Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dog Sitting Blues

Leaving the house and having a house/dog sitter come is the best way to discover your home's idiosyncrasies. They pile up in droves for the uninitiated. If we had to write a user's manual for our own home, it would include information such as:

  • Things that require a good slam of the hip to open and/or shut
  • Potential risks of burning the entire house down
  • Potential risks of the entire house floating away
  • Stuff that leaks
  • Stuff that clogs
  • Stuff that spews 
  • Stuff that is installed upside-down
  • Annoying noises
  • Scary noises
  • Don't dare open this or sharp items will fall on your head
  • Scary places you don't want to go
  • Appliances that don't work, so don't even try
  • The entirely separate manual on how to work the 5 remotes to turn on the TV
"What will happen this time we leave town?" is the question we ask when having someone stay at our house, without full knowledge of its evil ways. We have a particularly literary house sitter who leaves us amusing notes when we come home. Here is her latest.

It was time to feed Molly. "Why," I asked myself, "do I walk all the way around to go out the sliding doors to outside when I can go out this cute little back door that is in a direct line between Molly's food bin in the garage and her food dish on the back patio?"

So I scoop up her food, unlock all the locks (so I'm thinking) and go out through the cute little back door. I give Molly her food, check her water, breathe in the beautiful spring day. I then turn around to go back inside the house, but the cute little door won't open. It's locked.

I stand in stunned silence. How can this be, I've been so careful. Because I know (I hate to say this) this house has evil doorknobs - always lying in wait for the unsuspecting, unwatchfull, untrained person who naively thinks that because the inside door knob turns freely when one tests it, this means the door is unlocked. Not so.

Even knowing this about both the front door and garage door (always checking both knobs, inside and out), I let the cute little back door sucker me in. It had worked its evil wiles and triumphantly locked me out.

I have to say I will never look at or feel the same about that door again. I'm trying to install a permanent alarm in my head about that door so that I will never cross its threshold again. "Evil - Danger, Danger, Don't approach - Go back, Go back!"

As I stand at the door that has locked me out, ringing in my ears is the story I heard just 20 minutes earlier from my sister Lisa. She also deals with a set of evil door locks at one of her housesitting jobs. Last summer they locked her out - keys inside - no way in. She had to call a locksmith ($75) to let her in. He told her he had calls that summer from several, also locked out, house sitters.

Hmm, maybe it's a conspiracy of locksmiths, breeding and distributing locks that guarantee return business. Hmm. But $75? I don't want to do that. Surely I left the sliding door opened - nope. Man, oh man, what to do? 

Then I remembered, I had opened the corner kitchen window because it was such a beautiful day. Could I get in that way? Yes! Up on the chest, pop off the screen, slowly push table away from window sill, ungracefully wrangle my body through and over window sill and I'm inside!

Welcome Home!


We need to get a hide-a-key that looks like dog poop!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Good fences make for poorer neighbors

The first thing people say when they see our backyard is usually "Wow, it's huge!" I would so rather they say "Wow, it's simply gorgeous!" or "Who did this fabulous landscaping?" or even "Lovely, simply lovely." 

While it may never hit gorgeous or simply lovely, we are working on it. The huge part we can't really do anything about, it is what it is. A big yard. A big yard that was initially owned by a man whose landscaping plan was to plant a series of trees and bushes all up against the fence, like a police lineup for oleanders. 

Besides the largeness factor of the yard, there is the odd shape that continues to puzzle us. From the front, our house looks like all the others, but out back it's like the survey people just threw up their hands one day and said, "You know what, let's just leave this one house with the funky yard as-is and call it done." That's how we ended up sharing our property line with five different neighbors. That's a lot of fence drama.

The original fences in the neighborhood were a bit short, but quite charming and amazingly long-lived. They look like this, what's left of them. If you're aiming to put in a fence that with some TLC can last over 60 years, here's your design.

A sample of the original fence.
It looks to be a popular place for birds to hang out.
Our neighbor we know the most, enough to go over and shoot the breeze with on his front porch, the one who loves our dog and looks out for our well-being like a member of the family - I'll refer to him as Neighbor S. He's the perfect neighbor, keeps his house nice, knows everyone, the kind of guy the UPS driver slows down to chat about football with. Neighbor S should be cloned and sprinkled throughout the world.

He told me the other day the reason why the fence between our property has the "bad neighbor side" facing us the whole length. The original owner of our house was a bit of a cheapskate and didn't want to pitch in when that part of the fence was falling down. Maybe he thought all the trees and bushes planted up against it would prop it up, when in fact it was probably all the trees and bushed planted so close to it that was its downfall. So Neighbor S footed the bill for the whole fence and made sure he got the pretty side facing him, the "good neighbor side."

Our fence with Neighbor S.
Nice. Sturdy. No drama.
In the way back of our yard, where there used to be a big pile of brush the size of a beaver dam, is the tiny bit of fence we share with Neighbor R. We don't know him too well, and we're just vaguely aware we shared a fence with him. We recently cleared out the beaver dam, and we hope to make this "The Melon Patch'" Doesn't that sound so cute?

Patiently waiting to become a much cuter area.
Neighbor D is an amazing gardener. He has a potting shed that is cuter than our house, and he grows lots of food in his garden, which I heard is the whole point. Neighbor D loves the old original fence, and since he doesn't have a dog, this hasn't been a problem. The old fence can stay, and it gives me some places to peek into his vegetable garden when I'm feeling the need for a bit of horticulture envy.

Potting sheds should not make my house look bad.
That is just not very neighborly.
The neighbor we share the longest stretch of fence with will have to be referred to as "Neighbor ?" because we have never met her. We have never even seen her. It's a mystery. But she doesn't have dogs and that's a good thing. Because that fence is a hot mess.

"Do not adjust your screen, the fence is leaning, not the dog."

And last, but unfortunately standing upright the least, we have the fence on the very back part of our yard. It's original, but has not benefited from the loving care of an owner like Neighbor D. It has peek-a-boo holes the size of small dogs, such as a chihuahua. The house was empty for a time and we hoped and hoped the new owners would not have dogs.

But they do. Molly doesn't get along one little bit with New Neighbor M's dog Tucker, and they haven't even dared let their chihuahua out. It became evident very quickly we would have to get a new fence, and while we're at it we might as well get that part by the Future Home of the Cute Melon Patch all dolled up too. With lots of talk between the guys, we agreed to have the fences replaced, everyone paying their fair share. It's the neighborly thing to do.

"Can we please stop talking about fences? I'm all Tuckered out."