Yesterday my good friend Steve called me a Jew. Not sure whether that's a compliment or not. I am sure however that Kilmann meant Jew as in cheap. Leaving aside that my friend is himself Jewish, and that anyone who pays $50 each week to have their car hand-washed is not cheap - I think I know what prompted the epithet. Steve called me a Jew after I told him about my trials and tribulations with the gardener, who recently informed me it would be $350 to manure and seed the lawn, which he did just last January, and which will require extra watering during this drought we're in (today's downpour excepted). I decided to let the lawn be. That's a lot of green, pardon the pun. And after all grass is a weed. If removing it is so painstaking as to require heavy duty Roundup-type fertilizer, or suffocating it for months with newspaper and plastic, then I'll bet it can survive on minimal maintenance, as in once weekly watering. As evidence, I invite you to inspect the center divider in Beverly Hills along Sunset Blvd, which the city is no longer watering as a gesture of compliance with the current recommendations. It's holding up okay. It's just a little burnt looking. But burnt sienna is one of my favorite colors!
And so, as a gesture of my new do-it-yourself frame of mind, which I could also term my solidarity with do-it-yourselfers (and I am proudly entering the ranks) I went to town on a little flower bed adjacent to the swimming pool. Before I had at it, this flower bed was overrun with creepers which tangled through the roses and starved them of their water supply. The gardener - whose name is Juan, though I call him Ron, and both rhyme with lawn, which is what he's fleecing me for - said he'd redo said flower bed as part of his $350 fee. Which means adding manure there as well. Now, I hate the smell of cow shit. And the dog likes to roll in it every time he gets a chance, which means every day since that's how often he's in the yard. He likes to dabble the musk around his neck, then track it inside the house and spread it all over my comforter. Sometimes I actually wish I had sleep apnea... Not only that, but the sprinklers are always breaking, so what's the point in fixing them to supply precious water to a lawn that is forever thirsty and needing to be reseeded once or twice each year? What a horrendous waste! I'm convinced that whoever invented sprinklers was in league with the devil. As was whoever invented lawns and convinced residents that they are a status symbol which you must pay immigrants astounding sums to maintain.
Speaking of astounding sums, I was paying Juan $315 to come twice weekly and, as gardeners are wont, "mow, blow and go." Or rather my mother was, God rest her. Really reseeding the lawn or at least trimming the flowers should be part of this exorbitant sum he felt justified in charging. But it was not. So last month I cut him down to once a week, at $165 per week. And now he doesn't even come any more. Rather, he sends an assistant, a young guy perpetually hung over who looks like he'd rather be drinking than raking leaves. Because he doesn't rake any leaves! He merely blows them behind the shed. And that infernal blower. What noise pollution! I am convinced that it is less efficient than a rake, which makes no racket, pardon the pun. Was that even a pun? I'm getting rusty, like my rake. Now that was one...
Gardeners are overrated, I say. And to prove my theory, I applied my diligent attention to said flower bed. I was determined to be my own gardener. And watching Juan's assistant carefully this past month, watching him come once weekly, stay for 45 minutes, and scratch his crotch more than tidy the property (to the tune of $55 per hour, I might add, which is more than Uber drivers make, and they are citizens, indeed more than I've made at any point in my life, and I once worked as a medical doctor!) - watching this lazy bones do his thing, or not, as the case may be, I was already convinced that gardening is not all it's cracked up to be. Or it is. I mean it's not tough, but it is rewarding.
And so, after three hours struggling with the flower bed and emerging with so many scratches I looked as though I had tussled with an alley cat in heat and lost, (roses smell like pooh pooh, and they are cruel too!), I emerged spent from my exertions. And here is my point: also with a supreme sense of accomplishment. I had achieved something, with blood, sweat and not a tear shed, and I could then stand back and not without some pride inspect the results. Which I did three times before the sun was down. In short I had taken matter, mother Earth, into my own hands.
I still don't know if the flower bed looked better before or after I got through with it. It is a bit scraggly now. But one thing is sure: I made a difference! So after this month, I will bid Juan adieu. I can devote 1 hour a week at least to gardening. That is a 7-mile run. And I work out most every day. If my life ever gets so busy that tilling the land becomes onerous or impractical, then my priorities have gone askew and I need to get back to basics. And so should you.
We outsource everything. We have maids clean our houses, services walk our dogs and buy our groceries. There are laundry-mats to do the wash, and car-washes to scrub our gas-guzzlers. We pay others to cook and serve our food. In short so many of life's necessary and constructive activities, which are also the most rewarding (if you can get past the initial tedium) we pay others to do when we could save money and with a little elbow grease do it ourselves. These tasks, however mundane or menial they may seem, can actually be a form of meditation, if performed deliberately and with a calm mind. Spending hours seated cross-legged in front of a candle is one way to still the mind. Doing it while degreasing your oven is mindful multitasking, as I like to call it.
So don't outsource. Downsource. Is that even a word? It is now. Shakespeare introduced hundreds of words and phrases into our language. What's good enough for the Bard, as they say.
While I was at it, I decided to make a few other cost-saving adjustments to my monthly expenses. Car insurance at $200/month for full coverage? I hardly drive the expensive BMW I inherited from my mom anyway. Make that the minimum coverage for $25/month. Who needs a pool man to come twice each week, especially in the cold months when nobody swims anyway? Once a week saved me $720 per year. And TV that I never watch? I had an Internet/phone/TV bundle costing $234 per month. I downgraded to the basic plan and ditched the TV (or will today) to save $140 per month. So what if there will be three flat screens in the house that nobody uses. Maybe I can program them to display scenes from nature. Or I'll read about nature, because less time spent channel surfing means more time turning the page of my favorite periodical.
In all, my downsourcing will save me nearly $700 each month. Now I can almost afford that BMW I never drive. Which reminds me, she needs a wash.