Home gardening : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Home gardening

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I get along fine with my neighbors, except for Mrs. Gulper, who looks like an emaciated prairie dog in pearls. Mrs. Gulper doesn’t like the casual way I tend our yard, and she hates it when I sit out there with a pipe. She knocks on my door every few months to recommend various yard services and to tell me how dangerous smoking is, then stalks away mumbling under her peppermint- and bourbon-scented breath to confer with neighbors across the street, point at my weed-infested garden and complain about the mulch pile in my driveway.

The mulch pile has been eroding there for the past two years, but it’s not my fault—it’s my wife’s mulch and it’s her problem.

It all started when I wanted some mulch for the garden. My wife said, “Wait, I can get some from Pete.” Pete is our neighbor next door and a professional landscaper.

“Please leave him be,” I said, knowing it was futile. “Don’t bother the neighbors.”

Pete didn’t have any mulch, so I decided to buy some. “Wait,” said my wife. “He’ll probably have some next week.” So, as instructed, I waited. And sulked.

A few weeks later the weeds were getting aggressive and I was heroically battling them with Roundup, an industrial grass trimmer, a blowtorch and the reserve of extra-strength profanity I’d been saving for a zombie-squirrel apocalypse.

Evenings, I would sit out by the garden smoking and fuming. My wife just said, “Be patient.” I’d been spending $50 a week on weed killer to avoid paying for $20 worth of mulch, but no more. I decided to let the weeds go, and they became remarkably ambitious.

Pete still didn’t have any mulch, and our garden was infested with mutant, carnivorous vines. “Just let me buy some mulch,” I pleaded, but my wife went back over to Pete’s to inquire for the 30th time.

We’d made a path through the yard to the front door rather than pass by the thorny foliage that would snatch at us if we got too close. The flowers were long dead, brutalized and eaten by cannibalistic prehistoric weeds with teeth like velociraptors’.

Finally, Pete must have grown weary of my wife’s interrupting his dinner to ask for mulch, so he said he’d deliver some tomorrow. When I got home the next day there was a 15-foot pile of mulch covering two-thirds of our driveway and piled up against the garage doors.

My wife was appalled. “What are we going to do with all this?” she said. “What do you mean ‘we’? You nagged him; it’s your mulch.”

She crossed her arms and gave me the look. You probably know that look. It’s the same one your spouse gives you when you call your mother-in-law a soul-sucking she-bat. My wife said, “You wanted mulch, I got you mulch.” And we’ve not spoken of it since.

For two years neither of us has acknowledged the mulch. I’m waiting for my wife to accept responsibility and ask Pete to take the mulch away, but it’s a matter of principle for her not to. She’s waiting for me to put it in the garden (and anywhere else I can find), but I wouldn’t go in there with a bulldozer and a team of Navy SEALs—there could be anything in there. I’ve got principles and common sense.

So we park at the top of the driveway because we can’t get to the garage, and we don’t talk about the mulch. Sometimes I’ll climb the pile and sit up there, King of the Mulch, smoking my pipe and waving at Mrs. Gulper when she walks her dog; she stares at me like I was some lunatic sitting in my driveway on a gigantic pile of mulch. But it’s comforting to relax on my own mountain of mulch and reflect on marriage, and compromise, and principles, and on the bugs crawling out of the mulch and into my pants.

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Category: Editor's Desk, Fall 2015

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