Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Volunteer Junkie

No where in the yellow pages is there a listing for Volunteers Anonymous. I am in dire need of a 12-step program to learn how to say "no" when people ask me to do things for free. Really, I only need 11 more steps. For the past few years, I've been able to muster up the courage to decline such opportunties only in the month of "No"vember. I just need to know what to do the rest of the year.

Library landscape project that I volunteered to manage pro bono

I suspect I've inherited this weakness from my mother.

While filling out high school forms one September in the early 1980s, when I was in one of my characteristic sarcastic teen-age moods, I paused when I got the the small box that requested my mother's occupation. "Homemaker" was inaccurate - the house was already built, and she did not build it. It was about 25 years too early for something like "domestic engineer." We had help inside and outside the house four days a week so "cleaning lady," "laundry lady," or "chief cook and bottle washer" didn't really apply. "Housewife" just didn't seem to fit my mother either, primarily because she wasn't in the house very much.

Between the Junior League, Symphony Society, college Board of Regents, Housing Authority, church, the art museum, our schools (she wasn't yet old enough for garden club), she was busy all day and often scurrying from meeting to meeting, all the while making sure dinner was balanced, home-cooked and on the table each night, shuttling us to gymnastics, football, orthodontists, baseball or soccer. And for none of this did she make a dime (this is not the time and place to discuss the relative value of the stay-at-home mom, either).

Why on earth, I wondered, would my mother do all of this stuff and not make any money? The only answer I could surmise was an addiction of the worst kind - she was a junkie, a volunteer junkie. And that's what I put on my high school form.

Flash forward and I'm sitting here writing, after spending two hours at a library volunteer meeting. Last week, not only did I attend a garden club meeting, I managed to offer to be the 5th grade class treasurer and the gymnastics team treasurer and in my spare time, get a few auction donations for the school golf tournament, and serve on a committee for a church fundraiser (and donate a flower arrangement for auction, too). That was just last week. It's Tuesday and I'm on another roll this week.

Oh I can justify it all - as I am sure my mother has - making the world a better place, giving back to my community, setting an example for my kids to follow, "marketing" my landscape design business via pro bono project management or landscape consultations.

I've got to find that 12-step program fast - November is still six weeks away.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Canalisation Francaise

In other words, French drain.

A torrential rain sent water into the window well of our basement, creating a leak and a big mess. Carpet, ruined. Refrigerator, unplugged; beer, wine and flower bulbs relocated to the kitchen fridge. Old dust bunnies in corners, drowned.

After the initial mess was cleaned (it would take a week to professionally dry the carpet), I realized I had a mere 3 hours until the next huge storm was predicted to arrive. I couldn't risk relying on the weatherman to be wrong.

The little swale I had created the spring before had well, unswaled. I needed something that would drain water away from the house, not refill within a few months and only take a few hours to build. Having designed and studied how french drains work, it was time for me to spring into action. Pulling out some old notes, I took some measurements, drafted a quick sketch and was off for a quick trip to the nearby hardware store (the old-fashioned (read: expensive) local one) as the looming thunderclounds didn't allow for a trek to the large national chain store.

Shopping List:

12 large bags of pea gravel
black mesh "landscape fabric"
new shovel (why not)

Once my materials were in hand, I dug and dug and dug an 8" deep and 12" wide trench from the area before the water began to pool, about a foot away from the house. To make sure the water would flow away from the house, I poured a small amount of water into the trench until I could see it flow the entire length to where the trench met the grade of the lawn. Once I was sure my trench was properly sloped, I laid a long strip of landscape fabric in the trench, and filled it with pea gravel about 4" across and 2-3" deep. Then, folding the landscape fabric around the gravel, I created a small tube of gravel. Last, I filled in the rest of the trench some dirt and topped with a couple of inches of pea gravel.

For once, the weatherman was right on target. About 30 minutes after finishing my work, the second storm - worse than the first - arrived and my new French drain worked like a charm.

Merci beaucoup to Henry French.