Jack and Kathryn

When Samantha and I were young, young in love, younger in body, we moved to Athens, Georgia.  This was in 1994.  I was a senior in college with no sense of direction or purpose.  The only thing in my life that I was certain of at that point was Samantha.

One afternoon Samantha, myself, our good friend, Jeff, and my friend and roommate, Jason, were sitting in our living room.  Jason was planning on moving to Athens to pursue photography at UGA.

“You guys wanna come with me?”

With less than a minute’s deliberation Jeff said, “Okay” and Samantha followed with, “Sure.”

For me, what followed was ninety seconds of pure panic.  I was two quarters away from graduation, pursuing a path I did not love, but doing what I was “supposed to do.”  My brain roiled over my choices.  I could stick with my safe path, stay in Birmingham and finish school, that would mean saying goodbye to Samantha, possibly for just six or eight months–possibly forever.  That was a risk I wasn’t willing to take.  And so, for what may have been the first time in my life, I made a choice that reflected what I wanted to do, rather than what I was expected to do.

I still had to finish the quarter I was in, but over the next few weeks Jason and I closed out our lease on the apartment, we rented a large moving truck and in one weekend moved two apartments and Jeff, who was living at home at the time, to Athens.

Athens, Georgia is a college town.  As such, real estate there is at quite a premium.  It was not easy to find a place where all four of us could live together in town, but by expanding our search we found a place in Crawford, fifteen miles out of Athens.  Crawford is a small rural town nestled in Oglethorpe County, one of the most rural counties in all of Georgia.

It had one stoplight and downtown Crawford consisted of three blocks–a car dealership, City Hall, a bank and the post office.  We rented a large house for a very cheap sum from Clyde and George Maxwell, an elderly couple who lived next door.  I know these names imply a gay couple, however Clyde is the first–and only–woman, I’ve ever met to bear that name.

Crawford in the 90’s was an extremely old and conservative place.  The cemetery behind our house bore stones that dated back to the 1890’s with the names of families still in Crawford.

Besides the Maxwells, we never met these people.  Samantha and I lived in this house for almost a year–the fifteen mile commute quickly proved too long for Jeff and Jason–and besides Clyde and George there was only one other couple we ever exchanged words with, Jack and Kathryn Doubrley.

Like ourselves, Jack and Kathryn clearly stood out in Crawford.  And as mutual anomalies we were quickly drawn to each other.  They lived at the top of our street in a two story, Victorian mansion.  They were my first introduction into the Emersonian ideal of self reliance and two of the coolest people we had ever met.

Jack was every bit the self made man.  He worked nearby as a diesel mechanic and every working aspect of his house bore his unique stamp–electricity was provided by solar panels he installed on the roof, heat from the wood stoves he had restored or installed–including the wood fired cook stove in their kitchen and the one that heated water for their shower.  Both Kathryn’s greenhouse and his shop were of his construction, often made from salvaged materials.  He brought a whole new understanding to what “off the grid” really means, water was the only resource he couldn’t provide himself and he grudgingly paid the city to provide.

In my mind’s eye he’s a giant pirate of a man, though in reality he stands several inches shorter than me–red hair pulled back in a man’s ponytail and a big bushy beard that spills onto his ample chest.  With his red hair and his aptitude for all things mechanical he was the epitome of the Roman god Vulcan, made whole.  It was Jack who first introduced me to working out, his upstairs gym filled one of the house’s spacious bedrooms–graciously donning a leopard printed Speedo instead of maintaining his usual habit of training nude.

Kathryn is every bit the yin to Jack’s yang.  A master gardener, her stamp on their estate was purely organic.  A modern day Demeter, she flowered her land with herbs and ornamentals.  Her greenhouse boasted a substantial tea tree and a fruit bearing avocado she had nurtured from seed.  Kathryn was a seamstress and a weaver and contributed to their household by making clothes for them both and costumes for a local theatre group.

Her greatest gift was in the garden.  Her knowledge and skill in all aspects of plant lore earned her the moniker of The Answer Lady and made her the go-to resource for many a gardener throughout Northeast Georgia.  Early on she introduced us to a salve made from comfrey, olive oil and beeswax.  This recipe Samantha has perpetuated over the years and introduced to the Alabama Waldorf School, where it is known and loved amongst the nursery School and beyond as Samantha’s “Magic Cream.”

