Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh HOA, Why So Sensitive?

As summer gives way to fall, our HOA is stepping up its campaign of terror. For my international readers, an HOA is a Home Owners' Association, a group in each neighborhood that residents pay dues to, and which is charged with making sure people don't put of 8-foot fences in front of their houses or keep rusty washing machines on their front porches. They also police everyone's landscaping and yard maintenance, and they send you letters and can fine you if you don't stay in line. I've written about our attempts to stay out of yard trouble before. Ha, and that post was almost exactly one year ago. A letter from the HOA really is one of the most special gifts of the season.

We received two letters last week, on the same day. Our "covenant reminders" (sounds like something God gave the Israelites) are:

  • "Please edge around the bedding areas. (redefine the beds)
  • "Please remove the Bermuda grass and/or weeds from the beds.
  • "Please address the bare spots in the lawn at the curb and along the right side of the driveway facing the house."
I love their way with language. It's that pseudo-literate officialese that is now rampant in this here American life. At least this year they spelled "redefine" correctly. Matt and I had fun with "address the bare spots." He pointed his finger toward the ground and said, "Now, bare spot, see here sir!" You would think from reading those that our yard looks really bad. It doesn't, or I don't think so. Or at least the overall effect is fine. It is time for us to put down more pine straw (I think that's what they mean by "redefine" the beds"). But jeez, the bare spots they're talking about are a couple places alongside the driveway that get driven on sometimes. I swear, they are not noticeable from the street, unless you just have a major, unhealthy obsession with lawn.

The lily bed on the left side of the yard, near the azaleas, did need attention. So Sunday I announced that we were doing yard work. I put on gloves and went out there to pull weeds. And pull, and pull. Actually it wasn't even "weeds" plural. It was one species, maybe even one plant. The scientific name is, I believe, The Vine That Swallowed Georgia. It's not kudzu, it's something cuter and daintier than that. But it sends runners everywhere, and what looks like a few little sprouts here and there among the pine straw are all connected as part of The Vine. You can pull and pull it, and you are pulling on all vines everywhere, in a huge malevolent network. Did you see that movie The Ruins? It was like that, only without the bad college-relationship choices. There were some briars too, so I spent a while pulling The Vine and ensnaring myself in brambles. Laura walked around with hedge clippers asking me if she could clip this and that. She wasn't so into the pulling. But clipping and lopping, yes.

Hank grew worried about me. He kept coming outside and saying, "Mama, it's getting dark out here!" And it's true that I was thinking about lying down in the pinestraw and letting The Vine win.

While I did battle with The Vine, Matt took a trip to Home Depot to get some necessary supplies. Do you know how many bales of pine straw you can fit into the back of a Jetta stationwagon? Ten, if you fold the backseat down. He also bought a new rake, and some organic fertilizer (fact: organic fertilizer is poop), but alas for him, it got dark before he could really get into spreading the straw. Too bad! I know how he hated to have his raking cut short. So the bales of straw are sitting alongside the driveway. Maybe if the HOA spies come around again in the next couple of days, they'll think, "Oh, they're totally on it! No need to hassle these good people further." Sure they will.

So that's a work-in-progress. And darned if it doesn't feel like fall today. I went outside last night to go to the store, and it was positively crisp. So I bought our first pumpkin of the season at Target. When Hank saw it this morning, he said, "Mama, we need more pumpkins. We need FREE!" I assured him that there would be at least two more.

I have a crazy plan, actually, to spray paint the one I just got. Long ago I saw a thing in Martha Stewart about painting pumpkins cream or different shades of green. It was simple and it looked pretty. It also lets you make use of the cheaper scratch-and-dent pumpkins. Might be a good thing.

13 comments:

Kelly said...

Next thing you know they'll send you a letter about your spray painted pumpkin...

That sounds like a great idea though. If I'm feeling crafty I might have to try it too!

The Dental Maven said...

Kelly's got a point. I'd be checking that covenant with regard to painted pumpkins before committing to any outdoor decorations. You could be "IN VIOLATION."

Fantastic Forrest said...

All this talk about beds. The HOA should stay out of people's beds.

Why are they prejudiced against Bermuda grass?

I am glad you and Matt addressed those bare spots, though. Your next act should be getting a rusty washing machine for your front porch. I want to see how the HOA writes that letter.

Michele said...

Oh my! I should send crazy lawn-loving neighbor over to your place. He'd get those brown spots right out of your lawn. Then yell at you for trimming incorrectly. If you're real lucky he'll call the police when you blow off his insane lawn fetish.

Amy said...

You made me laugh with your description of battling The Vine. Don't give up!!

I love the formality of those HOA letters! Hilarious. I think you should do some experiments, and just leave cuh-razy stuff in your yard and see how they handle it. C'mon--it'll be fun!

Cassie said...

Covenant reminders? Really? Did you guys, like, have to say vows with the HOA before you moved in?

An HOA would come in handy in addressing the enormous pastel-colored wooden rabbits currently decorating our neighbor's porch (whimsy!) but then again I could probably lose my youngest in our grass right now so...

I'm so glad you survived The Vine. Be careful out there.

Elisa, The Unlikely Housewife said...

Oh.My. Some people should really get a life, instead of terrorizing their neighbors about bare spots on their lawn. So you basically live on Wisteria Lane, right? Because that letter really sounds like something Bree Van De Kamp would write.

Michele Renee said...

The imagery language of The Vine cracked me up. I could just see it...growing longer and wrapping itself around and around you like when you buy a Christmas tree, and then your body slowly being dragged under a bush, with only your ankles and shoes left out to see.
Wouldn't that make a great Halloween decoration? A body swallowed by the vines and bushes? I might do that.

gretchen said...

Our HOA is too busy getting rid of graffiti and making sure nobody paves over their entire front yard with concrete to worry about things like flower beds. Sigh...

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

This may sound odd, but I kinda' sorta' wish we had a HOA. Then we'd have no choice but to tidy up the yard!

So tell us more about this pumpkin painting. What kind do you use?

chnault said...

Oh Lawyer Mom be careful what you wish for, you have no idea how overreaching these HOA bastards can be. If you ignore the letters they move on to fines....it's all there in the COVENANT (few people read them before they sign them but we should) because they use it as a tool of torment.

Sara said...

I like Matt's idea of getting stern with the bare spots.

I was also thinking maybe they have spray on grass like they do spray on hair. Because you are handy with a spray can.

Umm. Was your water slide approved by the HOA?

Elle said...

I have thought about this since you posted it. I mean, not tirelessly or anything. Doesn't it make you just want to ... do doughnuts on the lawn in a rental SUV?

I have taken a photo of the front of our house for other reasons, but with you in mind; expect a shout-out later in the month. Cheers!