Exercises in Futility

Yesterday I had only two simple, straightforward objectives in the Temporary Garden: to weed and then put down mulch under a small weeping Japanese maple that, once leafed out, is a royal pain in the derriere to get access to; and to zap the thousands of weeds that seemingly sprang into being overnight in all of the planting beds, while awaiting word from the lawn guy on a (probably unaffordable) estimate for putting bark mulch on same. My guess was that this would take about two hours, all told.

It took four, and felt like six.

Here is the Cliff’s Notes version of this supposedly-simple two-act play:

Act I: The Mulching of the Maple

  1. Drive to the one garden supply center that carries my mulch of choice (Sweet Peet) for this particular small bed, intending to get two bags. Am told by proprietor that they no longer carry it in bags, only in bulk, but they would bag it up for me at a cost of $8 per 2-cu-ft. which is a smaller size than I’d hoped, so I take three bags. Helpful clerk deposits them in the trunk of my car.
  2. Discover, when I have to lift them out again, that the helpful clerk probably has muscles similar to The Incredible Hulk (which I definitely do not). Bring garden cart out to trunk of car.
  3. Pull one bag over into cart. Cart wheels promptly flatten like pancakes. Tip bag out of cart, get bicycle pump to replenish air in cart tires.
  4. Haul all 3 mulch bags into cart (with considerable difficulty), bring to back yard and park it as close as possible to mulchless maple in slightly raised bed.
  5. Get weeding implements and kneeler cushion from garage; weed area under maple, inadvertently breaking several branches in the process.
  6. Remember that I need to hook up hose in order to water before mulching. Go to garage, find quick-connect Y-splitter for the one faucet on rear of house.
  7. Go to shed where large wheeled contraption (LWC), upon which all garden hoses are wound for the winter, resides. Open shed door carefully in case there were any resident rodents (this has happened). Unroll first length of hose from LWC, attach quick connect fittings to both ends, drag it to water spigot on house, snap it onto splitter. Go back to shed, then remember that all sprayers are in the garage.
  8. Select a sprayer and put the correct quick-connect fitting into it. Return to hose/spigot and discover that it is the wrong fitting. Back to garage.
  9. Install correct fitting, attach sprayer to hose. Extend hose from spigot to maple area. Discover that I have selected the wrong hose (too short). Go back to shed and unroll the next length of hose.
  10. Repeat connection process with second hose.
  11. Turn water on at spigot. Discover that all quick-connect fittings (which had served me perfectly well for the past 12 years without ever a problem at my former house) leak prodigiously. Say several Bad Words while installing new rubber washers (which were found, after 10 minutes’ searching, in the bottom drawer of my tool chest in the garage) on all fittings.
  12. Turn water on again and watch the Y-connector still impersonate Old Faithful. Decide to ignore it, mainly because I have no more rubber washers.
  13. Thoroughly water soil beneath maple.
  14. Drag first bag of mulch over to planting bed and dump it out. Realize that I have forgotten to bring out my small soil rake. Trudge to shed where I’d put the rakes for the winter. Discover that I must have put that rake in the garage. Trudge to garage (shed is along back property line, garage is near front, and maple area is approximately in middle of property) and retrieve rake.
  15. Drag second bag of mulch to planting bed (along patio this time) and watch it split wide open halfway. Go to shed (for shovel) and garage (for broom). String together several Bad Words into a few Choice Phrases while transferring mulch (which is more like soil/compost than mulch) into maple bed.
  16. Open third bag of mulch in situ and decide to scoop it out piecemeal until it gets light enough to lift. Go to garage for large soil scoop because neck of bag is too small for shovel. Realize that I’d hung scoop in the shed last winter. Retrieve scoop from shed.
  17. Spend 10 minutes removing 50% of mulch from bag so that I could lift and dump the rest.
  18. Level out the mulch over soil under maple.
  19. Inform the Japanese maple in no uncertain terms that if I should happen to be still living here a year from now, it can bloody well fend for itself against any weeds.
mulched maple

