Lions and Tigers and Lizards…. OH MY!

When the realtor first showed us the house I ended up buying, she pointed towards the beautiful green conservation zone behind the house.  She explained that it meant there would be no more houses built behind us and waxed poetic about the gorgeous view.  Then she said,

“Terri, you’ll have WILDLIFE!”

Almost as soon as the words passed her lips, she changed the subject, as if she immediately realized that the existence of wildlife in the backyard would not be everyone’s cup of tea. She needn’t have worried. I immediately conjured up visions of Bambi and Thumper shyly inching their way to my back door, as I coaxed them ever forward with carrots.  Maybe I’d even build a saltlick.  I saw them giving me their trust and nuzzling against me.  In my imagination, the wildlife might even have broken into song.

Well, no.

Instead of Bambi and Thumper, the wildlife consists of birds and lizards.  Lots of lizards.  The birds are pretty innocuous, although kind of noisy at times.  We have what must be wonderful windows and insulation because it can be quiet as can be inside until I open a door in the evening.  Then, the volume and variety of bird sounds is quiet amazing.  The cacophony they create outside at night is comparable to a middle school orchestra tuning up.  The birds are kind of cool to watch during the day and I can’t hear them at night with the doors and windows closed up, so the bird wildlife is not a problem.

The lizards didn’t really bother me, either.  Most people will tell you that lizards are good to have around because they eat insects.  I don’t want them in my house, but I’m perfectly happy to live and let live as long as they do their living outside the structure where I do my living.  Max, on the other hand, became the great white hunter of lizards.  He was completely convinced that, if we did not do something to banish the lizards from our property, they would take over the garage and house.  He fretted that, once in the house, we would not be able to get them out because they are such fast little buggers.  He worried that they would raise a whole colony of baby lizards and I would rue the day I ever said, “they don’t bother me.”  I think he pictured them taking over the television remote control and fiddling with the air conditioner settings.

My research into lizard control told me that nothing can reliably reduce lizard population.  The most common suggestion was to get a cat, which I thought might be a good answer until I realized that the cat would not necessarily get rid of lizards, just kill them and bring them to me as love offerings.  While I don’t want live lizards in my house, I really don’t want dead ones either.  Especially dead ones gift-wrapped in cat spit.

Another big suggestion was to use insecticides to kill the bugs the lizards eat, thereby discouraging the lizards from showing up for the buffet at our house each day.  After trying several different insecticides and putting out mothballs to minimize the bugs, there might have been a slight decrease in the lizard sightings.  Or there might not have been.

Max followed the lizard abatement school of thought that we should minimize (read eliminate) the foliage around the house, thus destroying the lizard hiding places. He thought we should have more rock and stone instead of dirt and shrubbery.   He thought we should cut all the shrubbery down to the stumps and maybe put out some potted artificial plants. Besides being a lot of work and expensive to have someone do this, I didn’t want to do it.  First, I didn’t think the homeowners’ association that objected to a small patch of discolored lawn would be too keen on landscaping that consisted of bare stumps topped with potted plastic petunias.  The rules for landscaping are pretty restrictive.  Second, I didn’t want an ugly yard and I have to say that stumps sounded pretty ugly to me.  Third, I didn’t think anything we did was going to get rid of the lizards so I objected to taking extraordinary measures to try to do so.

While our disagreement on lizard abatement strategy waged on, Max took to looking for lizards in the front and back yard and dousing them with glasses of cold water.  He’d go outside, see a lizard, come in grumbling, “fucking lizards,” get a glass of water, and throw the water on said lizard.  I’m sure the neighbors were referring to him as the “crazy lizard guy.”  He really believed he was going to train the entire lizard population to stay away from our house because those who were foolish enough to venture near would spread the word to the rest of them about the icy showers that awaited them.

