Lord of the yard, the return of the 'king'

May 26, 2004|by BILL KOHLER

I fought the yard and the yard won.

I am 38 years old, but when I woke up Sunday morning, I felt like I was 83.

I pulled on my work boots and slowly walked out onto the back porch. The humidity washed over me like a blanket. I looked out over my backyard and realized that I was not the king of all I surveyed, but rather the victim of a self-inflicted to-do wound.

I should be in church, I thought, not trying to do more stuff to the outside of my home.

After all, there's next weekend and the weekend after that and at least a few more after that.

I better make hay while the sun shines.

So I stretched my aching back and bumbled down the steps, intent on getting one more project done before the weekend was over.

You see, this house-of-my-own thing is still kind of new to my wife and me. This is our first and we're like newlywed homeowners, creating new projects and to-do lists at least once a week.


I can't say for sure, but I think we did more in less than two years to a house that really didn't need a lot of things to begin with than most people do in five.

Experienced homeowners can remember the excitement of when they got their first home or when they moved into another home. Women are like Martha Stewart, wanting to re-do everything, hang up two 45-pound paintings in each room and paint every ceiling and wall to their liking.

Men want to dig stuff up, cut trees down and make sure there's a good exhaust fan in the bathroom.

I wanted to do stuff in the yard. I wanted to put up a fence to keep my daughter in and future boyfriends out.

I wanted to plant trees and put in some arbor vitae to help with privacy.

I wanted to be in charge of mowing, weeding and trimming the bushes.

I wanted to put a sidewalk in the backyard and a patio next to the garage.

I wanted to keep a zero balance on my Lowe's card.

Or at least I thought I wanted to do all those things.

Whew. It's 89 degrees, 97 percent humidity and I'm going back at it. On this day, I'm digging out a trench around the air conditioning unit and putting in sand from my daughter's sandbox followed by a layer of decorative stones.

Wet sand, 50-pound bag of stones. Hmm, just what my back was screaming out for. Sort of like your feet asking for three hours at the mall after running a 5K the day before.

But hey, it looks great and no more trying to fit the string trimmer into a space that would make a squirrel feel claustrophobic.

My back is screaming again.

I gingerly lumber like that 83-year-old man back to the top of the steps. I look at the grass at the fence that is neatly trimmed and the yard that is cut. I look at the sidewalk that we dug out by ourselves, layered with sand, put down brick pavers and surrounded with stones.

I think of the sweat stinging my eyes, the sun burning my shoulders and the soreness in places where I didn't recall having muscles.

I check out the new mulch that I hauled across the street from Kmart in my daughter's First Steps plastic wagon.

New grass is growing in the three bare spots in the yard. My wife's flowers are actually thriving in their planters and hanging baskets.

Life is good. I am man. I rule the outdoors.

Maybe I'm winning this war with the yard.

Despite the pain in my back, arms and shoulders, the pride of doing it yourself - in your own yard - feels intoxicating.

Then I think about next week. Weeding, mowing, trimming, more mulching. And what about that patio? And the window frames need a little help from my old buddy Sherwin Williams. Oh, and don't forget the brick steps need some attention and the thistles in the front are starting to rear their nasty heads again. And there's a big pile of dirt left over from the sidewalk project that needs to be moved - somewhere.

Honey, where'd you put the ibuprofen?

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Morning Herald. Reach him at 1-800-626-6397, ext. 2023, or by e-mail at

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