Disaster is My Middle Name….

Gravel, gravel, gravel....
Gravel, gravel, gravel….

You know that bad feeling you get when your projects have gone horribly wrong?

That is how my whole backyard feels to me right now.  A few weeks back, my stepson became my indentured servant by needing money for rent.  He offered to come work for me in my yard doing various grunt work projects.  I appreciate him not asking me to loan him the money but instead offered to work for it.  Now he is over at my house on various weekends doing year projects to pay off his debt.

This arrangement is excellent for me because it gets me out of a lot of heavy lifting, wet weather, and hard work. On my never ending “To Do List”, I do have yard projects and clean up projects.  However, I really didn’t want to have to worry about all this stuff in the middle of the winter season.

Yet, I am dealing with the yard projects to keep my stepson busy.  To keep him busy, I’ve had a new sand pad created for the pool to sit on, new gravel paths near the garden shed, transplanted a tree, and made a nice gravel pad for my recycling bin, garbage can, and yard waste bin to sit on.  He has moved my compost pile from one side of the house to the other.  All of these projects needed to be done and it is nice to have them done before summer.  They have been completed without any major hiccups until now.

Now, the bigger problem we have looms like a small mountain in my driveway, mocking me.  It keeps telling me that we are nowhere close to getting things done in the backyard and it will be there forever.

My problem: The large pile of gravel in my driveway. 

In hindsight, I overestimated how much gravel we’d need for all the projects around the house.  Usually, with my superior math skills (to think I made it through calculus), I grossly underestimate my raw material needs.  More often than not, we end up making two or three more trips to the Palmer Coking Coal Company to get more gravel.

This is not the case with this huge pile of gravel.  We can’t spread this stuff fast enough.  I seems like this gravel pile isn’t getting any smaller and I’m afraid I might never get into the driveway again at this rate. My wife has voiced her opinion that our whole backyard will become a giant gravel field.

Isn't it pretty?  And it looks so nice in my driveway!
Isn’t it pretty? And it looks so nice in my driveway!

This thought is somewhat amusing if I didn’t have the same fear myself.  Of course, my wife only visits the yard on summer days so we should be good until August (here in the Seattle area) for her to realize if her fear has materialized or not.  Kind of sounds like prison, doesn’t it?  “Yeah, da wife is only allowed out once in a while….don’t let her see the outdoors much.  Gotta keep her indoors cleaning and taking care of mine kin.”  (I do hope I sound redneck enough….)

Tomorrow will be the big day to see if my stepson can power through the rest of the gravel pile.  Otherwise, I think we’ll just have to live with it until summer.  As always your comments are welcome but please remember that you’ll never have as much worthless advice as I do.

My garbage can now has a very nice place to hang out when not out in front of my house.
My garbage can now has a very nice place to hang out when not out in front of my house.

This is the Yard that Child Slave Labor Built!

My neighbors are having phase 2 of their landscaping yard done over the next few days by professionals.  As you can imagine, I feel that this is cheating because everyone knows that if your children haven’t broken their little backs, toes, and fingers making your yard awesome, then you haven’t done anything worth talking about.

This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) work or die attitude has been passed down from generation to generation on both my mother’s side and father’s side of my family.  It is in my blood to see my children (and the neighborhood children) slave away moving rocks from one side of the yard to the other.  I compare of my efforts of creating a wonderful yard to that of the English aristocrats that keep their rose gardens all prim and proper.  I often wear my big fluffy hat as I garden in the flower beds while I wait for my afternoon tea.

Crumpets anyone? photo from http://www.vancouverislandgardentrail.com

Nothing impresses on small children the value of hard work when they can look their hands and see the blisters forming.  To get that visual of a day’s hard work in your hand is nothing short of accomplishment in my mind.  And a few stones that fall onto their toes once in a while will teach them that you always need proper footwear at my house.  Hobble home young underage yard worker, tomorrow is another day of back breaking labor!

One of my favorite moments of teaching is when a child starts to cry after being worked to the bone.  If you can push them a little bit more, they can learn how to push themselves to success.  My motto: If you ain’t crying, you ain’t trying.  They need to learn their boundaries and how to push themselves past the point of self imposed limits.  Success comes to those that push themselves (or are pushed by a slave driver parent).

