The answer: most likely Hydrogen Sulfide gas from a sewage leak. 

A little crawling around in the crawlspace beneath our 80-year-old house confirmed that the pipes around the sewage pump – located directly beneath our bedroom – were leaking, releasing a foul odor whenever we ran the water.  The likely culprit: sub-freezing temperatures causing the water in our sewage line to freeze up, leaving the sewage nowhere else to go but to backwash into our crawlspace if we flushed our showered.  Finally satisfied that we had identified the source of the problem, we called a plumber, who came out Monday to have a look and fix it.

Finding the problem gave me a real sense of mastery over the house – even if I lacked the tools and skills to fix it myself.  But the lead-up to that moment was my first real brush with what I suspect it will be like, constantly, to be a father: the fear of danger that might harm my family, concern at seeming like a paranoid parent over something that was probably nothing, and the anguish of not knowing the right decision to make for my family.  Over time, I expect I’ll learn to diagnose the dangers out there a little better, and I’ll gain a little experience and comfort with these things, but until I’ve learned what I’ll need to know as a father, I expect still other run-ins with the dark-side of “paternal paranoia”.