We only stayed in Athens for two years.  By the end of that period Samantha was pregnant with Madeline and it seemed more prudent to move back to Birmingham.  Here we could be closer to our families and I could finish college.  Again back on the path of what we should do rather than what we wanted.  Understandable, of course–we were so young and scared, risk and chance were to be avoided at all costs.

We kept in touch with Jack and Kathryn for a few years after we left, once going to spend a weekend with them and once having them come and visit us, but years and distance divided us.  Jack eventually took a job running the maintenance department at the University and we became engrossed in our growing family and all the lessons and challenges to found there.

Even though we haven’t seen each other or spoken in years, Jack and Kathryn stay with us.  Emerson’s Acre would not exist without their influence and scores of school children have had their boo-boos healed with the help of Kathryn’s comfrey salve.



Filed under organic gardening, organic produce, self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening

Always Listen to Your Granny

I have taken Granny’s advice.  In the evening, when I get home, after I’ve kissed Samantha and the girls, I take a few minutes and spend them out back with Honey and Harriet.

In this case Granny is not my grandmother.  She’s the pen (er, keyboard?)behind All Seasons Homestead Helpers and one of my first supporters.  Granny has encouraged me through many a dry spell and prompted me to keep writing even why I didn’t think I had anything to write.

In an earlier post about the goats and the ridiculous games they put me through with necessary tasks like changing the batteries on their collars or trimming their hooves.  She gave me this advice,

Surprise them. Show up with treats (and no other agenda) and make 5 minutes of “quality time” (as you put it) every day for a while and see what happens. Not that I know anything about goats, but I think I grasp a bit about “connecting” with critters. I can see you next time you have a beer after work, just standing with the goats while they nibble on the carrots you just brought, telling them about your day in a friendly voice. They’ll say, “Bhaaaa, now you’re talking!” :-)

Clearly, she’s a wise woman.  So I take with me a cup of dry corn and a cup of sweet feed in an old coffee can.  I walk over to one of the stumps I left and sit down.  There I shake the coffee can, one of two my uncle sent with me from the farm.

“You know you’ll need these.  You can’t have goats without a coffee can,”  he joked.

My grandfather comes from that school of older gentlemen who buys his coffee pre-ground in number 10 sized cans.  They populate the entire farm and there’s usually one in arms reach no matter where you are on the farm.  I’ve seen them used to collect eggs, distribute feed, hold nails, tools and just about anything else that might fit in them.

So here I sit, shaking my can, calling to the girls.

The first day, they ignored me for a good fifteen minutes.  Finally, Honey the three legged alpha, could stand it no more and came up to see what I was carrying on about.  Harriet would have nothing to do with me.  Once Honey realized I had food she warily ate from my hand.  Any shift of my foot or move to scratch a mosquito bite had her scampering out of reach.

Really, what did I do to deserve this treatment?

On the second day.  Harriet still had zero interest in Dave.  She could see Honey getting the “good stuff” but wasn’t about to be lulled into any sense of security.  Honey, however, munched contentedly out of my hand, becoming more bold with each bite.  At one point she tried to thrust her head into the can having decided that my manual distribution was much too slow.

Yesterday, Harriet gave in.  She could stand no more to watch Honey take full advantage of yet another day of afternoon treats.  She came up, within my reach and nibbled corn and sweet feed out of my hand.  Honey became down right comfortable.  She and Harriet would both eat from my hand at the same time, but Honey would position herself for premium access even to the point of invading my personal space.

I still don’t know what this says of their intelligence.  I expect Granny would want me to be kind, to see their greater natures and to realize they’ve been playing me all along.  My own ego just might point out that they’re just mobile stomachs with advanced pain and discomfort detectors.  I suspect Granny is more right.


Filed under goats, self reliance, sustainability

Dave’s Guide to the Superior Shave

I really did miss shaving.

I know I just lost most of you right there. Given the popularity of the neo-70s hipster beards, shaving, amongst men, is on the wane. But this past week as I played Wooly Willy with my face and began carving away six weeks of follicle growth, I was reunited with my manly ritual and reminded just how satisfying a good shave can be.

It is my opinion that the reason most men don’t like to shave is that they don’t know how to do it right. To this end I humbly offer, Dave’s Guide to the Superior Shave.