Finally, after weeks of Max “convincing” (in other words, nagging) me to do something about the landscaping, I capitulated.  I just couldn’t bear to hear another word about the “fucking lizards.”  I did insist, though, that we were not just going to lop off shrubs and leave stumps in the ground.  I called a landscaper and explained our goal of mitigating the lizard population.  I basically let Max make all the decisions about what the landscaper should do so he could be satisfied that all possible means were being employed to eliminate the lizards. I just kept veto power to ensure that the yard did not end up looking like a bomb site. The landscaper told us he could not eliminate the lizards, but could do some things to minimize them, like taking out a couple of bushes and replacing them with a certain kind of tree that would be less hospitable to lizards.  He also suggested covering some of our bare dirt with stones and ornamental rocks. Of course, none of this was cheap, but I thought it would look nice when it was done.  Whether it would have any impact on the lizard population, I wasn’t too sure. Personally, I would have thought that decorating the yard with large ornamental rocks would be somewhat akin to building a habitrail for reptiles, but what do I know?

Now that the work has been done, it does indeed look nice.  I’m very proud of it.  Did it get rid of the lizards?  The dirty little secret is that I don’t think it did.  Max says it did, but I’m sure he doesn’t want me to realize that I paid a lot of money, at his insistence, to fix a problem that still exists.  I still see him going out of the house with tumblers of water to throw on the invaders.  The thing is, now he does it very surreptitiously and without a word about the “fucking lizards.”

So I got what I paid for.

What are your thoughts?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

A Sod, Sod Story

Shortly before we moved to our new home, I received a notice from the homeowners’ association telling me that I had a brown spot on my lawn and needed to remedy the situation.  The community manager suggested resodding the area.  When I spoke to the property manager who was renting the house for me, she said she would tell the tenants (who were soon to be vacating) that they needed to fix the problem since they were responsible for the lawn.  Apparently, that did not go well.  The property manager later told me that she thought the brown spot had been there over 2 years ago when I first bought the property and, therefore, we should not attach the tenants’ security deposit to pay for the sod.  I agreed, but asked that she make sure the problem got fixed so the HOA would leave me alone.

When we arrived to move into the home a month or so later, I saw what the HOA meant. There was a small area of grass that seemed a little bit stressed.  It wasn’t super noticeable to me, but I could definitely see that there was a problem.  I asked the property manager about it.  She told me that she didn’t recommend resodding because it was the wrong time of year and water use restrictions would impede new sod’s growth.  When I shared this theory with the community manager, he was less than impressed and told me that I needed to get something done immediately or be fined. 

Thus began the “sod, sod story.”

We had a fellow who was trimming a tree for us that also did sod.  We asked him about resodding for us and he agreed, but said that we probably needed to get some sort of lawn treatment service or protocol in place, as he thought the dead area was likely caused by some underlying problem like bugs or lack of soil nutrients.  He advised that we would want to fix that problem so that new sod would thrive. 

I called the lawn treatment guy, who agreed (of course) that we needed lawn treatment.  According to him, it was the evil cinch bug that was causing the lawn disaster.  He also said that the sprinkler system was in really good shape, but we might want to think about upgrading in the next year or so.  When he was testing it, I noticed that none of the sprinklers seemed to be hitting the brown spot.  I’m surely no lawn expert (never having had a lawn before), but it seemed to me that without water, it wasn’t any surprise that the grass was dying.  I pointed this out to the lawn treatment guy. He insisted it was the evil cinch bug, not the lack of water, that was the problem.   

I signed a contract for lawn treatment every other month.  The lawn treatment guy said to wait a couple of months after the first treatment before resodding.  While I was wondering how the HOA was going to feel about that, he uttered the words I have come to know and fear….

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Now, what is that supposed to mean?  What does worse look like?  And how will we know if it is the “worse before it gets better” or if it is the “worse because this crap isn’t working?”

