Tuesday, May 09, 2006


The green, green grass of home

This government job of mine pays pretty well, and the benefit package has indisputable attraction. But all this playing with words and ideas and abstract concepts all day is getting a little old, and on the weekend I think I found my one true calling. I think it's time for a career change.

I want to lay sod for a living.

Turns out I'm pretty good at it. Who knew?

We had ordered sod, enough for our front lawn and our next door neighbours, to be delivered Friday afternoon with the intention of laying it Saturday while my mom took the boys elsewhere. When I got home from work Friday and looked at the neat stacks of rolled sod sitting at the end of the driveway, though, all it seemed to be missing was a sign: FREE SOD, TAKE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN CARRY! So even though Beloved was working late, I asked my mother to take the boys to her place for dinner, and I set to laying the sod myself.

No doubt, laying sod is dirty work. I was wearing socks and running shoes and my toes were still black with earthy toe jam by the time I was done. But it is also extremely satisfying. When your lawn is only the width of six or seven rolls of sod, you can measure your progress quickly. There is a soothing rhythm to the pattern of lift, haul, drop, align, roll, tug, push, re-roll, re-align... well, you get it.

Instead of just laying the strips of sod down willy nilly, I laid out each piece with compulsive attention. I learned to butt the edges against each other and "sew" the seams together just like the guy in Canadian Tire recommended when I went in looking for a "sod cutter" and instead got a free 20 minute lecture on sod installation. (There's no such thing as a sod cutter, as it turns out, and asking for a sod cutter marks you as a gardening naif the same way a tie and pocket protector dooms to you a certain social caste on the first day of high school.)

Now that I am a sod-laying professional, I can impart upon you the wisdom of my experience. Aren't you lucky? For instance, if you are going to start laying sod on a Friday at dinnertime in suburbia, don't do it on an empty stomach. The smell of the barbeques will make you very, very cranky.

If you ever want to meet your neighbours, spend some time on your hands and knees laying sod in your front yard. I talked to more residents of Barrhaven Friday afternoon than I have in the three years we've lived here. Nobody could pass by without offering some comment, except for the elderly Chinese couple who passed by several times and simply stopped to smile at me, beaming wordlessly at my feeble attempts at conversation. Passers-by were fairly evenly divided into those who offered tips ("Ah, the sod dance," observed one fellow nostalgically as I stomped down the seams. "You missed a spot right over there.") and those asking for advice. "Do you, you know, DO this?" said one well-dressed but particularly unarticulate woman. "Um, well, I'm doing it now," I hedged. "But I'm a sod virgin. This is my first time." She moved along without another word.

It took me about two hours to finish the front lawn, a patch maybe 275 square feet that took 30 rolls of sod. It also took about four hours the week before to turn all the soil and pull out the weeds that had already taken root this early in the season, and shave away the last scraggly remnants of old lawn. But it is lovely, so very lovely now. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself.

Here's the "lawn", such as it was, about a month ago.

And here it is on Sunday morning, in all its luscious emerald glory:

Admire it now. With two boys who like dirt, shovels and trucks, and one slightly inattentive homeowner who has enough trouble ensuring the bipeds and the animals of the manor get water and nourishment, it will never last.

Think it's too late for a career change? Sod laying and professional communications probably fall around the same salary range, right? Or maybe I could just freelance. You know, in all my spare time...