I’m encouraging six different maple trees to grow in our yard. I say “encouraging” because they’re all volunteers, growing from two-leaf sprouts that popped up high enough above the tops of the grass that I noticed them and stopped myself before I ran them over with the lawn mower. Then I looked around to see how close they were to the house, power lines, pavement, etc. and, deciding they weren’t a threat to any of those, detoured around them.

Hang on, make that seven. The first was a shoulder-high maple tree that was growing beside the back deck the day we moved in. There were no shade trees anywhere in the yard and I reasoned that a big, leafy maple growing beside the deck would be a good thing to have. And indeed it is: It turned out to be a very fast-growing maple, no idea which variety, but it’s now about twelve, maybe fifteen feet tall and its branches shade about half the deck. When I decided to let it grow, I did so with the thought in the back of my mind that I would cut it down if its widening trunk ever impinged on the deck, but I’ve grown so attached to it that I would now consider cutting away some of the decking to keep it a bit longer. Don’t tell My Darling B I said that; I have yet to figure out how to get her to go along with that idea.

The second one was a maple in the middle of the front yard, where there was apparently a mature maple growing many years ago before one of the house’s previous owners had it cut down because they believed they were in imminent danger of being crushed by its branches, should they fall down in a storm. There is a gaping hole in the lawn now where the stump used to be. I fill it with river rocks that B digs up from her garden, and when the hole stops gobbling them up I’ll top it off with some dirt and sow a little grass seed to cover it over. The maple that’s grown up right beside the hole may not be an offshoot of that older tree, or it may be a volunteer that fluttered into our yard from a neighboring maple, I’m not sure.

Those little propeller seeds can travel a lot farther than I ever thought they could. None of the maples in our yard seem to be related to one another. None grow as fast as the one beside the deck, for instance, and the one in the back yard by the garden appears to be a red maple. The two by the front door are growing as slowly as the one in the back yard by the shed, but that’s about the only similarity between them that I can see. All this would seem to indicated they’re the progeny of the various maple trees growing in the yards around ours, all of them more than a hundred feet away, many more than two hundred feet. Only one or two of them are more than fifty feet tall, yet so many of their propellers fall in our yard that they clog the eaves troughs and down spouts of our house completely two or three times a year.

Clogged down spouts are the only down side to having maple trees in your yard, though, as far as I’m concerned. Granted, it’s a pretty significant down side. I’d be just fine if I never had to climb a ladder to the edge of the roof ever again. I just love big, leafy trees, though, and can’t wait for them to grow big and lush enough to give us a little more shade. Or any shade at all. I’ll keep on climbing ladders for some of that.

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.


Time for a few stray thoughts. I haven’t done this in a while, and I can’t come up with anything but complete randomness right now, so the timing seems auspicious:

Granola. I eats it. I didn’t used to because I thought it was ucky, and I thought it was ucky because it was pretty bad granola. Dry enough to suck every molecule of moisture out of every cell in my mouth and gritty enough to use as traction if my car got stuck on the ice. I don’t know who made that stuff or why, but as granola it was crap. Or maybe that’s just the way granola was made back then, and now they know better. We started bringing it home from the co-op when Tim asked for it, and as he asked for it more and more I started eating it, too. Crunchy and sweet, it’s pretty tasty stuff and comes in more flavors than the multicolored plastic stuff they sell to kids as breakfast cereal. There was a spell after Tim moved out where we didn’t bring much home for a while, and then a while back we started stocking up every week because both My Darling B and I were eating it for breakfast in the morning, and neither one of us are breakfast-eating people. Or weren’t. I guess we are now.

We practiced our dance steps last night and we were freaking AWESOME! By our standards. And the bar’s still set pretty low, but only because we’ve been at it for just five weeks, folks. It’s not for lack of trying. We’ve got all the steps down, for instance, but that’s about it. Grace, poise, timing, that’s all stuff far in the future. BUT WE’VE GOT THE STEPS DOWN, OKAY? That’s gotta count for something.

I thought we’d be able to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep now the weather’s warmed up and the cats have wandered off to find other places to bed down for the night, but the recent cold snap brought them right back to cuddle up alongside us like a couple of heat magnets. Last night they had me pinned to the mattress like Lilliputians pinning Gulliver to the ground. They were purring like great big furry purring things. They were just like another metaphor that I can’t recall right now.

We had one of those weekends where we didn’t go out much and it seemed as though we didn’t really do all that much. I mean, we weren’t inert blobs of protoplasm; we washed some clothes, took out the trash, cleaned the kitchen and unblocked the bathroom drain, things like that. Stuff got done. Also, I finished a book I started last weekend (no prize for guessing what it was about) and My Darling B got herself up into the biggest snit ever talking to me about the book she finished.

And some of us had plans that were dashed by the cold snap that brought us that one last dump of winter (at least I’m hoping it’s the last dump). B wanted to break out her roto-tiller and turn over some soil in her garden so she could plant lettuce, and I think she may have been just a teensy bit bummed out that she couldn’t. With temps in the fifties all week, she was living in anticipation for too long not to be utterly gobsmacked by the change in weather. I’m pretty sure my head would have exploded, but I’m a little more excitable than she is.

in the garden

B in her gardenWith a warm spring sun still dazzling the skies over her shoulder, My Darling B turns over a forkfull of garden soil and crumbles it in her hand to see if it’s ready for planting. It looks promising. This photo was taken in the middle of last year’s potato patch.

garlic sproutingThe garlic has sprouted!

alpine strawberriesAnd the strawberries have wintered over nicely. B says these are “Alpine strawberries,” the most hearty plants she could find. They’ll survive the cold snap forecast for this weekend, she says, even if she leaves them uncovered. I certainly hope so.


My Darling B had the foresight several months ago to ask for today off from work, apparently knowing way back then that spring weather would have come by now, the snow would all be gone and she could begin to plant her garden. Lucky girl gets to spend the day starting seedlings (poking seeds into little cups filled with dirt) while listening to Sinatra, Martin and Fitzgerald on Pandora.

I, on the other hand, did not foresee how insanely jealous I would be when I realized she would be home today enjoying the warm temps, clear skies and fresh air of this fine spring day and so I did not ask for this day off, and instead would spend the day where I spend every other week day, in the basement of an office building downtown, plinking away at a keyboard while my caffeine high slowly fades.