Valuable lessons abound in making your yard an oasis for you to enjoy.  One of my favorite lessons is to change the project midstream so all of the hard work my kids just did was for nothing.  All of their hard work building that fence is gone once I realize I want the fence three more feet to the left.  Kind of reminds you of your boss at work, doesn’t it?  See!  Another lesson from adult life brought home for children to learn from!  Can you hear your boss now?

“Johnson, remember how I had you write that twenty page report on how we can make our workflow more efficient?  Well, we are switching focus again so your goal oriented results report isn’t going to cut it now.  You’ll have to do it all over.  And I need it by Monday.  Don’t forget the cover sheet on your TPS report too!”

So my request to move the fence three feet to the left is just preparing them for the future.  Am I a great teacher or what?

To get the most out of child workers, you should also offer incentives.  You don’t actually have to follow through on the incentives, but you should offer them.  Tell them: If you finish that 65 foot long rock wall by tonight, I’ll take you to the lake tomorrow!  As you can imagine, when they fail to finish you can tell them that you would love to take them to the lake but you can’t reward failure.  That just wouldn’t be fair.  By setting unrealistic goals, you know that you’ll never have to follow through with your rewards.  Again, another great realistic life lesson for your kids to experience.  Their future boss will do the exact same thing to them in their future job.  They will hate him as much as they hated you as a child.  Yet, they won’t quite make the connection until they are older and in therapy.  By then it will be too late.

You should view your yard as an outdoor classroom.  It is always changing; as are the lessons you are teaching your children.  The neighborhood kids can be invaluable teaching tools as they are extra help for the really big projects and to show the concept of favoritism.  You can treat them better than your own kids. This is to show your kids that they need to work even harder in a fruitless effort to gain your love and attention.  Always tell the neighbor kid he is doing an awesome job but ignore your own kid.  Then sit back and watch your kid step up their efforts.  The sad look in their little faces as they wait for that one positive comment from you to justify their existence is a reward in itself.

As summer rolls on, you should always look to the future of child labor.  Even if your kids are grown up, you can tap into your grandkids.  What if you are young and have no children?  Consider the neighbor kids or even a cousin or two.  Never pay a professional when you can easily watch a half hour TV program and have kids there to assist you in your landscaping dreams!

Ah!  Rock walls....
Ah! Rock walls….

Yard Projects and help from my three year demon neighborhood twins

OK, I admit it. I am addicted to the DIY (Do It Yourself) network. I find myself watching it more and more everyday. Mind you, I’m multi-tasking because I have my handy dandy laptop to use while I’m watching the DIY channel. I can check my email and watch my favorite shows “Turf Wars” and “Yard Crashers” so it’s not like I’m not getting any work done.

I do go down into my office “man cave” and focus on work. I don’t watch any TV in there nor do I log on to the DIY website either. Now, that is some self control, right?

This summer, I want to redo my yard. Overall, I’d like to replace some railroad tie retaining walls with rock walls. I’m also going to add a fence and two gates between my house and my two neighbors. I have come to the conclusion that my neighbors down the street will not be keeping a close eye on their three year old twin boys. This is nothing new. Today, the boys were in a construction zone in our neighborhood. The power company is installing new underground cables and the boys think they should be in the middle of the action. The construction workers have talked to the parents twice and today I called the mother today to tell her to watch the kids (lest they be run over by a backhoe).

Seriously, who lets their kids run around in a construction zone? These two kids are three years old and they wander away all by themselves. Their parents do not watch them. Child Protection Services have been called before. They will be hanging out near my house for hours because my kids are out in the cul-de-sac playing. It is just crazy. Like a Stephen King novel, you turn around and they are just….there.

So I am concerned that they’ll be hanging around my house during all my yard projects, bugging me and possibly getting hurt. We’ll have cement mixers; rocks, gravel, and beauty bark…all laying around for children to play in. Heck, throw in a few shovels, pick axes, and chainsaws and we have all the fixings for a grand old country time…yeee hawww!

Besides, my yard becoming a death trap for small children, I hope to have everything finished by the end of July (if not sooner). I’m sure work will get in the way of my free time and put me behind my yard schedule. Work can be so annoying sometimes.

As always, your comments and links to my blog are more than welcome!