Buying an older house means you will inherit some things from the previous owners. Unfortunately they seldom leave high end stereo systems. More often they leave things like 100 pound bags of Portland cement that have a rip down the middle. They’ll hide this under some potentially useful roofing shingles. They might leave lots of paint with helpful labels: “Bob’s room,” “old kitchen paint,” or “back room.” Unlabeled oily substances are also a big favorite.

These inherited items and neglected maintenance tasks have given our house a bit of a rustic feel. I don’t mean “rustic cabin overlooking Lake Tahoe.” I’m using rustic as a euphemism for beat-up, neglected and foul.

When we moved in we had a non-walking phase human and a stumbler phase human living with us. They were just as indigent and probably a bit more directed at hurting themselves than they are now. This meant we didn’t have a lot of extra time for dealing with broken bags of Portland cement because we had to work and keep children from impaling themselves on sharp things.

This summer I find that my list does includes “move cement.” I have decided that this is the summer of de-rustic-ification. I won’t be turning our house into a suburban McMansion with nose-hair clipper edged sidewalks. I will be cleaning the garage and planting some perennials.

Cleaning the garage is essentially weeding except you can’t feed the weeds to the chickens, you have to haul them to the dump. I find the act humbling. Americans produce 2.87 pounds of non-recycled/non-composted waste per person per day (from the EPA). For a family of 4 this translates to 80.36 pounds a week. That’s not quite a buttload, but it’s a bit more than half a hogshead (i.e. ¼ buttload). Your average Indian, according to Trash planet, generates about 1.3 pounds. We are very wasteful. I am inordinately proud of keeping our gross trash load lower than 80 pounds a week. But some of this is from fooling myself: 6 inch 2X4 scraps stuck in a barrel in the garage will never be used. They are just deferred trash. These, in addition to 100 pound bags of cement must get weeded. The garage will look neater when I’m finished, hopefully I will also be more careful about what I acquire: I will not fix broken tools, so don’t accept them from others.

A much more pleasant job is in the yard as I will re-awaken a dormant part of my garden hobby: perennials. I had a large but unkempt perennial garden at our last house. I planted what I found for cheap or could grow from seed easily. I did this with no regard for what the plants would bring to my yard or how they would look together. The effect was not-altogether-entirely-unpleasant. We left some plant equivalents of 100 pound bags of cement for the next owners (more than a half buttload per bag!), but a more careful editor has probably made a lovely garden.

My intention this time is to focus on attracting pollinators. I also want to keep the boss happy: she likes cut flowers. I’d love to stick with natives, but will probably have a mix of natives and aliens. As long as they’re not invasive I’m fine with aliens, both plants and humans. I haven’t made my mind up about extra-planetary aliens, but I’m keeping my options open.

Caleb Rounds

Author: Caleb Rounds

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