"Sorry," I said when she answered, "I was wrestling with an anaconda when you called."
It's heartening for me that science and technology have made life easier for us here in our modern society. I take advantage of new inventions that are made to help me with my day to day upkeep of my home. Naturally I like a bargain when I can get one, but I've come to realize after many years of living that the old saying, "you get what you pay for" is true.
I've lived in my house for 20 years now and all that time I never did anything with the narrow strips of dirt outside of my back door. When I first moved here an assortment of lilies would sprout every spring and brighten the barren area for a month or so before dying back and ultimately lie in heap of yellow leaves and brown decaying blossoms. I let nature take its course and after many months the unsightly mess dissolved into the soil.
At one point in a moment of insanity I dumped a litter box full of used Tidy Cat into the brown dust thinking it would meld into the dirt. While the animal matter may or may not have enriched the soil, the Tidy Cat definitely did not. After the first rain of the season the entire section solidified and became like cement. After that, the lilies stopped blooming.
A few years passed and one spring morning as I hauled a pile of laundry out the back door on my way to the washing machine in the garage I was startled to find the entire area aglow with bright yellow flowers. "Well," I thought, "something likes the cat litter after all." I would have continued to be delighted with this outcome except that I found out my lovely yellow blooms were Oxalis, a noxious invasive plant that spreads like wildfire and once done blooming, the entire area is littered with dead brownish-yellow plant matter that eventually dries out and looks really crappy.
Such was the condition of my back garden throughout the ensuing years. Until now.
Don't ask me why but for some reason I have taken to doing a bunch of things to the house that I never even considered doing for the past 20 years. Maybe it's because after enduring a five-vertebra spinal fusion and a 10 month bout with breast cancer, I finally feel like a whole human being for a change. Aside from getting rid of things and buying new furniture and curtains and bedding, I decided to tackle the ugly weed ridden dirt patch out the back door. Spinal fusion doesn't afford me the pleasure of digging in the soil and putting in plants so I hired a gardener to do that. After warning him that he would have to remove the cement-like dirt section where the Tidy Cat still reigned, he agreed to take on the job and ultimately planted a small tree type plant with stringbean hanging foliage, a flowering vine, Mexican sage, and an assortment of yellow day lilies and purple bottle-brush type plants. A nice bark mulch completed the job. "Now, don't forget to water this," he warned me.
I heeded his word and tried using the old hose that had been lying around the side of the house for all the same years that I have lived here, and while it did work, it was worn and patched and apparently the washer in the hose where it connected to the outside faucet had worn away. This produced a huge fountain of water spewing out all over that side of the house, which then also shot inside the house through an adjacent ventilation opening. Since the hose connection was on another side of the house from the garden, this was not discovered until after watering with the hose for a half hour. The next half hour was spent mopping up the flood inside the house.
The old hose had to go.
A trip to Miner's Hardware was in order. I wheeled my cart down the aisle with the sprinklers and the hoses and the wheely things to store hoses on. A vast assortment of hoses greeted me, all in various shades of green and all at various price levels. "You get what you pay for" rang in my head, so I passed up the $9.99 and $14.99 ones and lay my hand on the "Only 8 ply, Flexogen, 50 foot, ¾-inch diameter, with Lifetime Replacement Policy " hose for $39.99. "The Last Hose You'll Ever Buy!" was emblazoned across its packaging. This was the hose for me!
Now, if you've ever purchased a hose you know that they are coiled up in a circle reminiscent of a Cobra in a basket. Held together with three pieces of twine, they are secure in their packaging. When you get them home and snip off the twine the beast stays tightly wound.
I attached one end to the faucet. It had a new washer inserted so I hoped I would no longer have the fountain of youth blasting away when I turned on the water. I then attached the spraying nozzle, a new one, of course, with five different types of spray – Mist, Gentle Shower, Stream, Flood, and Cone-Jet-Full. These were reminiscent of my bathroom shower head with three settings, regular flow, piercing flow, and pulsating massage. If these are good for my body, I figured they would also be good for my plants.
The time had come to turn on the water. I twisted the knob on the faucet and immediately the hose leapt to life, it's ¾-inch diameter swelling measurably but still remaining tightly coiled – all 50 feet of it. I tugged at it and moved a few feet of coil forward and then pressed the lever on my new nozzle. Whammo! Flood came bursting forth. The Mexican sage ducked. The stringbean tree bent over halfway. Flood would not do! I feverishly twisted the dial on the nozzle to Gentle Shower. Ah, yes, this brought forth a nice wide soft flow just like "regular" on my bathroom shower head. Now all I had to do was get the hose to uncoil more so I could water all the way down the length of the garden. Easier said than done.
Flexogen was a misleading brand name for sure. There was no flex and it certainly wasn't gentle. I tugged and pulled and the hose moved forward still in rounded coil mode. I managed to move it about 10 feet so I could aim the Gentle Shower down the length of the garden. The flow didn't reach all the way. I decided to try Stream.
Stream wasn't exactly my idea of what stream should be, but would do well if I was washing caked-on mud off of my car. It was death for the mounds of bark encasing my new plants. Mulch went everywhere. I quickly switched back to Gentle Shower and began to tug at the coiled hose again.
This time the swollen green beast wrapped its coils around my legs and I was sure at any moment I was going to be dragged under water and consumed. The hose was not a hose. It was an anaconda.
"No wonder this is "the last hose I'll ever buy," I mumbled out loud, "it's going to kill me!"
I disentangled my legs and loosened my grip on the nozzle and let the hose swell up from the flow that was no longer being released either by Gentle Shower, Flood, or Stream. It hit me that I better check the hose connection to the faucet to assure that there was no water bursting out. It was holding fine with just a bit of a dribble around the connection. "Good," I thought, "at least that's working out well."
I went back to wrestling with the anaconda and finally managed to pull the coils out as far as they would go and even though they remained basically coiled, I was able to take advantage of the so-called 50-feet of hose. With Gentle Shower working well, I completed my watering chore for the day.
Now it was time to get the hose back to a spot to store it. HA! Before doing that I just had to know what "Cone-Jet-Full" would be like and so switched the dial on the nozzle. Well, use your imagination – at least one side of my house has had 20 years of grime removed.
I switched to Mist and held the nozzle over my head. Ahhhh!
Once again I tugged and pulled and slowly the anaconda moved back into a modified coiled up snake. After shutting off the flow, the beast was a bit easier to handle, still I was thoroughly beat and any idea of coiling it up so it would store neatly by the faucet was out! I lumped the miserable creature in a tangled mess by the side of the walkway. "Oh God," I thought, "I have to do this every day!"
I didn't water the garden yesterday. Today the temperature is 90 degrees in the sun. The stringbean tree has turned yellow and looks limp. The cats have dug holes in the mulch still using it as kitty litter.
The anaconda lies in wait for me, eyeing me each time I look out the window.
Ruth Ann Angus
The Candid Cow