maple, mulched


Act II: The Zapping of the Weeds

  1. Go to garage, get container of weed killer with handy-dandy battery operated spray handle (having learned several years ago that my back no longer allows the use of pump sprayers and my hands painfully object to repeated use of the squeeze-trigger type). Discover via a quick test that the four AA batteries, having lived in a frigid garage all winter, are now dead. Replace with new ones.
  2. Bring all mixing materials (concentrate, small measuring cup, large mixing pitcher, funnel, and container/sprayer) from garage to backyard water spigot which is now sans the leaky Y-connector.
  3. Pour the proper amount of concentrate into small measuring cup and watch it leak out through an undetected crack where the bottom meets the side. I have no extra measuring cups on hand to sacrifice to the chemicals gods, so decide to use the extremely scientific Best Guess method.
  4. Start filling mixing pitcher at hose bib. Think with longing (not for the first time) of wonderfully handy utility sink that was in the garage at former house, and vow (not for the first time) that in the next house I will have one again, come hell or high water. (No pun intended.)
  5. Mix concentrate with water, start pouring through funnel (a new but cheap plastic one, as I have no idea what box my good metal one ended up being packed in before the move). Fill rest of 1-gallon container. Close container.
  6. Carry container to first weedy bed. Turn on sprayer battery. Watch as pathetically wimpy trickle of spray stops entirely in less than 10 seconds and refuses to re-start, no matter what, and despite new batteries.
  7. Bad Words –> Choice Phrases –> Inventive String of Colorful Epithets, Forcefully Delivered
  8. Decide that I am going to spray the **** weeds no matter what. Stomp to garage, grab last remaining unused trigger bottle (no idea what I’d bought it for) and start filling it up (via funnel) from **** useless battery operated sprayer container. Repeat ad nauseam for at least an hour. Decide that hand muscles will probably never be the same again.
  9. At the end, triumphantly throw **** useless battery operated sprayer into large garbage bag, followed by various other items including kitchen trash, etc. Bring to curb for usual Friday trash collection.
  10. Once inside house, realize that I forgot to remove the brand new batteries from the sprayer handle before throwing it in the trash bag.

Some days, you just can’t win.

  16 comments for “Exercises in Futility

  1. Amy
    May 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Such is life… especially early in the season, when everything was so nicely “put away” months ago using an excellent (but unremembered) system for organization… I’m awful, I suppose, but I find it easier to do things with a “current” mess! 😛

    • May 2, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      Isn’t it true?! Also I’m not used to my gardening “stuff” having to be in 3 separate locations (garage, shed, and/or sunroom) instead of just one (garage) which is how things used to be. Also many things still kept in boxes in anticipation of the next house move, whenever that may be! I *thought* I’d fully marked each and every box as to contents, but….. !! LOL

  2. May 2, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Oh my goodness, I need to lie down after reading this. What a performance. I hope you know some very good swear words. You needed them.

  3. May 2, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    I don’t want to seem like I’ve enjoyed your suffering but I might have laughed a little and did ‘like’ the post 😉
    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who’s day goes like this. I battled with a battery powered saw today and the bulk of the tree is still standing, but I’m sure tomorrow will see its end!
    This is why you can never just garden in a sunhat sipping mint juleps. I’m sure the garden books lie for a reason, I’m not sure what it is though.

    • May 3, 2015 at 9:26 am

      I gave my Black & Decker battery powered chainsaw to my son last year, because I swear you need stronger arms than I’ve got in order to guide the thing successfully through any kind of substantial wood. How big is your tree trunk?

      • May 3, 2015 at 11:58 am

        It WAS an arborvitae with five trunks, each about six inches across. Of course I’m the son in law with supposedly stronger arms so now that the tree is down I’m apparently going to remove the roots as well 🙂

  4. May 3, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Oh my – I think some days it is better to watch TV or read a good book!
    Kudos to you for seeing it through however, and that little bed with the Japanese Maple looks lovely and fresh!

  5. May 3, 2015 at 4:20 am

    Like Chloris I feel exhausted after reading your tale of woe! I always think when I’ve had a bad day it will act as a balance for a very good day that is bound to come. I am sure it will. Happy Gardening!

  6. May 3, 2015 at 10:16 am

    There is so much in your post that I can relate to that I have to temper my amusement at your plight! We have a ‘shed’ in London that nothing fits into, so I have to leave half an hour each time I go out to organise tools and chemicals, normally with a lot of swearing involved. And yes, my hose attachments all leak too 😉

    • May 3, 2015 at 10:28 am

      Whoever invents a truly permanently-leakproof hose attachment will surely make a fortune! (we can send a man to the moon but ….) 😉

  7. May 4, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    After reading this I am completely tuckered out. There have been years when I have ordered a couple of cubic yards of mulch (which may not sound like much, but it makes a humongous pile).

    • May 5, 2015 at 8:47 am

      Out of curiosity I took a copy of their printed bulk-mulch price list and gulped when I saw the Sweet Peet at $45/yard (not including delivery). Of course Lowe’s et al have the dyed stuff at $2/bag but the idea of spreading painted shredded trash lumber all over the yard hold absolutely no appeal. 😉

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