One of the first jobs I was offered as a free lancer last year was cleaning up a deck for my friend Anne. It was after she’d read one of my blog posts about losing my job. Since then, I’ve done other work for her and her husband Paul, as well as for dozens of other people. And all as a result of writing about what happened to me honestly.
Last week Anne called me to ask if I would do it again, and Tuesday I went over to do the work. She also wanted some dead and diseased (small) trees removed.
I went armed with a large bread knife, gloves, utility knife, and screwdriver.
Tuesday was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and I worked on the deck all day in my t-shirt.
There were three small trees, or bushes, in various states of dismay. There was a big wooden planter filled with earth and the roots of a dead bush. It weighed about 200 pounds and the wood was rotted. It was falling apart last year; one side had burst at the bottom and was spilling soil onto the deck. I repaired it with wire and corner brackets, but Anne felt it was time to get rid of the whole thing; it was affecting the wood of the deck beneath.
The problem was what to do with 200 pounds of soil?
There were some empty planters on the deck, and I estimated if I was able to get the roots and the bushes from the two other large planters I could transfer the soil into those. So I set to work. I asked if they had a saw, both of the bushes were at least 4 feet tall. Paul said he would look for a saw.
I started by snapping off dead branches with my hands, and from experience that’s why I brought the gloves with me.
I worked methodically; snap, snap, stuff stuff. I was stuffing the branches into big black garbage bags.
When I got down to the denuded trunks, I was wondering what to do. Still no saw, so I got out the bread knife, which has a serrated edge and went to work, top to bottom. I started sawing foot-and-a-half segments, and it was pretty easy at the top where the trunk was dry and dead, and got progressively harder closer to the roots. One trunk was almost four inches in diameter and took a lot of effort and sawing. When I pulled at it, I was surprised when it snapped off and hit me in the forehead. I was lucky I didn’t knock myself out.
After cutting down the bushes and pulling out the roots, I started shoveling the soil from the big rectangular planter into the two large pots and into any other empty receptacle I could find. I arranged all the planters in a row against the walls of the deck.
I was able to empty the big 4X2 wooden planter, then took it apart and bound all the wood together with the wire that I’d used last year to hold it together. Efficient, huh?
All that being done, I set to raking up the leaves and putting everything in the plastic garbage bags. I couldn’t put out the trash till after 4, so I took a break to enjoy the wrap Anne had generously bought me for lunch.
This week I also got a call from Elly and Eddie, the elderly couple on the Upper East Side that I’d done gardening work for last year. They are redoing their home, so that was a lot of work there. We have plans for the garden as well, and I’m looking forward to doing that for them. Their hedges haven’t bloomed yet, so we have to wait. It will be a pleasure to work in their garden too.
I remember how afraid I was last year after I lost my job, what was to happen, how was I going to pay the rent, survive, but it’s turned out OK.
I’m grateful for the friends I have, it was actually my friends Janet and Larry who’d recommended me to Elly and Eddie so I have them to thank too.
So thank you all for the work, and for the pleasure of a sunny day in your gardens.