Wednesday, 9 November 2011
If it's Fall, it must be cleanup time
It must be November because huge lorries, with industrial size hoses, are currently plying the streets, advertising 'Fall Cleanup' services. Everywhere you look on suburban front lawns, large crews of Hispanic guys in hoodies are blowing leaves and putting them into black plastic sacks.
You see, practically no-one around here 'does' their own garden. It just doesn't seem to be the done thing. Instead, the majority employ one of these so-called 'landscaping' crews to cut their grass, trim their hedges and, in autumn, clean up the hundreds of leaves that fall. These gangs will arrive in a truck before around eight of them descend on your garden, then leave ten minutes later.
In our previous house, our landlady took care of the gardening, so it wasn't really an issue - although she was never satisfied with the efforts of the firms she employed, and I would constantly be having to report to her that they'd only stayed five minutes. But in our new house, we are responsible for the gardening (along with the burglar alarm, wildly over-the-top sprinkler system and other devices that, ideally, we would be happy to live without). The current gardening team will soon finish for the 'season', and we must then decide whether to keep them on, choose someone else - or go it alone.
Now, I am sure that, were we to own an equivalent sized garden in the UK, we would mow the lawn and clean up the leaves ourselves. It's not a massive garden, and the leaves would be quite manageable with a decent rake. Besides, the Brits love to do their own gardens; gardening is such as integral part of British middle class life. Gardeners are mainly for people with acres of land (or maybe eye candy for modern day Lady Chatterley types). Certainly no-one I know in England employs a 'landscaping' firm to mow a small plot of grass and clear up leaves.
But on the other hand, there are obstacles to doing it ourselves. No-one around here seems to burn leaves on bonfires (I'm not sure if it's illegal, or just unpopular) so that will mean lots of bagging of leaves, of which there are a fair few. We'd also have to get hold of a lawnmower somehow. No point buying one for under two years, and it wouldn't work in the UK because of the voltage. We might be able to borrow one from a neighbour, but if that's not an option, I am really not sure how we would manage the grass.
So do we just throw more money at the problem? The gardeners charge $40 a week, which I am told is reasonable but seems fairly pricey to me (considering the barely 10 minutes they spend here). It costs much more for the 'Fall Cleanup'. Also, they don't appear to do any 'gardening' per se other than grass cutting and leaf blowing - one day I asked them cut back some long grasses which were blocking our back gate, and they looked at me as if I had asked them to fly to the moon and back.
Once again we have a choice to make. Accept that attitudes towards gardening are different here and just spend (waste?) the money. Or make a concerted effort to do the garden ourselves by beg, borrowing and stealing lawnmowers and leaf blowers, baffling all others in the street and earning ourselves even more of a reputation as eccentric English? It's a dilemma....