September 19, 2015

September is not a fall month here in the Valley of the Sun. The days when there is no monsoon are still in the low 100s, and a walk to the mailbox in the late afternoon will make its return a hurried one knowing that air conditioning awaits. For sure, the nights are starting to cool down, but even the mid- to upper seventies will keep the swimming pool temperature tolerable for swimming until the end of the month.

There comes a point every year at this time, however, where the sense of the coming fall season (or, rather, the coming of “no heat”) becomes most apparent, and it is a joyful one for me. It is the Friday when Carmelo and his gang show up and Carmelo shows that purposeful look about him. All of a sudden, after months and months of maintaining property through the heat, he calls you over to discuss strategy for the coming “no heat” season.

This year, Carmelo’s main concern is with the front lawn and the back. “There’s not enough green showing on the grass”, he tells me. His concern lies with the fact that, while the lawn looks green, it’s only the top 1/4″ that’s green; underneath that everything is brown. And he doesn’t like the terrain: while it’s true anyone driving past our house wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between our lawn and Shawn’s and Keith’s (or neighbors), Carmelo knows better. Underneath all that seemingly lush grass lies the remnants of February’s sewer line fiasco. Carmelo’s plan? “I’m going to cut the grass down to the nubs and lay topsoil on top of anything that’s uneven.” The winter rye he’ll plant will start the true reclamation project. “By next summer you’ll have a lawn worthy of a putting green”, he tells me.

I believe him.

Out back, Carmelo knows we’re in a transition period. He sawed off the branches of the queen palms broken in the last storm but still isn’t satisfied. He wants to cut more branches, I want him to leave things as is.

“That’s OK”, he says without a smile on his face. “Next spring you’ll be begging me to take them down.”

I believe him.

It’s the back lawn that’s going to require some coordination between us. I’ve planted dichondra to cover the half that was just basically dirt, but with all the water I’ve been giving it the Bermuda grass has flourished on the other half. So in two weeks Carmelo is going to cut the Bermuda down to the nubs, after which I will cover it with topsoil and seed with dichondra to see how it all works out. Carmelo loves the dichondra idea: it is so green and so bright that the Tiki bar deck will look like it is swimming in a sea of clover.

“Beautiful.”, he says.

The final work we undertake is to stake some cactus that has grown as high as the lower eaves of the roof so that the winter storms don’t blow it over. My thinking was to simply tie them together with some green tape or cord to serve as a stabilizing force, but Carmelo will hear nothing of it. “I have some tree stakes in my truck that will take care of it”, says he. And he’s right: These are 8-foot wooden stakes dug into the ground, upon which he places a metal thing that looks like something you’d see on top of a cell-phone tower. He then grabs his 8-foot ladder and a mallet, then drives the wooden stake further into the ground by pounding the crap out of it. After tying it all together and it looks like a thing of beauty.

As Carmelo and his team leaves, he gives one last look at the mesquite tree in the back yard and shakes his head: it has already grown back exponentially from the $200 trim he gave it just two weeks ago.

“El tigre”, says he, shaking his head. “That tree will never be tamed. All that water you’re giving the dichondra is just causing it to come back faster. We’ll need to trim it again before next March.”

That’s why I love Carmelo. Even if I were I to lose my job and couldn’t afford anything else but food, I’d rather go hungry than having to go and not pay my landscaper. He is el hombre.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:56 | Comments Off on Carmelo’s September Song
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