5.19.2008

You call this (outdoor) living?

As spring blossoms into summer, we homeowners face the annual Monsoon of Gardening Catalogs.

These catalogs arrive as faithfully as robins in spring, and in greater numbers. Every day, the mailbox is stuffed with slick rags featuring gardening gizmos and patio furniture and whizbang tool-display racks for the garage.

The arrival of warm weather gives people an itch. We want to get outside, spiff things up, turn our weedy, potholed yards into "outdoor living spaces." The catalogs are timed to arrive at the exact moment that homeowners feel that itch.

These catalogs come under scores of different names, but you know which ones I mean. If they're selling rubber gardening clogs, you're in the right place.

We homeowners flip through these catalogs, and say, Whoa, look at this! I never would've thought of disguising my garden hose by hiding it inside a giant plastic tortoise "that looks like cast-bronze statuary!" I should buy one of these for a mere eighty bucks! Then I could waste an entire weekend placing and anchoring it!

Gardening catalogs give us unique insights into our society and the ways we are inspired to ruin our weekends.

For example, somewhere there's apparently a thriving industry in artificial boulders. The catalogs show page after page of "realistic" plastic boulders for use as hose-holders or address markers or hidey-holes for spare keys.

These boulders can't possibly be biodegradable, not if they're made to stand out in the weather, so they'll last forever. You have to wonder what they're going to think, centuries from now, when archeologists dig up fake rocks.

And what will they think about Soil Aerator Sandals? You see these in all the gardening catalogs. The soles are covered by steel spikes over an inch long. "Aerate your lawn -- easy as taking a walk!" The archeologists might assume we turn-of-the-century types were into kinky massages.

(Here's what would happen if I stomped around my lawn with spikes on my feet: I'd hit a tree root or something and be stuck fast. Would my family even answer my cries for help? They'd probably leave me out there as a lawn ornament, a convenient place to hide their spare keys.)

An ad for another item is headlined: "Disguise yourself as a dragonfly, and mosquitoes will leave you alone!" This immediately calls to mind a costume with antennae, diaphanous wings and a rod-like tail. No matter how much you're bothered by mosquitoes, such a get-up might give the wrong impression. ("Disguise yourself as a dragonfly, and the neighbors will leave you alone!")

But no, that's not the invention at all. It's a small electronic repeller you wear on your belt, which "simulates the low-frequency wingbeat sound of the dragonfly, the mosquito's mortal enemy!" Mosquitoes hear the clicking and "they turn tail and leave fast!"

Sounds wonderful. Here's my question: Are dragonflies attracted to this sound? If I use this product, will I be followed everywhere by swarms of aroused dragonflies? I might prefer the occasional mosquito.

Another hot gardening item: The new recoiling water hoses that "put themselves away." The hose looks like a giant green Slinky. Have you ever tried to untangle a Slinky? Get a foot caught in this hose, and you might find yourself tied up tighter than Houdini.

Then there's my favorite item, the "humane" trap for pesky varmints that dare enter your property to sniff your fake boulders. The cage-like trap always is depicted holding a well-groomed live skunk. The skunk looks very annoyed at being captured.

Here's what I always wonder: What do you do next? Once you've humanely captured the live skunk, how do you then get rid of it? When it was running around loose, the skunk was simply a problem. Now that you've caught it, it's become your responsibility. And you've made it mad.

Better to stay indoors in the first place. I've found the best use for all the gardening catalogs: Stack them up and use them as an ottoman. That way, you can stay on the sofa where you belong. And you won't scratch the good furniture with your Soil Aerator Sandals.

2 comments:

Phil Fountain said...

I think it might be fun to put a couple of those fake boulders on the roof. You could tell neighbors, "I thought I heard something last night, musta been a meteror shower."
They probably already think you're nuts for keeping your garden hose in a turtle.

STEVE BREWER said...

What if we put the turtles on the roof? "Wow, that was some rain, eh?"