August: on a sunny San Diego Saturday I’m not at the beach, the bay or the salon. I’m covered in dirt, shoveling soil at home. It’s 81 degrees. Sweat is dripping down my front, my back, my face. I’m the essence of glamour.
No one is forcing me to toil like this on a weekend. This choice is mine. The parkway strip between the street and the sidewalk desperately needs a makeover and so 81 degrees or not, I’m moving dirt, getting blisters, waving at neighbors, and sweating. I love it.
This makeover is mostly about decreasing the number of weeds in the parkway strip in front of our house. We have been here fifteen years, and for a lot of that time, certain projects simply had to wait. I have three kids to keep alive. But the kiddos are more self-sufficient now, and this summer I decided that the Natural Look (aka weed patch) had reached its expiration date. This is a chance to give a new look to the front of our house. My requirements: it must be low maintenance, visually interesting, and budget friendly.
Removing the weeds is easier said than done. They’re hearty and stubborn and they’ve dug in their heels. It is taking a lot of shovel work to dislodge them. They are the cockroaches of the plant world—hard to eliminate and they like to crop up in unexpected places, even when you think you got them all.
Here is a photo of the parkway strip before the makeover:
It has some personality, with the pops of blue and my succulents. But the weeds are not part of the look I want. Yet how do you get rid of them? Weed cloth was under all the weeds in front, and still, weeds grew. So I’m digging up all the weeds, and I will pour concrete pavers in the front. I’m going to reposition the blue planters I created a year ago and use plants I already have. Concrete for the pavers is inexpensive and I am reusing our river rock. Frugal and Fabulous is the theme.
September: several times during this project I have questioned my own sanity. I love challenging myself, but where is the line between a healthy challenge and self-torture? It’s blurry. At times progress feels slow. But I can see the progress, and this feels satisfying. When you have young kids, there are so many chores that never seem to be completed. (See: laundry, cooking and dish-washing.) The moment you finish certain chores, they start piling up again. So seeing the progress in Operation Dirt is encouraging. Also, I’m getting a great workout for my back, arms, shoulders and legs. I’m doing it all myself, which feels good. Or crazy. It alternates.
Here are the stats:
· 1,740 pounds of dry concrete mix is what I used. (The weight once I added water? Heavy.)
· 43 feet by 4 feet is the size of the parkway strip.
· 36 pavers is how many I created.
· $18 dollars is what I spent on mosaic pieces and stained glass. (I smashed them into slivers, so I got a lot of bang for my buck).
· 101 bricks were used (free from Craigslist!).
· Gallons of sweat rolling off my body? Countless.
Late September: I have been mixing and shoveling hundreds of pounds of concrete. I’m feeling pretty fierce! But my forearms feel like they have been trampled by a gorilla. Still, I’m making progress and the weeds are gone.
Some days I look at my project and feel like Sisyphus, rolling the boulder up a hill only to have it crash down. Will I ever be finished? Other days I look at my work and feel self-conscious about my mistakes. And on certain days I like how it all looks, and I am proud that I gave it a try. Stepping out of my comfort zone is helping me to grow.
In the grand scheme of things, this project is not super important. Being a good mom and a decent person are much more important to me than how the parkway strip looks. But I see this strip many times each day and giving it a makeover is giving me a lift. (And blisters.) Making it look better is worth my effort. My neighbors’ gardens give me a boost, so if something colorful in our yard also gives our neighbors a boost, it’s a win-win.
And isn’t that how life is? Oftentimes it’s the small things that give a lot of satisfaction….