With a little effort in your Google search engine you can find many a good guide to shaving. I’m certainly not the first nor the last to weigh in on this noble subject, but I have two cents to share on shaving and it’s here I’d like to share them.

First of all, I’d like to remind you that shaving is as old as civilization itself. Romans shaved their faces. The Chinese shaved their foreheads. The artful removing of facial hair is indicative of a man capable of self examination. Shaving, done right, takes a little time and at its best requires a mirror, setting the ideal opportunity for self study and, pardon the pun, reflection.

The grooming industry for the modern male has made shaving quite ridiculous and unnecessarily expensive. The shaving aisle at your local drugstore is crammed with razors made with space age technology and cans of foams and gels and goos touting all manner of competing superiority.

Shaving should be simple, a mirror, a razor, warm water, and soap. A towel is nice and for the occasional rushed shave I have found an alum block to be handy. A good aftershave can also be helpful, especially if you use your lady’s favorite scent.

I am by no means a Luddite, but I am a bit anachronistic and often find older technologies to be superior to the modern. Modern technologies are most often driven by convenience, while those of earlier days were based more on effectiveness. Many times these two values do not quite meet. The most convenient method is rarely the most effective and the most effective invariably requires a bit of effort. So it is with shaving.

To be precise, what most men do with their faces in the morning is referred to as a wet shave. A very important distinction, especially when considering the alternative irritation of a dry shave. The key component of this then is water and it’s effective delivery. I prefer to shave in the bathroom. The convenience of water, a mirror and a basin all in one place makes it almost a foregone conclusion. I fill the basin with warm, almost hot clean water and then splash said water, liberally over my face. If I have been slack in my shaving habits and allowed for the development of a few days growth, I soak a wash cloth in the water and hold that on my beard for a few minutes. The hot water serves to soften the bristles of your beard and makes for a much more comfortable shave. In terms of shaving creams, convenience has really let the modern man down. Nothing can compare to a well made shaving soap applied with a badger bristle brush.

Why specifically badger? God and nature have seen fit to make the badger’s hair especially water absorbent. This makes for an excellent shaving brush as it creates another opportunity to deliver warm moisture to your beard keeping it soft.

The initial cost of a good shaving kit, soap, brush and razor, may seem off putting at first. But these are mere initial costs and you will find that the maintenance of these items much cheaper than the repeated purchase of their disposable counterparts. A good bar of shaving soap may put you back twelve or fifteen dollars, but I can attest the last bar I purchased was well over eighteen months ago and is only half way gone.

Dip the end of your badger brush into the warm water and then shake off the excess water. The key to developing a rich lather with your shaving soap is to not get the brush too wet. This is why we took the extra steps of moistening the face beforehand, too much water on the brush makes for a very sloppy lather. Rub the brush in circles over the surface of your shaving soap until a thick lather is formed. Then take the brush to your beard and apply the lather in a circular motion as well. The goal is to lift and suspend your whiskers in the lather. The razor can do it’s job more effectively if the hairs are perpendicular to the surface of your face.

Now that you have lathered your beard it’s time to approach your razor. As you might guess I am not a fan of the modern multi-bladed razors that populate the market. My beard is thick and the multiple blades just clog up and render the razor useless. In fact for the gym and travel purposes I keep single bladed disposables on hand and find them far cheaper and superior to the Mach whatevers.

My razor of choice is my father’s safety razor from the sixties. As a child, playing at shaving at his side on a Saturday or Sunday morning, this was the razor he’d give me. Fully made of metal, there’s a ferrule on the bottom of the handle that you unscrew which opens the top of the razor and allows for double edged blade to be dropped into place, due to this function these razors are sometimes called “drop blade razors.” When I was little he’d give me this razor, sans a blade, and I’d use it to remove Barbasol foam and imaginary whiskers from my face. Today, I use that very same razor. Replacement blades are still available. I buy my blades online either through Amazon or other specialty shops. Currently I’m enjoying a Japanese blade called Feather. Samantha usually buys me a few packs of blades for Christmas and that’s more than enough to get me through the year.

