How tired can you get from watching someone else work? Just this moment, I’d say plenty. 😀
Yesterday nothing would do but what I had to take on the overgrown layers of foliage that border the west end of the pool. The pool equipment is hidden behind a veil of cat’s claw vines, which climb the steel fencing around the gear. “Veil” had morphed into “pile” over the past few years. Cat’s claw, an invasive and pesky imported plant so named for its scratchy little thorns, is a vigorous and aggressive monster of a vine. Like the jungle plants that cover ancient cities in the Amazon, it will inundate anything around it, leaving nought but a green mound visible to the human eye. It has its uses, but must be kept under control
That latter bit has decidedly not happened in the Funny Farm’s backyard.
A blue plumbago — a lovely plant — had disappeared beneath the green tsunami, as had much of a very assertive rose bush. A cape honeysuckle, quite a pretty shrub, had escaped being submerged by growing about 12 feet high. Green tentacles were reaching out to eat the Meyer lemon on the far end of the planting bed.
So yesterday afternoon I managed to trim back the rampant growth on the north and south faces of the pool-equipment fence, but couldn’t reach the towering overgrowth without a ladder. That plant extends about 12 feet high. Instead, I wanted to free the rose bush from the strangulation…not an auspicious job: the rose is about dead, suffocated beneath the jungle. WHAT a gawdawful mess over there! The rose and the cape plumbago and the blue honeysuckle were BRAIDED with cat’s-claw runners.
About the time I got most but not all of the cat’s-claw runners unwound and pulled out of the ornamental plantings, along came the cops.
Is there some reason we can’t have any peace in this place?
Cop copter streaks in, barely clearing the tops of the palm trees, and starts roaring around down at the end of the next street north. That’s one (count it: 1) row of houses north of where I’m standing with the back gates unlocked and the inside gate hanging open. They’re actually searching the end of that block and the alley that runs behind the Funny Farm. Drop everything and run to shut and lock the gates. Stumble inside and think Fu*k it! Time to knock off anyway.
Probably a good thing: I was getting pretty tired, and it did, as predicted, reach almost 100 degrees yesterday.
At the point when this realization dawns, the giant trash bin in the alley is now full to the top. Trash pickup isn’t until next Thursday.
This seriously risks the neighbors reporting me to the city, since you can’t miss where all that cat’s claw came from. The reason I’ve let it grow out there is that it adds about three feet to the height of the six-foot backyard wall. Many of the neighbors have piled a couple extra courses of cinderblock atop their original walls — very possibly without benefit of permit. Apparently nothing will be done about this particular violation unless a neighbor complains. Which of course they won’t, because they’re doing the same. The cat’s claw gives me, legally, an eight- or ten-foot wall that the local prowlers can’t see over, making it impossible for them to spot the dog door or to case the windows and human doors on the back side of the house.
This morning I took on the tangle of dead twigs and branches that were left behind (though more cat’s claw needs to be trimmed off the top of the mound — that will require risking life & limb on a ladder). Filled the wheelbarrow three times and BARELY cleared out most of it. There’s still at least two more barrows-ful under there, and when I climbed in under the damn mound to pull out a gigantic sucker, what should I find but a goddam GROVE of baby palm trees growing under there!!!
With the trash bin in the alley already almost full, I figure I’ll have to sneak the wheelbarrow down the alley to dump the debris in other houses’ bins. This won’t matter much, because none of those people ever seem to throw anything away — only the young parents across the alley (four tiny kids = a whole lot of diapers and junk-food wrappers!) and I seem to use the one that serves four houses here.
After wrestling and yanking and cutting and hacking, I come to appreciate one basic fact: I am too old and too out of shape to keep on doing this for the next four days or so. That’s how long I figure the job will take, with me working until I can’t lift my hand, giving up, and then coming back out the following day.
Stumble inside. Call Gerardo to see if I can put him up to fixing this mess.
He says he’ll be over at 1:00. That means 2:00. Eventually he surfaces, along about 4:00 p.m.
Gerardo’s men cleaned up the mess out back, per my instructions. They did more in under an hour than I figured to accomplish in another three for four days!
Gerardo, if you calculate how much he earns here and then expand that out to, say, six hours a day, giving him two hours to drive from pillar to post (and he does — he has jobs ALL over the Valley), and then has to schlep to the dump on the far, far north side: at $80/job, if he can get in two jobs per hour he’s earning $160/hour, which would give him $960 a day. However, from that he has to pay his two underlings (who are his cousins and so know where he lives…) and cover the costs of fuel and maintenance for his truck, trailer, and lawn equipment. And he says it costs $50 to take a load into the county landfill.
Hard to guess what he nets…but…some years ago I read a newspaper article (remember when we had newspapers?) going on about where the Valley’s largest concentration of millionaires resides. Turns out it’s not Paradise Valley or Scottsdale…it’s a mid-middle-class development on the westside called Arrowhead. Nice, but not gaudy: these folks don’t put on airs. And as it develops, a large number of our millionaires are in the landscaping business. Hard, grody work, but if you work smart and handle money well, you can make a decent living at it.
At any rate, he’s highly motivated to give a low-maintenance yard like mine a lick and a kiss, since he no doubt earns a lot more elsewhere. I asked a guy who was working on a house over in Richistan to give me an estimate, and what he wanted was so ridiculous I can’t even remember it. Gerardo has been trying to build his business in commercial properties — apartment complexes and office buildings. No doubt that kind of work would add up to a lot more per job, and require a lot less schlepping around.
So…yeah. I’ll have to chat with him about keeping that damn vine under control. One major problem is that Gerardo and his guys are not really gardeners. They’re landscape maintenance dudes. That means they do the heavy, broad-stroke work, but not the dainty little details of planting and cultivating things. They seem not to know much about plants — they know about lifting and heaving.
Thank the heavens…since that’s something I’d like to know as little about as possible. 😀