Honie Briggs


The natural order of things in my neighborhood goes something like this. In the spring the grass gets scalped to remove the winter rye so the turf can take its place in the sun. In the summer the grass gets watered. A LOT. The water evaporates before it has a chance to reach the grass roots and much of it just runs into the street. Once a week, the mow and blow team fans out to make the whole place look like a golf course. In the fall the grass gets scalped again and over-seeded with winter rye. I cannot stand this and it drives my blood pressure through the roof.

I have sent photos of the water run off to the owner of the landscape company and remarked to the HOA manager how wasteful and irresponsible this practice is to no avail. (It would cost too much to rip out the existing system and do it right. Why can’t I be satisfied with a nice seasonal color change at the entrance & in the common areas twice a year?)

This very small neighborhood was built by a company that does not care one bit that they destroyed many 100+ year old oaks by compacting the soil and building tree wells that held run off and rain water for days. Those majestic trees were a big selling point for this “best kept secret” neighborhood, but the mosquito infested pools around them became an issue for the builder. Sales were starting to tank, what with the economy and all, and so the site supervisor decided the tree wells should be covered with black fabric and then filled with river rock to abate the water/mosquito problem. (I know, I saw it all go down.) The landscape company was glad to have the work and was obliged to knowingly finish the job and insure the death of those trees with their irresponsible actions.

Once all of the homes were sold, the HOA was turned over from the builder to the actual home owners. We organized and elected members who would look out for the best interest of the entire neighborhood. (HOA’s are not associations of home owners who love their neighbors as they love themselves!) The large trees started to die and posed a hazard to the homes. They had to be removed. I am not an environmental extremist or a gorilla gardener but it was painful to watch those trees be choked to death and then cut down.

Fast forward to February 1st, 2012.

In the winter the landscape crews everywhere have virtually nothing to do. All of their jobs for all of their clients are the same, blow & go. We have had a mild winter so far here in North Texas and most everything that would be dead as a doornail by now is still green. Roses get pruned mid-February and when the weather gets warm, we will begin the insanity of scalp, over-water, mow & blow again.

This morning just as I was about to make coffee, I heard the sound of a weed eater. I said to myself, what the hell could they possibly be using a weed eater for? Everything is dormant; nothing has grown since they were here last week. Now you probably know that landscaping crews stay busy in the summer. They are booked solid. In the winter they have to give the guys who hang in there until spring something to do. Since they had nothing to whack, mow or blow in my neighborhood today, the one man crew decided to hack something and he took his hedge trimmer to an area he had no business hacking.

I have a small patio area which has been my project since I completed the Texas Master Gardener program a couple of years ago. I purposefully removed the grass and installed drip irrigation in two planting beds. Flagstone now covers the area that was grass. I chose native/adapted plants and use water wise methods like mulching to create a place to enjoy when it isn’t 110 degrees outside. In the spring it’s the happiest place on earth for me and all summer my neighbors complement my bloomers and lament their lack of a green thumb. This area is a challenge because it is on the north side of the house and stays very wet because of the poorly placed sprinkler heads. It only gets sun from April through August which is a blessing and a curse. Earthkind is the new organic since most AG colleges get funding from non-organic sources. So I use the Earthkind method in addition to water wise.

This morning I walked outside to a scene that sent my blood pressure to the moon. My little piece of earth had been violated and the perpetrator had moved on to butchering the knockout roses used to disguise a utility box on the corner. That is when the yelling started. I was furious. (I know peace & love, peace & love.) Did I mention I was furious? That means engulfed by an overwhelming, uncontrollable fury.

You see, back in the good old days when our little association of peace & love was first organized, I was “nominated” to chair the landscape committee. The landscape service that the builders had used to create this little slice of heaven in the metroplex , well, they sucked, and we needed a new landscaping company. We accepted bids and the committee met to make a decision. I recommended the company we ended up choosing. They presented the best bid, they were established in the area, and so we went with them. Imagine my embarrassment today not only for yelling obscenities into the air as I surveyed the damage while the one man landscape crew, who did so understand what I was saying took refuge in his truck but also for being the one who recommended their company in the first place. The man was on the phone with his boss when I walked around front to find him and apologize for my outburst. I know his boss and his boss knows me. This man, who no doubt is working to send money somewhere to support his extended family just handed me the phone. I unloaded on his boss, reminded him that I was the one who recommended his company for this job, and then listened to him apologize. (I do not feel good about myself for this.)

A half hour later the boss showed up and when I heard him talking, I stepped out onto the patio to join the conversation. He was sorry, I was sorry, and the whole thing got resolved. We talked about the difference between commercial landscaping and gardening. I had him translate an apology to the worker, who just shook his head like yeah whatever que mujer demente. (Cooler heads prevailed too little too late maybe.) Not a tragedy by any stretch but a dramatic way to begin February for sure.

How lucky I am that a thoughtful person sent me an excerpt today from a book entitled Keepers of the Earth. It is a compilation of Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children. How timely too because this morning I acted just like a child. This is a corn grinding song of Zuni origin from the story The Hero Twins and the Swallower of Clouds. (My Indian name is One of Many Words.)

“Clouds come rising out of my beautiful mountains.
Up in the sky, the rain makers are sitting.
One after another rain clouds are coming.
Over there the flowers are coming.
Here the young corn is growing.”

To all of the keepers of the earth……(Por favor, acepte mis disculpas.)

4 thoughts on “F is for February

  1. What are you upset about? That’s the natural way of things…in the suburbs.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Hey there R~
      I cannot disagree with that. When you’re right you’re right. As Ringo Starr said, “No more autographs, peace & love, peace & love, peace & love.” I’m not a rock star. I’m just glamorous suburbanite. (Sad)

  2. Honie Briggs says:

    Hey There P,
    Better times have arrived already. I cannot for the life of me understand what possessed that man to do such a thing. He certainly wasn’t instructed by me. Maybe he thought those demented tree spirits were after him. Who knows? Thanks for your comment.

  3. ARGH. Almost had a heart attack when I saw the trim job around your patio area. Guess there’s a real difference between yard crews and gardeners. (but suspect some people do follow directions they are given to the letter without a thought.) That tree in the first picture actually looks like a demented demon threatening the houses ( probably the soul of the tree?) Hope spring brings better times.

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