With your beard fully lathered it’s now time to begin shaving. The great thing about my safety razor is that it’s relatively heavy. I don’t apply any pressure and just allow the heft of the razor to do it’s job. Start by shaving with the grain of your beard. Also shave the softer areas first and allow the lather and moisture to further soften the more coarse hairs of the chin and sideburns. My shave usually follows this order of operations; cheeks, the down growth under my jawline, then the up growth of my throat. I return to my sideburns and finish with my chin. Currently, I’m rocking a most impressive moustache and so there’s nothing to be done to the upper lip other than marvel at the one of the joys of being a man. Before I became aware of just how great a moustache could be (thanks, Dad) I would finish the shave with my upper lip.

It is at this point that convenience and effectiveness sharply diverge. If this is a week day and I’m preparing for work this is a sufficient shave. However, if it’s the weekend, date night or the Monday after a few days growth, there’s more to be done. With my beard, one pass is a decent shave, but if I’m really looking to impress, nothing beats the three pass shave. By taking the time, to rinse, lather and shave three times, each time changing the direction of the razor’s pass; with, across and then against the grain. I achieve the perfect shave. My cheeks are as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom and Samantha can’t help but coo and fuss over how great my face feels, which is worth every second of additional groom time.

After I’ve finished with the razor I rinse with cool water, to re-tighten the pores, and apply a light splash of Bay Rum aftershave. Your scent is, of course, subject to your own personal tastes, but if you have a lady, stick with what she likes. Once it’s applied you won’t be able to smell it any more anyway.

A note on nicks and cuts, all veterans of shaving understand that these do occasionally happen. I find the alum block to be the best way to stop the flow of blood. Tissue paper looks stupid. Styptic pens hurt like the dickens, but the alum block stops the bleeding with a minimum of discomfort.

So there you have it, the superior shave. A ritual of manhood that when properly done helps raise our higher natures, brings our more civilized natures to the forefront, and hopefully just might help ignite your woman’s wilder nature. Couldn’t hurt, right?


Filed under self reliance, shaving, sustainability

Agoge Fitness Systems

Today marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death.

One year ago today, while the rest of the state was reeling from the first of two of the worst tornadoes we have seen in years, I was sitting in a nursing home in Forestdale holding my father’s hand as he slipped away.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook you may have noticed my profile picture going through a series of changes.  Over the past week I’ve treated my face like a Wooly Willy toy, slowly whittling my beard down to it’s present state.

Back in March I decided to mark this day by growing the moustache my father always wore.  It’s a gesture of respect and remembrance.  An attempt to see if I couldn’t see my dad one more time.  This time in my own face.

After he died I wrote about it in my old blog. …

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One Step Closer

Friday evening Rob came over.  We had made plans previously to fix the collar issues I was having with the goats.

It all came down to this.  They weren’t working.

When we first fitted Honey and Harriet with their collars we had to make modifications.  Goat necks are not the same as dog necks.  Dogs have relatively round necks while a goat’s is much more oval in shape.  This meant that a) the collars were too big and had to be twisted on themselves to take up the slack and b) the electrodes did not make sufficient contact to administer the appropriate “correction.”

With the huglekultur beds finished and spring rapidly on the wane we are ready to plant.  Our only hold up being the necessity of keeping hungry goats at bay.

Rob showed up around six and we promptly commenced the manly ritual of a pre-getting-down-to-business beer.  Once properly fortified with a Guinness (for strength) we gathered our tools and set to work.

The tools in this instance being new collars, fresh batteries for the collars, hoof trimming shears and my newly acquired shepherd’s crook.  I bought the crook from Tractor Supply Company a few weeks ago thinking it would be handy in wrangling the goats.  In truth I did snag Harriet at one point but she quickly twisted free.  For the most part the crook was a hindrance.  A long cane with a hook on one end is not the ideal tool to be carrying through thickets.  It tends to slow you up.

I should remind you that the goats are not overly fond of me.  My windows of opportunity are far too short to set aside any quality time with the goats and so my time with them is largely practical.  I’m the big hairy ape that chases them into corners, grabs them by the horns and subjects them to such horrors as hoof trimming and battery replacement on their collars.

Everyone else who goes into the back either leaves them alone or just brings treats.  I’m such a bastard.

Were it not for Rob I’d probably still be chasing them.