True to our new friend’s word, it did get worse.  And worse.   The lawn treatment technicians left us with cryptic notes and multiple flyers about every possible thing that could be wrong with our lawn, from frost to the German measles.  The flyers seemed to suggest contradictory courses of action.  When I read that spraying with Round-Up was the remedy for one of the possible lawn maladies, I became alarmed.  Did you ever look at the label of Round-Up?  It is called “GRASS and Weed Killer.”  It seems kind of counter-intuitive to spray grass killer on an area of lawn where you are trying to grow… well, grass.  Applying Round-Up doesn’t seem like the best thing to do when you are trying to bring a lawn back to life, does it?  Still, I tried doing everything suggested in the flyers, and, also, several strategies I discovered on the internet.  Nothing seemed to make a difference.  At least not a POSITIVE difference. 

I called the lawn treatment company and, also, the guy who mows the lawn.  Both of them said…. You guessed it…. “It will get worse before it gets better.”

After the second lawn treatment, with the area of brown expanding at a rather startling rate, we started trying to get our tree trimmer/sod guy back to do the resodding.  Let’s just say that he wasn’t the most responsive of creatures.  Max pursued him with the tenacity of a male musk ox trying to attract a mate.  After no less than four no shows and reschedules, the sod guy finally showed up.  I guess he figured it was either show up or take out a restraining order. 

Never having seen sod before, we didn’t think anything of the pathetic collection of mud squares with some sparse grass blades sticking out of them that our sod guy delivered.  He apparently did whatever one is supposed to do to prepare the ground and then laid the “sod.”  Before he went away, he told us “It will get worse before it gets better.” 

Max religiously watered the resodded area every day with a garden hose because the sprinkler wasn’t hitting that area.   Some of the new sod seemed to start growing, but, for the most part, the lawn just got worse.   Having been advised that it would “get worse before it gets better,” I wasn’t immediately alarmed, but when the dead areas started spreading and multiplying geometrically, I decided it was time for action. 

I called the lawn treatment guy again, who finally agreed to come over and check the technician’s work.  When he arrived, he was shocked and appalled by the state of the lawn.  Duh.  Initially, he thought the problem with the sod was that we had not kept to the heavy watering protocol for new sod.  This pronouncement didn’t make us very happy since Max invested hours upon hours hand-watering what was presumably dead or dying grass.  We explained what we did but the lawn treatment guy still eyed us suspiciously, assuming we were negligent, non-watering sod-killers.

Eventually, after much discussion, the lawn treatment guy could see I was about at the end of my rope, so he called in a sprinkler guy, a sod guy that their company used when needed, and the lawn treatment technicians. They all decided, of course, that I needed a new $2000 sprinkler system because (wait for it) …. THE SPRINKLERS WERE NOT HITTING THE PART OF THE LAWN THAT WAS DYING!!!  After I stopped reeling from a severe case of déjà vu, I started bargaining.  Noting that some of my problem was that I was dealing with too many components of the same issue (sprinklers, lawn treatment, sod) and wasn’t lawn-savvy enough to know which component was the problem (or even if there was a problem because, you know, “it gets worse before it gets better”), I demanded that this lawn treatment company take complete ownership of the problem and arrange for all the moving parts to do what needed to be done and monitor the success.  When they agreed to that, I figured buying the sprinkler system for $2000 (which did seem kinda necessary since even I could tell lo those many months ago that the sprinklers were not hitting the dying lawn areas) was a bargain.

But wait…. There’s more.  The sprinkler installation went pretty smoothly, except for the hit to my pocketbook.  Then, the sod guy showed up immediately to take measurements and quote me a very low price to install the sod to replace the first sod guy’s mud.  For, when the second sod guy finally showed up with the sod (it took several reschedules, but what else is new?), it was clear that the first sod guy provided something that truly didn’t even resemble real sod.  It was no wonder it didn’t grow.

Our lawn is beautiful now.  It only took six months.  And, just for the record, after the second sodding, it never did “get worse before it gets better.”

Do you have a sod, sod story of your own?  Who knew that acquiring a lawn that meets the minimum standards of the HOA would be such a trauma?  Or at least a drama?  At any rate, the grass is greener on the other side of the lawn now.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement.com.

Have a sodding good day!

Terri 🙂