Thing 12: Boss my dad around as he makes over my backyard

I didn’t exactly grow up in the country, but I always felt like I did. We went to archery ranges on the weekends where I learned what poison ivy looks like and how to pee outside. I walked up a dirt road (though it’s paved now) to a creek and looked for animals and went swimming, even though my parents told me not to. We played tug-o-war with a snake my brother shot with his bb gun. These are country kid experiences. I love all of them.

My son lives in the middle of a street in the fourth largest city in the country. We can see a star or two at night if the smog isn’t bad. This sounds much more terrible than it really is; we have a lovely home in a safe neighborhood in a city that I love. But I’m still afraid he will grow up afraid of insects and not knowing what the sunset looks like.

So I’m working at turning my backyard into an oasis. A place Tom Sawyer would love if Tom Sawyer drove a Camry and knew the fastest route to avoid traffic.

We stained and reassembled a swing set and stained and assembled a picnic table, both meant to increase our outdoors time.

The biggest part of this renovation (for me) was building a raised garden bed. It was a project I had meant to tackle by myself. I researched and priced boards and techniques and knew what to do.

Baby in tow, I picked through the cedar planks at Lowe’s and quadruple checked my measurements and even brought my tape measure with me to avoid any return-policy scammers like when I did the bathroom. Guys. Twenty-four 8-foot planks are not light and are not easy to sort through. As I pushed a shopping cart carrying my baby and pulled a weighted down lumber cart, I finally got someone to offer help. I told him I just needed the boards cut.


“We can’t cut those.”

(If this isn’t shocking to you, read about my bathroom remodel here.)

Oh hey Lowe’s, what’s the point of the giant saw you have in the back corner of your store?

Apparently, the 2x6x8s are actually thicker than two inches and wouldn’t fit in the saw. I unapologetically left the cart full of lumber in the aisle out of protest.

I voiced my frustration that this guy watched me load up the lumber without saying a word. He suggested I go to Home Depot next time and asked me to follow him on Instagram because he “makes funny videos.”

So that’s why I needed my dad, or at least his truck and more powerful power tools.

The first Thing I did was Plant a Vegetable. Those seeds died within about two weeks, but when I tried again, I have some plants that look little more promising. I’ve always wanted to learn how to garden and experience the joy of eating food from my yard. My thinking is that this hefty investment will give me enough motivation to keep trying. The saying “cheaper than dirt” doesn’t ring as true when you need 100 bags of dirt.

Today’s workout: move 4000 pounds of dirt for time.

My dad got us a “good guy discount.” This American Life did a segment on this phenomenon. Basically, it’s when you ask for a discount at check out, following some variation of “I’m a good guy. You’re a good guy. Is this the best price you can give me?” You’ll be amazed at how often that works, or at least how often my dad can get it to work. I tried it at the lumber yard and the manager laughed at me.

All together, we moved 100 40-lb bags of dirt and compost twice. My garden bed is completely beautiful and as of now, fruitless. But give me time and all the tips you have and in 651 zucchinis, the bed will have paid for itself!

Finish product in the background and a much deserved glass of wine in the foreground. A lovely way to celebrate a finished product. Thanks ma n pa!

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