Using sweet feed for bait we first nabbed Honey (she’s the easy catch only having three legs.)  I trimmed her hooves while Robe re-outfitted her with a new collar.  This new design has the electrodes spaced wider so that they make better contact and will administer the “correction” in such a manner the she will actually notice it.  It’s also smaller, so it’s a better fit and has a vinyl outer covering, co it will last longer.

We then spent close to an hour chasing Harriet all around the Back Forty.  Through brush and bramble, from one near nab to the next, this wily ruminant made fools of us.  All the while I could hear Grandpa laughing, “Get that goat, boy!”

I have this ongoing debate with myself over just how smart goats in general, and these two goats in particular, really are.  Having lived with and around animals all my life I have no doubt to their own brand of intelligence.  I have seen pigeons, either smart enough or too lazy to fly a block, drop down from the 22nd Street viaduct and ride the train down to 21st street and then fly up into the rafters.  I’ve seen my cats willingly and purposefully taunt my dog.

But these goats, they’re something else.  Once caught they bleat and cry and wail, but stick their food bowl in front of them and all seems forgotten.  They’ll run through the brush knowing I’m slowed in my ability to follow only to circle back around to the feed bowl where they’re more likely to be caught.  Intelligent or not, Harriet made fools of Rob and I for almost an hour.

Finally, Rob caught her and we were able to change out her collar and trim her hooves.  To hear her carry on you’d think we were trying to eat her on the spot.  Again once we set the food bowl in front of her nose, she shut up and started eating again.

I’m not totally in love with the hoof trimming shears I bought.  They were one of two styles TSC offered and appeared to be the sturdier of the two.  They do the job but they’re not as sharp as I’d like and require a good bit of hand strength.  The first time I trimmed their hooves I used a pair of Chinese kitchen shears.  They’re easy to sharpen and performed beautifully.  They’re cheap enough at the Asian market that I might just buy a pair and dedicate them to this use.

After our labors Rob and I celebrated with another well earned beer.  Samantha was about to grill burgers and the weekend was about to commence.  A good time was had by all, even the goats now that we were done abusing them, and we’re one step closer to planting.


Filed under goats, hugelkultur, organic gardening, organic produce, self reliance, sustainability

Stick to the Plan: Part II

On Saturday I had planned a full court press.

Now that I had the tools in place, once I finished my morning at the gym (the 8 am boot camp, my Tai Chi class and a 10:30 massage client) I was going to go home and tackle the yard.

Bronwyn comes in with Samantha every Saturday morning. Samantha attends my boot camp for her third workout of the week and Bronwyn cleans the gym. I’ve mentioned before her obsession with horses and this job is part of her efforts to raise money for that future steed.

After our gym work, the Beebs (as we like to call her), and I stopped at Hamburger Heaven for our lunch. A burger sans the bun and an order of onion rings for each of us. Despite my best efforts I could not convince her that the staff of Hamburger heaven had given her too many onion rings. Hmpf.

Once home I changed and set to work. First the riding mower to cover the front and those areas of the back not too steep to be gotten. Then the new push mower, adequate for the job but in possession of far too much plastic for my tastes. I had to make three passes in three height settings to get an area that had not been mowed in over three weeks. Once the mowing was finished it was weedeater time and I trimmed all the fence edges and the drainage ditch.

Grandpa always made it clear that it was a man’s responsibility to keep his ditches clean. To rely on the city or county was to invite problems, mainly in water flow, that would affect you or your neighbors. I’ve always looked on this as a discipline in responsibility and have done my best to live up to my grandfather’s example.

Once I finished our yard I loaded up the tractor, the push mower and my weedeater in the truck. The ramps performed their function admirably and I was able to drive the tractor into the bed of the truck with relative ease. (Backing out, however, requires more solid nerves and a great deal of faith.)

Samantha, Bronwyn and I headed to the girl’s school and under the cover of Saturday afternoon set about mowing the grounds. Samantha teaches at and my youngest two daughters, Bronwyn and Thalia, attend the Alabama Waldorf School. My oldest daughter, Madeline, is a graduate and now attends Shades Valley IB (and yes, that is a note of pride you hear.)

Alabama Waldorf School rents space from the Community School which is a part of Birmingham Public Schools which actually rents from another private school, Altamont. The Community School, through the City, provides building custodial services which apparently do not extend to maintenance of the grounds.

