wrong wrong WRONG

image of tomato trellisYou are looking at one of the most colossal failures to come from my work shop in recent memory, or even long-term memory. I can’t remember the last time I did something this mind-bogglingly stupid. Every time I look at it, I want to drink myself into oblivion. Okay, not oblivion, just until it’s funny. Well, truth be told, it’s already kind of funny, if you’re not the guy who spent yesterday afternoon and all morning today putting it together. Sort of like watching someone step on the teeth of a rake lying in the lawn so it flips up and whaps him in the face. That kind of funny.

My Darling B plants tomatoes in her garden every year. She loves tomatoes the way I love rockets, choo-choo trains and beer, maybe even more than all three combined. While there’s still snow on the ground she raises them from pups under a grow light in the basement, forty-two dozen different kinds of them with names like Brandywine and Heritage and Great Swollen Red Zit. I made that last one up, can you tell?

She pampers them right through the spring until Memorial Day weekend when she chucks them into the ground, then keeps on pampering them as they grow and grow and grow. Lucky thing for the tomatoes, which are the morons of the plant world. They’ll grow until they’re way too big to support themselves, collapse under their own weight, and then keep on growing as they sprawl drunkenly across the ground. If left unattended, I think each plant would turn into a massive tangle of convoluted vines until it resembled a huge green brain.

But B doesn’t let that happen. She treks out to her garden every day to inspect each vine and, as they grow, she ties them up to stakes so they don’t collapse under the weight of the yummy tomatoes as they grow plump and heavy with juicy goodness. She babies each and every fruit, hoping to pluck them from the vine just as they ripen but before they do a swan dive and go splat on the ground.

Tying them to stakes works all right, but driving the stakes into the ground is a major pain in the ass, so she asked me to build her a trellis. It had to be high and wide enough to tie up many, many tomato vines. I wanted it to be simple and easy to set up. PVC pipe seemed to be the perfect solution to both our wants. It’s easy to cut, you can buy elbows and tees to join it together like a kid’s toy, and if you glue it together it doesn’t come apart, ever. That last one is going to come back to bite me in the butt at the end of this story.

I started on this project yesterday afternoon with a trip to the hardware store after lunch. I thought I had it all figured out pretty well until I got back home and tried to put it together; that’s when I found out I needed four more pieces of pipe. A quick trip to the store and I had everything … except the right bolts. I had bolts, but they were too short. I bought bolts that were long enough to go through a pipe, but not two pipes, which was pretty crucial. One more trip to the store.

(This is actually typical for one of my do-it-yourself projects: A trip to the store to get the supplies, another trip to the store to get the supplies I didn’t get the first time, and a third trip to the store to replace the wrong supplies. Making another trip after the third trip would be a bit odd, but not so much. A fifth trip would be too many, and anything after that would be just plain weird. But three’s not unusual.)

After carrying the trellis out to the garden and setting it up, we decided that it was a bit too tall and I took it apart to saw a foot off each leg. That was a little better, but I sawed another foot off each leg to make it just right. I set it up one last time, just to make sure everything looked right, then carried it out front, laid it flat on the driveway and took every joint apart so I could cement the thing together. Wouldn’t do to have it come apart in a storm.

As you may well imagine, putting the trellis back together correctly was critical. The cement is of the type that sort of melts the plastic pipe a little bit so the two surfaces join each other in a way that can’t be undone without explosives or lasers. I was very careful to review the geometry of all the parts as I put them together again, but I must have spent too much time looking at M.C. Escher drawings, because I put it together in exactly the wrong way. It wouldn’t open now without the intervention of a seriously all-powerful supernatural being. Demigods need not apply.

So this year the tomatoes get staked again, dammit.

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