Or So it Seems … Yard Care For The Horticulturally Impaired

I’ve been asked to share a few tips on yard care to be included in the upcoming eBook, “101 Things Totally Inept People Do To Screw Up Their Lawns.” I was glad to contribute since I’m an expert in this area, and because it kept me from actually having to go outside and mow.

Avoiding yard work can be difficult and takes years of training, practice and planning. In fact, it can take up to three years before your newborn is able to operate a power mower. Each of my four children can attest to this. Sadly, though, at one time or another, they’ve all accused me of having kids just to press them into Bermuda-grass-bondage. This is totally untrue. The reason we had them, of course, was so I could coach soccer have a socially acceptable reason not to mow my lawn on Saturday afternoons. But let’s get down to the finer points of yard care.

First, in most climates, a well-designed automatic watering system is a must. I can tell you this with absolute certainty because I installed one in our side-yard. I made dozens of trips to Mr. Hammer Hardware, the huge warehouse that sells PVC pipe, valves, sprinkler heads, Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum and free kittens. I spent hundreds of dollars on thousands of pieces of high-tech plastic that I took home and dumped in the middle of my driveway. After all this exhausting shopping, I went inside to fix myself lunch and give the new kitten to my son, hoping all the while that the yard gnomes and sprinkler fairies would come and assemble it for me. When that didn’t happen, I spent the next two days exploring a few dozen of the three gazillion possible plumbing configurations. But it’s really pretty easy, if you’ve spent years playing with Tinker Toys.

I glued it all together and then marveled at my handiwork, after all, I’d read three different instruction manuals, consulted with Karl from Mr. Hammer, and crafted a masterpiece. Shortly afterward, though, I realized that it needed to be buried in the ground to work properly.

Only kidding, I never read the instructions. But when I was done, I had a fully automated system that … had no water pressure. Indignant, I went back to Mr. Hammer to complain.

“My sprinklers don’t work.”

“Ahhh,” Karl rubbed his chin. “Have you checked the anti-backflow valves to make sure they’re not backwards?”

“Ahhh,” I rubbed my chin. “Backwards Anti-backflow.”

“Have you properly programmed your zone timer?” Karl asked. “Allowing for the difference between Greenwich Mean Time, Daylight Savings, and the standard deduction for a two-income household?”

“Ahh,” I nodded. “Zone GMT, DST and 1040a?”

Karl smiled. “You didn’t read the directions.”

I was indignant. “Do you mean the directions that came with the valves? The ones that came with the multi-function controller or the ones that came with the sprinklers?”

“You read all that?” He was awed.

“No, but I did read the comic in my Hubba-Bubba.”

So it turns out that there is a formula for calculating water pressure over distance, and that hooking a new system to an old one that is about the size of a drinking straw, is Not A Good Idea.

“It’ a common problem,” Karl said.

So, I got to dig it all up, buy many more pieces of plastic, and start over. This made me something of an expert in the art of underground yard art.

The other trick to simplified-lawn-maintenance is surprisingly easy. Encourage your wife to get a dog.

Now, you may be saying, but dogs and lawns don’t mix. How wrong you are! First, a dog is a great reason not to mow the lawn. I learned this when I first stood behind my Dad’s REO. This motorized push mower had one forward speed just under that of a dragster, and it had the charming habit of tossing trimmings right in your face. This was fun when it was body parts from my sister’s Barbie. Not so much fun when it was pulverized poop from the family pooch. The lesson here is that you can always walk out to the yard, look around, and then and say, “Well, I WAS going to mow the lawn, but someone needs to clean all this up.”

This can keep you away from mowing for years.

Second, if you get the right dog, it will just remove your lawn for you, piece at a time. We now have Lucy, a lovable Anatolian Shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix who is a digger. That is, she loves to create her own cool spots in the yard. She does this by excavating holes the size of a small bus. Once she has created a space, she finds decides it would be even more fun to make another little nest over in a shady spot on the other side of the yard. After a year of this, we now have a landscape that looks like it was made by people who design displays for NASAs Moon Rocks.

But if you’re not lucky enough to get a Lucy, the odds are still pretty good that you can get one that will do the job indirectly. I know this because we had Radar, a golden retriever with keen canine instincts, sharp teeth, and the digestive systems of a goat.  Radar-the-dog-genius ate the key components of our sprinklers, and in no time at all, yard care became quite simple. The lawn took on the finer features of burnt toast. The bushes withered, and my wife’s beloved cherry tree croaked.

What could be easier?

So, in closing, if you want to picture yourself on a beautiful, well-trimmed lawn, become a soccer coach.  Or, you can do what my 79-year-old-father does. Go to Sears and get the latest in high-tech care—a cordless vacuum to clean your plastic grass.

Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.

Robb Lightfoot is a humorist, author and educator. He and his wife raised a family of four kids, a dozen or more dogs and a zillion cats. He has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to teaching at Shasta Community College, and his former column on A News Cafe - "Or So it Seems™" - Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the "Funny Times". His short stories have won honorable mention in national competitions. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-10 finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives and writes in Chico where he manages ThinkingFunny.com. He also hates referring to himself in the third person, and will stop doing so immediately. I can be reached in the following ways: Robb@thinkingfunny.com PO Box 5286 Chico, CA 95928 @_thinking_funny on Twitter
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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Ginny says:

    Loved the column, especially about Lucy. God made Lucys to give us a reason to live and live!

  2. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Robb…I think the answer to your lawn woes is either asphalt or cement or gravel and big rocks. Face it if you don't have a young boy or girl to irrigate and mow the lawn, pave it and enjoy your rocks with no unwanted weeds. Forget the underground pipes and water you'll use. You'll be the envy of the neighborhood with your no care lot. Paint the rocks and pavement green and you've got a better situation.

    This also gives you more down time to watch football and other past times from your Lazy Boy recliner.

  3. Avatar Chad L. Ward says:

    I seem to have the out of sight out of mind approach. Having an aversion to the flaming ball of gas in the sky, I tend to not see the grass often. At night, it doesn't look all that bad. Unfortunately this too can upset the wife. She apparently finds plenty of reasons for daylight viewing. When I adopted this as my approach to housework by zoning into a book or marathon computer sessions, it was all sorts of bad. Sadly, they don't make astroturf homes.

    Nice fun article. Looking forward to the further adventures and observations!

  4. Avatar Canda says:

    Fun to read, as always! You're one funny guy, Robb.

  5. Avatar Terry says:

    So reminds me of the current state of my own backyard! Thank you for the chuckles.

  6. don williams don williams says:


    You did not read the instructions? Neither do I, until of course I run into trouble, which is usually. You would think we would learn.

  7. Avatar Earl Piercy says:

    Hi, Robb: Glad to see you publishing–this is good. Enjoyed the article. Keep in touch. All best, Earl

  8. Avatar adrienne jacoby says:

    Instructions? INSTRUCTIONS??!! We don't need no stinkin' instructions!! Myself, I tend to read instruction #s 1, 9, 4, and 15 and if I can't figure it out myself . . . I hire somebody!!

  9. Avatar Sheri Eby says:

    Very true! When I put Michael's crib together, I thought it would be nice to watch T.V. while assembling it. After putting it together in the living room, it did not fit through the bedroom door. So, now, I've assembled the same crib twice. That wasn't in the manual…