June 27, 2006

The Secret Gardener

My sister Bethany called me today with a perplexing dilemma. It seems that she has a secret helper who has been doing "yard work" at her house while she and her husband are gone during the day. However, this helper has unwittingly caused hundreds of dollars of damage to both her plants, sprinkler system and her water bill so Bethany's wallet and conscience are at each other's necks. Intervention is needed.

It started about a month ago with a mowed lawn and some trimmed bushes. The lawn really did need a good mow. And even though the helper trimmed her large shrub rose bushes to such tiny stubbs that they will probably not survive the winter, it was a well intentioned gesture and Bethany didn't do anything. The bushes were scheduled to start blooming in the next few weeks but the eager gardener didn't seem to know about the specific pruning and blooming of roses. Just that the those bushes looked big and could use a nice missionary haircut. The visits continued daily since then.

Next, this secret helper took it upon himself to institute a vigorous daily watering routine (let's assume the helper is male in the spirit of peeved chicks). Except, my sister's sprinkler system is broken, and her hose that the helper is using has holes and cracks all through it so by the time she gets home from work, her front yard is an enormous puddle and the hose has been running ineffectively for who knows how long in the hot Utah sun. Ideally, you would water in the morning or evening to maximize benefits, but because our determined helper does not wish to be seen, he restricts his watering capers to mid day. You can imagine the watering bill my poor sissy is about to receive. Money is tight which is why she doesn't run the sprinkler every day in the desert.

Today I got a call from Bethany who was almost in tears. The helper's project this afternoon, apparently, was to try and fix her sprinkler system. Parts of it were ripped out and left useless and broken all over the lawn when she arrived home from work. Bethany had to spend an hour or so after a long day at work at Home Depot buying replacement parts to fix the mess. This is the part where things could get ugly and so she must proceed with tact but precision. She believes it may be someone in her church and thus, someone she could have a friendly relationship with already. And so in a true tizzy, she called the only person who truly understands the subtle nuances of social graces and diplomacy (ehem..), myself.

My advice to her was to leave a very nice note on the water spigot at her house tomorrow thanking the helper, and letting him know that she appreciates the thought but really prefers to maintain her own yard in her own way. Hopefully that should get the point across. But if our persistent little helper continues hacking her bushes and running her hose all day, I suggested she leave another note informing them that she'd have to file a complaint with the police if the trespassing didn't stop. And then of course, to tell the police if they continued trespassing and the men in blue could haul the helpful sprite off to the slammer to cool down a little. This may be harsh reward for a bit of friendly "helping" but it does seem presumptuous to assume you could cut down someone's rose bushes, run their hose all day and rip out their sprinkler system under the guise of anonymity with no repercussions. If they had left it at a mowed lawn and plate of cookies, we'd all be a lot happier.


It's always interesting to see how unfocused zeal can choke and destroy the things that we are trying so hard to improve. Good intentions get us in a lot of trouble. My other sister Annie (I have many, oh so many sisters) recently sent me a great short story she wrote about just that. It's a true tale and really well written. If you have a minute you should read it. Just keep in mind that Annie is one of the biggest nature nuts I've ever met and can't let an ant die without getting misty eyed.


Does anyone else have any better suggestions on how to deal with this eager beaver helper or is Bethany doing the right thing by bursting his bubble?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It can't be true! Don't LET it be true! Pixie arrived long after Annie was working as a gardner! Please say it ain't so! Arrgh! No animal lover is going to take that tale without a heave. Please, say it was fiction. Fiction? FICTION!

Silly Marie said...

I think your suggestion is good. Leave a nice note first and then take a firmer ground if it still continues. That is quite horrible. I can't imagine a fully congintive person thinking those actions really would be a help to your sister. This might sound bad, but are there any mentally handicapped people near her? Seriously. Then I could understand the actions and zeal and good intentions and it would be really hard to be angry...

Jared said...

Write the note, and make sure to nicely but firmly request to not come onto the property. Then file a police report immediately. Damages have been done, and this is a criminal act. It doesn't mean that the person will go to jail. It is probably just a misdemenor, but the police need to know. Then if things get worse, then the police can take immediate action. If this person has mental problems, then safety could be an issue. A mentally unstable person with pruning shears is not a good thing to come home to. File a police report immediately. It won't take long, and it will help Bethany feel like they have a little more control in a frustrating situation.

Clyde said...

In cases like this one...pictures, pictures, pictures! Bethany needs a little help to prove that their garden suffered damages from this person. I guess my CSI point of view is taking over me, I better go and check the status of my backyard.

Bethany said...

It has gone so much further. Last night after talking to you, someone CUT DOWN MY TREE IN THE BACK YARD!!!!!! It is on my property line but just ouside my fence as it doesnt encompass the entire property. It is laying huge in the middle of my backyard torn through my fence rendering both my fence and my tree....useless. Oh, and the kindly person left a "kind" message in reply to my queries of why there is a felled tree in my backyard and her great efforts to CONTROL MY LIFE!!! must. not. kill.

bethany said...

oh, she isnt mentally handicapped. she is just...... *sigh* who knows. bored? passive aggressive?

Adrienne said...

Wait, wait, wait, WHOA. She cut down a tree???? So, wait, now you know who it is? She's not trying to be nice, she's TRYING to be an ass?

That's it. Flaming poo. Bags of flaming poo are your only allowed response.

Jared said...

Bethany,
This has gone far enough. Get the pictures. Take the note they left, and go to the police. She has gone way too far.

Lisa M. said...

Oh my goodness. Keep us posted!

Angi said...

Okay, I have GOT to know what happens here! This is CRAZY!!

Kaff said...

I'm with Adrienne! This is total pandemonium!!

To bad you can't have someone hide out and see who is doing all of this "handi-work".

angel with an "a" at the end said...

the story just gets creepier and creepier . . . kind of like a stephen king novel. good luck, bethany!

bethany said...

Its my neighbour, who has a handicaped daughter though she herself is in "sound mental health." I know her well from church and she has already asked me to cut down a thriving tree in my back yard because it shades her newly planted garden. My answer was a meek, so sorry but with these three lilac bushes dead my "husband" thinks it silly to cut down a thriving tree. sorry. Yikes. she left me a message saying that she was going to come over and fix my hose this weekend bc when she was watering she noticed how little of it actually went into the water and how much of it went onto the cement. yup-- so .... i am waiting. Wish me luck sunday, that is when she will likely try and talk to me.

Foxy said...

Wow! Drama! Nolo Press has a great Neighbor & Home-Related Disputes area on their website complete with articles about boundaries, trees, fences and more. Their book Neighbor Law is phenomenal.

I am also a big fan of the flaming bag of poo school of diplomacy.

mamieandjohn said...

Unbelievable! The woman must be stopped...oh what a relief that we no longer live beneath her!

Angela said...

So, it is just a classic passive aggressive act! The woman isn't trying to help out her busy neighbors--she doesn't like the way they take care of the yard so she is going to "help" them! In my line of work I deal with a lot of what we call Mrs. Kravitz (from the nosey neighbor on Bewitched). These are the people who complain about every little thing a neighbor does that they don't agree with. Unfortunatly, some do more than complain!

Jared said...

Sarah, could we get a follow-up report on the Secret Gardener. I would really like to know how Bethany's conversation went with her neighbor. The suspense is killing me. I get grumpy when I'm dying.