It's not about the house.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Driving home to see the family for Easter the other day, we heard a story on the radio about a woman in Texas who’s getting hassled by the Homeowner’s Association because she tore out her grass lawn and replaced it with naturally-occurring stone and sunflowers. The city (San Antonio, I think it was) has a program set up to encourage things like this – it’s a water conservation thing – and they actually gave her $300 towards the cost of the landscaping. But her neighbors hate it, and they’re taking her to court.

Taking her to court, can you imagine!? For landscaping her yard in the manner she saw fit. The ecologically-sound and politically-correct manner, no less!

Unfortunately, she’s screwed. Because apparently when she bought the house she signed a paper – she wouldn’t have been allowed to buy the house without signing the paper – that said she promised to keep the grass green and cut it every Tuesday and only hang pink curtains in the windows and stand on her tippytoes when she answered the door and whatever else the Homeowners Association decided was befitting their particular cachet.

What would possess a person to go and sign a thing like that?

Oh my god, if there were a Homeowner’s Association in this neighborhood they would have us tarred and feathered. We made a conscious decision when we moved in that we were going to deal with the parts we had to look at first – in other words, the inside – and when (if ever) we get that under control, then we’ll think about the parts that other people see. I mow the lawn, but that’s really about it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Johnny plants a garden every year but then he doesn’t weed it and it gets all overgrown. I don’t weed it either because it’s not my fucking garden. He also plants things along the whole length of the fence so I can’t mow along it, but then he doesn’t weed them either. And I’m not gonna do it because they’re not —well, you know.

Speaking of the fence… It is not only chain-link, but rusted and disgusting, and it leans over in a couple places where people came around the turn too fast and wound up in the yard. That happened before we were here; it’s been like that since we moved in. A neighbor once offered to pull it up for us for nothing, if we gave him $2600 to take down the only healthy tree in the entire yard, but I said no, thanks, and I haven’t seen him since. We can’t afford a new fence yet, anyway.

Oh, and speaking of trees: There are six of them in the yard. Four silver maples: that big healthy one out back and three along the fence whose roots have bubbled up and cracked the sidewalk, and which are so big and old they threaten to throw branches down on passing cars every time the wind blows. Then two in the middle of the yard that I don’t know what they are because they haven’t any leaves. They’re sick with some kind of festering rot that kills the branches from the bottom up. One of them’s lost all its branches – it’s just a naked trunk blowing precariously in the breeze – and the other oozes brown goo on the picnic table from the branches it has left. The goo hardens up like rubber cement, and the squirrels eat it.

Oh, and speaking of squirrels: Johnny feeds them. Throws whatever’s gone bad in the kitchen out into the yard. Mushy apples, sprouted potatoes, hamburger buns that have been in the freezer since last Fourth-of-July. The squirrels come and eat it all but other things do, too. Starlings, skunks, raccoons. Just this afternoon Johnny saw a big black cat eating the hamburg buns.

Oh, yeah, speaking of cats? I feed the strays. It started with this runty one who only had half a tail and one perpetually swollen ear. I felt bad for her so I started putting a bowl under the porch. Well, of course, you never feed just one stray cat, now do you? The last time I checked there were six – plus a few who actually have owners but still like to come down for a little evening nosh.

Speaking of the porch, it kind of sags. (“Kind of” my ass, the thing’s a goddamn U). We actually were going to take care of that when we first moved in because a friend offered to lend us a set of jacks and all it takes is a week and a couple of cement blocks, but then he decided his mum’s house was uneven, and jacking up a whole house takes much longer than just jacking up a porch, and then his brother thought it looked like a good idea, and, well, blood is thicker than water after all. If our turn doesn’t come round soon we’re going to have to go ahead and rent one, because we have to get it done before we paint, and – oh, yeah, speaking of paint…

We’re not just talking a little mildew or an unfortunate color choice – actually, the color’s not that bad. No, we’re talking peeling you can see from the street at 40 miles an hour. Some windows have different color trim than all the rest. The whole back part that was rotten when we bought it got all new cedar shakes and they never got so much as primed.

Let’s see, did I forget anything? Well, there’s the pile of dirt that Johnny had delivered for the garden that turned out to be more dirt than he needed and what are you supposed to do with extra dirt? There’s the trashcan with the hostas in it over by the fence, which Johnny dug up somewhere and I which I wouldn’t let him plant because I hate hostas, so they’ve sat in trashcan-stalemate in the yard for going on three years. There’s the composter that all the veggie scraps go into but never get turned or treated or used. The fenced-in section in the corner where the leaves go every fall so that they, too, can never actually get composted. Oh, and then there’s the back porch, where Johnny puts paint buckets that he doesn’t feel like washing out, and where they sit until they’re full of rusty rainwater that probably really oughtn’t to be washed into the watershed.

In other words, our house would give any Homeowner’s Association fits of St. Vitus’ Dance. It’s a blight. It’s an eyesore. It’s a stain. And I don’t care what the neighbors think about it. I’ll get out there when I’m good and ready. And when I am, if I decide I want to fill the yard with rocks and plant sunflowers then, dammit, that’s what I’ll do.

Actually, I did plant sunflowers last year, all along the chain-link fence. They didn’t come up, not a single one.


Georgetown House said...

One word: Freecycle.

OFFER: Bucket of hostas
OFFER: Pile of dirt
OFFER: Free firewood, you cut the trees down.
OFFER: Compost

oh, and
WANTED: Fencing

You'd be amazed at what can be given away - with someone else's labor, tools and truck - on freecycle. Hey, among a zillion othr things we have successfully freecycled a pile of broken up scraps of old concrete blocks and a pile of ashes from where we used to have bonfires (ashes apparently being good for the compost pile).

Freecycle supposedly exists to keep stuff out of landfills, but honestly to me it exists so that I don't have to do the work of hauling something to the landfill or even out to the curb on trash day.

Yesterday, freecycle meant that instead of our having to find some way to get this ratty old stained ripped double-mattress & box spring that was taking up too much space in our attic over to the dump (and paying for that privilege, no less), someone else carried it down two flights of stairs, loaded it into their truck, and disappeared with it.

Freecycle freakin' rocks.

EGE said...

You know, I used to belong to freecycle but I unsubscribed because I was getting too many emails every day -- 95% of it was for stuff I wasn't interested in and the stuff I did want was always gone before I even read the email. Somehow it never occurred to me I could unload my crap on there, too! Hm...

Anonymous said...

Hey, I recently added a news widget from to my blog. It shows the latest news, and just took a copy and paste to implement. Might interest you too.