Even before our income took a massive hit during the Great Recession, Roxie and I were cheap.
Not when it came to important things like quality coffee, spices and craft beers, mind you. We love our vacations.
However, we believe that frugality ( a happy marriage of practicality, environmentalism and thrift) is the way to go. Take my adventure this week with some storm damage.
In a way, it was good that the needs of our vegetable garden, fruit trees and strawberry patch were minimal thanks to the unseasonably cool and oh-so-dreary weather we’ve been having lately.
We’d much prefer warmer temps and sunny skies. But if conditions were normal and the weeds and crops were taking off the way they should be by this time of years, I’d have felt a whole lot guiltier this week by cheaping out in our front yard.
We turn the clock back to last Saturday night. Storms threatened. The wind whipped. And on Sunday morning we awoke to find the mature tree in front of our house broken in half. Some chunks were on the parking area by the street.
Most of it, though, a y-shaped piece large enough to flatten a sedan, dangled from what were now the top branches.
I let it sit for a day, figuring that maybe the city would forget about its recent change in policy that makes trees on city property the responsibility of the people who live adjacent. Maybe some crew would come by and take care of it for us.
No such luck. So I picked up what was on the ground, hauled it to the wood pile behind our barn, and figured we’d hire a tree outfit (what could it cost, $50?) to remove the dangler when we felt a little more flush.
On Tuesday night, a big gust of wind yanked that limb out of the tree and deposited it into the front yard, taking out two sections of our cedar privacy fence. All told, the branch probably weighed a ton, despite the fact that rot made the branch weak enough to break.
First thing Wednesday morning, I emailed the insurance guy in hopes that a) I wouldn’t have to lift a finger and b) it wouldn’t cost me a dime.
Problem is, we’ve done all we can to reduce expenses. Like cutting our insurance premiums by setting the deductible at $1,000 (someone less cheap/frugal would have a $500 policy). Therefore, because the damage was several hundred bucks at the most, it would be all on us.
Others in that position might turn to the Yellow Pages. But being a cheapskate, that was beyond my comprehension. I’d do as much of the work as I could without writing any checks.
Problem was, my chainsaw wasn’t and still isn’t working. Some parts of the limb were bigger than my two chunky thighs lashed together. And the fence looked like a disaster: three of the four 2×4 crossbars were split in two, the pickets scattered all over.
Sure it could take days to tackle. (And it did.) But if I could do it alone without losing a finger, breaking my back, or having a heart attack, hey, all the better!
Thankfully, work pressures were reduced because I already had that week’s columns done or underway. And secondly, keeping with our theme here, the garden was… just…kind of…sitting there.
That’s the thing about vegetable gardening. Some weeks there is simply no end to the work, worries and frustration.
In spring, there’s all that tilling, planting, installing tomato cages, etc.. In summer, it’s weeding, harvesting, battling pests.
But we’re in a lull now. This past seven days was like one of those bye week in pro football. The garden had few demands.
That allowed me to focus on the tree. I got out the handsaw (remember, the chainsaw was dead) and loppers. In a few hours, the tree mess was cut in half.
Likewise, the fence looked worse than it was. Most of the pickets survived. And because I had some scraps of treated (and aged) 2 x 4 lumber lying about, I was able to mend the broken crossbars with some rusty nails that came with the house.
Only three pickets need replacing, which should cost me no more than $10.
That still left two thick piece of limb that were maybe 15 feet long each. They were hard to saw. About the time I was ready to give up, a tree guy I know came along and said he’d be happy to finish up the job in exchange for a 12-pack of Boulevard Pale Ale beer,
Not a bad deal, I thought. So I went out and got the beer. I needed some myself, and a 20 pack is cheaper than three sixes — go figure?
Only he didn’t show on the day he was supposed to come, this past Thursday. I waited. And waited.
Those big limbs were still out there, I thought. Pretty soon they’ll kill the grass. Do I want to bug the tree guy with phone calls when it was an informal contract in the first place?
This is when I got the idea to finish it on my own, and it’s also when my inner cheapskate took over.
What would the pioneers have done? They didn’t have chain saws. Slipping off my wedding ring to avoid a finger blister, I grabbed the hand saw and set to work.
It took hours, Thursday and Friday. But I finally had the limb in pieces. Most of them I could carry. Some were so large that I lashed them to a kids’ wagon and dragged them to behind the barn.
One was so big I couldn’t deal with, but our son Pete stopped in for the weekend and I had him help me with the last, massive chunk.
Was it worth it? Not if it would have me kept me from earning wages. Or letting the garden go to waste.
But since no one pays me to sit on the couch, the money I saved as a do-it-yourselfer will free up some cash to tune up the chainsaw. Once its working, I’ll saw the wood into manageable pieces for our fall bonfire.
And best of all, remember those 20 bottles of beers?
Thanks to the garden gods, they’re all ours now. Ah.
Posted by: Mike