By LESLIE LINSLEY Citizen Columnist
The other day I received an email from Mike Mulligan with the latest book title suggestions. Like me, his taste leans toward esoteric , but we both enjoy a good best-seller as long as it's tempered with a good old classic to make one feel intellectual. In one of our exchanges, I told him what I was up to besides reading. Since Mike is my long-time exercise guru (years of devotion to his Coffee Mill classes) I thought I'd impress him with my extra curricular exercise.
While I write about home style, this subject occasionally stretches the limit to include all things related to home and the way we nest. For a brief time, before it gets really hot in Nantucket, I have time to practice what I preach and pay attention to making my property look better. The following story is an example of what happens when a do-it-yourselfer tackles a project he or she has no business even considering, but doesn't know it until half way through and there's no turning back. It is what I now refer to as "the best reason to own a Jaguar sports car."
My house is on a corner lot surrounded by a low picket fence. It's almost mandatory in the historic district of this island. The fence is in disrepair, but unless you replace it with the exact replica you cannot remove it. They no longer make my size pickets so this would require custom cut slats for an area about 50 by 100 feet. Very costly proposition! The solution to plant a privet hedge to not only hide the fence, but also define the property and provide some privacy from the street seemed like a good idea. I measured the area. I checked out prices for privet. It made perfect sense in the scheme of things. If Only!
At the nursery I asked how much it would be to deliver them. I had determined that I would start with 12 on the most exposed side, not wanting to commit to 30 privets all at once. He gave me a price. "I could buy another privet for that." I exclaimed, "I'll do it myself."
Who knew that root balls are so heavy? It took two strong guys to lift six privet bushes into the back of my 9 year old Grand Cherokee Jeep, with the branches sticking out by 3 feet. The drive home was a precarious one with the tailgate wide open. I knew my heavy load wasn't going anywhere. It would take two trips to get all 12, plus the bags of cow manure or whatever that stuff is that nourishes these bushes, back home.
I pulled into my driveway and painstakingly dragged each privet out of the car plopping it onto the gravel where, with great effort, I then hoisted each one up two steps onto my front walk, then up over the edging around the grass, across the lawn (I have a hand truck - doesn't everyone?) and dumped into the approximate location, each two to three feet, as per directions, apart. By the time six were in position the thought of ditching the other six was quite a desirable thought, but not an option, nor was paying to have the second load delivered now that I was halfway there. I would not admit defeat even though I was, at this point yelling at my husband for not doing something to stop me from this ill-thought out project in the first place. I didn't even want to think about digging the 12 holes for planting them. By the time the second load was safely on the lawn my car looked as though it had been in combat and I wasn't faring much better.
I watered those babies and over the next three days I dug holes, chopped away the mud packed root balls that had dried up around the roots so I could lift them into the holes. I hacked and sawed away roots underground from surrounding trees that kept me from digging the holes deep enough. I added cow manure and filled the holes with water. I backhoed the dirt into each one and stomped around them in my lovely Ralph Lauren waders that are not so lovely anymore. Did I mention that I live on a one-way street into town much like Southard? In other words every single person on Nantucket at some point in their day witnessed this act of insanity.
It is now a week since I finished the job - well, half the job since there is a whole length of yard to go. However, I feel enormously satisfied when I come home from the market and see the privet from another perspective. It seems to be growing before my eyes. I am sure I will enjoy watching someone else finish the job just as much and I have learned one thing from this particular do-it-yourself project. Nobody would even consider doing such a thing if they owned a Jaguar. I am looking into this purchase to avoid any future foolishness. And as my friend Michael says, "this is the perfect example of pennywise and pound foolish
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.