I can botch it myself, thank you very much

Contributing WriterMay 24, 2014 

Sometimes I don’t need any help botching a job around the house, even though a few professionals in this community have been known to do even worse work than I do.

In fact, sometimes I sort of like it when professional carpenters, plumbers, electricians or roofers do an even more shabby job than I can if I really put my clumsy hands and lack of knowledge to the challenge.

After 30 years in this 92-year-old house, I have mostly encountered household helpers who are honest, expert, creative, reasonably priced and nine times better at their jobs than I am at their jobs.

But those who do me the proud favor of shoddy workmanship are the kind of klutzes who make me look borderline competent on occasion, for which I thank them profusely.

But you can’t win them all. For instance, we once hired a so-called painter to slather paint on the house. He had a serious failing. He never got around to painting anything. We would learn later that he had signed up more families than he could handle in months. So he did nothing, except collect down payments

I called him again one day. He said he couldn’t start painting because it was freezing outside.

No it wasn’t. It was 45, and I told him so.

He said, yes, but there is a wind and the wind chill will freeze the paint.

No it won’t, I told him. The wind chill, I pointed out, is a measure of personal discomfort not of actual freezing. (The term wind chill exists primarily to help television weather forecasters hype the evening report.)

He never showed up again. The last we heard of him was when we and other householders received notices of the dude’s declaration of bankruptcy.

That painter wasn’t the only pretender in our lives. On another occasion, a hardware clerk said he could install a sprinkler system for us. We found out too late that we were only his second botched attempt at installing sprinklers.

I knew we had a problem when he asked me, “What’s that red flower?”

“That’s a tulip,” I answered

“Well,” he said, “what’s that yellow flower?”

“That,” I said, “is a tulip.”

“But it’s not the same color,” he marveled.

I have since discovered that there’s not much to a sprinkler system. Essentially, it’s no more than a giant Tinker Toy kit. I do most of it. On occasion, when I get lazy, I use reliable sprinkler pros who have served us well in that capacity.

And then there were the lawn installation businesses – one laying sod and the other spraying seeds on the dirt. Both services performed with such meager success that, for several years, the lawn gradually became as bald as I am (and without a comb-over).

The water puddled on the alleged lawn. So I did what I should have done in the first place. I went to the Internet and confirmed my hunch that grass is a plant. And plants are most likely to thrive if you prep the soil. The soil in our lawn was mostly clay, a kind of dirt like thick, gummy, waterproof tar.

I should know better than to plant something without improving the soil. So a hired worker and I dug mounds of compost and peat moss into the soil, letting the yard breath and drain. That made our little grass plants happy, thick and green.

Sometimes in gardening, you have to turn to an expert on growing grass and that’s what I did. I hired me.

It took some muscle and sweat, but the wind chill took care of that.

Contact columnist Bill Hall at wilberth@cableone.net or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.

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