These needs are usually met through parent volunteers on regularly scheduled “Playground Work Days.” These are held on Saturdays throughout the school year and since I work at the gym those days can’t make it.

There had been some discussion (of which I was not a part) about providing my riding mower for the next Playground Work Day. It’s at this point that we get to discuss how Dave is maybe not as altruistic as he at first seems.

See, the grass desperately needed cutting. Ours is a small school with a small budget and unkempt grounds reflect poorly on first impressions. Remember what I’ve said before about borrowing tools? How the first rule of borrowing is not to break? I wasn’t willing to risk it. It’s just to awkward.

“Um, Dave, your mower stopped working.”

“What do you mean? It was fine when it left the house.”

“I dunno, I was just using it and it, well, stopped.”

See? Now there’s bad feeling. I’m out a major tool that somebody needs to replace and usually that somebody ends up being me. I mean who wants to buy somebody else a $2,000 tractor?

It’s just easier if I do it myself. I had intended to remain anonymous on this point. Again it just seems easier to blame it on the Easter Bunny, but I got outed, so there you have it. Yes, I did it and I’m not the least bit sorry about it either.

What I am sorry about is Sunday.

Remember the title? Stick to the plan?

Well here was the plan: Work like hell on Saturday and take Sunday off.

Samantha was concerned about how to get the girls outside on Sunday and for us to enjoy a day together without TV or computer screens.

With all the suave assurance of Jim Anderson or Ward Cleaver, I suggested that perhaps Samantha and I just spend the day barbecuing and basking in the warmth and glow of our newly shorn front lawn. The girls would naturally gravitate toward us. All would be happy and we’d avoid any wailing or gnashing of teeth. That was the plan.

I did not, however, stick to it.

Sunday morning I woke and began thinking of my upcoming trip to St. Petersburg in May. The one I had promised to front an airline ticket to a business partner for. The one I had promised to take Samantha along with me. The one for which I hadn’t bought tickets, secured a car or gotten a room. So, Sunday morning before, during and after breakfast I was securing travel plans and making reservations.

Without even realizing it I had slipped into full on work mode.

Next my thoughts turned to the ten sugar snap pea starts that my friend, Mwenja, had left me. They needed to go into the ground. And peas can’t go into the ground without some sort of trellis.

Now, I’m really working.

I’m cutting bamboo from the absentee neighbor’s lot. I’m re-teaching myself how to tie a clove hitch. I’m figuring out how to weave a halfway decent trellis net.

I’m trying to cajole Bronwyn, my best helper, into assisting, her hand skills are amazing for a twelve year old, but she senses without even knowing full well the plan, that I have abandoned it and she’s having none of it.

I’m frustrated, growling like a bear, and grousing that no one appreciates how much work I do or seems willing to even try to match my effort. In short, I am being an asshole.

The kids do end up spending the better part of day outside of their own free will and I do get some help from Bronwyn, but my mood is not where it should be. Somewhere I know I’ve abandoned the plan and I’m not happy with myself, but Ego is in full control and we are accomplishing things!

Once the trellis was complete and Samantha and I picked it up, one of the bamboo poles broke in the middle. I was NOT about to start all over. Bamboo is hollow. I whittled a stick of poplar to fit inside the broken section and then split another bamboo section to use the halves as splints. I put the whole thing together and bound it with electrical tape. It’s not exactly pretty but it does the job and right now that’s okay.

By dinner I realized that I was wiped. I showered after and managed a few hands of “Who Knew?” with Samantha and the kids. Later, in bed, I turned to Samantha and realized that I had just wasted an entire day.

Was it all really necessary? How was the day I had better than the day I planned? Why hadn’t I stuck to the plan? Do I really need to do everything, right now?

The day itself was not a total waste, not if I take these questions to heart, make sure I learn their lessons, share those lessons and maybe try to repeat it too often.

I hope you had a happy Easter.


Filed under organic gardening, organic produce, self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening

Stick to the Plan: Part I

This weekend is not what I would call my best. The weather was perfect. In fact it couldn’t have been better. But as I look back on it I realize that it was just a little off from the beginning and the fault for all of it lies squarely at my feet.

It all comes, you see, from not “sticking to the plan.”

Two weeks ago I couldn’t get my push mower to start. The weedeater wouldn’t cooperate either. I spent some time futzing with both of them and decided my time was more valuable than my money in this instance and opted to take them both in for servicing.

