Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The "Stupid" Tax

This is a 'rotary broom' - it's like a street sweeper without the vacuum part. Better yet, operating it is much like 'reverse vacuuming' - unfortunately I know all of this because I spent two days in the drivers seat...

Why am I 'reverse vacuuming' for two days in the first place you ask? Well, let me start from the beginning:

I don't know about you but money has been a little tight around here lately. So I thought it would be a good idea to spend my weekend 'free time' by doing some work on the site myself.

Actually, this was more of a punishment, hence the "stupid tax" for failing to heed the Common Law of Business Balance:

"It's unwise to pay too much but it's unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it's well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better!"

With a major site construction project like ours, you aren’t done until you've established grass.

Do you have any idea what seeding, mulching and crimping an acre costs? How about 6 acres?

I didn't either until I got the first set of quotes and was convinced that the recession applied to everyone but landscape contractors. Prices to seed the site were all in the 'five figure' range - no joke.

I mean really, how hard is it to put down some seed and straw for cryin' out loud?

And that was the point when I started to travel down an obvious path that drew me ever closer to the pending 'stupid tax' I was about to pay.

I called my lawn guy and told him I wanted to try a little experiment - "let's try just seeding the borders along the roads and maybe the grass will take root and regenerate the rest of the site. If it doesn’t work we can always seed some more in a few weeks."

How much? $1500. That still seemed like a lot but, "hey, maybe I'm the first guy to come up with this great idea - and besides I am saving thousands...!"

Well, they raked and planted seed. (No straw, I mean, what does straw really do anyway) and, as luck would have it, it was scheduled to rain later that week. The forecast also called for high winds. Oh good I thought, a little rain to get things growing and then some wind to keep the birds from eating the seed (?)

Well the rain came and the winds followed. I didn’t have to worry about birds because the wind was blowing so hard that several tons of seed-filled-dirt blew off the site and into the road. It was like a blizzard of sand – there were drifts! The curbs and gutters were filled to the brim; I didn’t even know where to start... what a mess!

(By the way, straw, when crimped into the ground provides, among other things, stabilization for both the seed and the soil from blowing away)

The site looked terrible. It was late Friday afternoon and since I created this disaster, I was going to clean it up.

Fortunately there is an equipment rental place near the site. I started with one of those back-pack-leaf –blower-things but after 45 minutes I had barely made a dent in moving the sand back to its rightful place. I returned the blower and asked for suggestions (hence the rotary broom).

Side note: Beyond the obvious, I learned that pretty much anyone can rent any piece of machinery if you act and talk like you know what you are doing. Kind of scary. Also, you will pay about half price for heavy rental equipment on the weekends as long as you promise to have it back by Monday morning before the pros will need it...

It took the whole weekend along with some manual shoveling help from my Dad (who was paying his own stupid tax for his portion of my genes) but the site looked great and by Monday afternoon I went ahead and hired a company to seed the site. Even though I still think it cost too much money; we should have a ‘good head of grass’ in a couple more weeks…. Don't worry, I'll post plenty of pictures!

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