That Monday I got a recommendation for a mower repair shop and drove the not inconsiderable distance to drop both units off.

I should have know something was amiss from the get go but I chose not to pay attention. The shop wanted a $35 deposit for each item which would be taken off the cost of repair. That seemed reasonable enough. They also said they would call me if either repair ran over $50. Again reasonable and appreciated. They said they would call me when the repair was complete.

Here’s what I should have paid attention to. After having made my deposit I went to go get the mower and weedeater out of my truck. As I was waiting to hand over said items to the repair guy another customer came out of the office fuming.

“And I want my old parts put back on!” he yelled as he stormed out of the office.

Seeing me he made it a point to register his opinion of the shop. He told me how his equipment was, after servicing, in worse shape than when he brought it in and that if he were me he wouldn’t leave his stuff to be worked on here. Obviously.

I listened to the man, but didn’t heed his warning. Honestly, because I thought it was bad form.

What I should have heeded was how they handled him. The woman working the office (maybe the owner) came out and told the man to leave with her own level of vehemence. She made no effort to assuage his feelings or mollify his anger. She kicked him out and made it clear she didn’t care that she was losing his business or lowering my own expectations. I left my equipment with a slight uneasiness. Suddenly my earlier recommendation of their quality and service was under suspicion.

A week went by and I heard nothing. The following Monday I called about my stuff. I was told that the weedeater was finished but not the mower. I asked what was taking so long. She told me she didn’t know she didn’t have the work order in front of her. It could be that they were ordering parts or that they just hadn’t gotten to it yet. I asked again whether I would be called if the bill exceeded $50 and was assured I would be.

Friday morning I was called and told my equipment was ready. Finally. I had a full day and asked what time they closed. 5pm. I knew they weren’t open on Saturday (Really?) and my yard desperately needed attention.

Friday afternoon I finished my final appointment at 4:30. As I ushered them out the door I gathered my gear and began high tailing it to Centerpoint. To be safe I called the shop and alerted them that I was on my way.

“Okay, “ she said, “but we close at 5pm.”

The interstate is the fastest route but the interchange between the Expressway and the Interstate 20/59 is a bear, especially near 5 o’clock on a Friday. The gods were with me though and I juked and shimmied through down town and avoided getting caught in traffic.

I exited onto the Centerpoint Parkway at 7 minutes to 5. Heeding my inner voice I called the shop.

“Hey, this is Dave Hall. I just called a few minutes ago. I’m coming by to get my equipment. I just exited onto the Parkway and wanted to make sure someone would be there.”

“Well, everyone’s getting ready to leave.”

“I’m just a few minutes away from your shop. I just need to get my gear. I have cash in hand.”


“I’ll see if I can’t find someone to find your equipment.”

Two minutes later I pull into the lot. Two of the mechanics are outside with my stuff and take the time to show me that they both crank and operate. Cool.

I go into the office to settle up.

“That’ll be $142.53.”

“What? I thought you guys were supposed to call me if the bill ran over $50. I’m not going to pay that.”

The looks on their faces told me that this was all to common a scenario. Turns out the carburetor needed to be rebuilt on the mower. I’m not surprised as a member of my household, who shall forever remain nameless, inadvertently ran 2 cycle fuel mix through the mower. In case you didn’t know, they don’t like that.

The last time I was in Home Depot I checked on mower prices and for a non-self propelled model I could get one new for between 150 and 200 bucks. $140 to repair an old mower just didn’t make any sense.

“I assume you guys can resell this one to recoup some of your expenses.”

I paid $14 for the weedeater and was on my way. On the way to Home Depot to buy a new mower I checked the service bill for the weedeater. They replaced the spark plug.

Including the deposit I had just paid $84 for a new spark plug. You know what they say about a fool and his money.

On the way out I called Samantha. Allergies were kicking her butt and she wanted me home. I explained the mower situation and she pointed out there was a Lowe’s that was closer to my route home from where I was. Okay, Lowe’s it is.

I bought a mower and ramps to get my riding mower in and out of the truck.

Once home, I sat down with a beer and watched We Bought a Zoo with the girls. I was done for the day.


Filed under self reliance, sustainability, urban farming, urban gardening