4/26/19 Public Eye

(printed 4/26/19) 

No matter how you say it, the expression “dirt cheap” has no basis in fact.

Whether it’s written as “dirt-cheap,” “dirt, cheap,” or “dirt — cheap,” all of which suggest either a great bargain on dirt, or that the price of some other thing is just one notch above “free,” the truth is dirt is anything but cheap.

Bear in mind  as well that other applications of the word “dirt”  imply quite the opposite of cheap or insignificant.

When, for instance, a person asks for the “real dirt” on someone, that person expects to hear something of substantial value — “The inside dirt is Fern and Ferd have split, and   he’s run off with Boopsie.”

“No! Boopsie the cocker spaniel?” 

“Sadly, yes.”

Besides, having immersed myself recently in the business of dirt, I have found that it’s only cheap if you already have it and don’t have to buy it and load it yourself. And that’s assuming you can find some outfit to do both.

Unfortunately, I failed to think of that before I unlimbered my lumber know-how and built (another misnomer, in my case) three large raised-bed gardens that, I came to realize post-construction, could hold two or three Eastern European countries.

“Let’s see,” my marital associate observed, as I showed of my unhandy work after four grueling weeks of disfiguring every cedar board in stock at Home Depot, “We can put Slovenia in the corner of the first one …”

Did I mention that I am to carpentry what a squirrel is to small engine repair?

My problem in that area, aside from having no knowledge, no ability and no patience — a 90-degree angle? I don’t need no stinkin’ 90-degree angle — is that I don’t measure much and don’t plan at all. I just “do” and see if anything useful happens.

In this instance, I suppose you could say that three semi-rectangular boxes might be of use if you wanted to ship the world’s supply of packing peanuts to a friend, OR fill them with 5.31 cubic yards of dirt.

And not just any dirt, but super good, life-restoring, extra organic and pro-vitamin rich gardening dirt, and not by myself, since that would come out to 860.22 shovel loads, which means I might wrap up this  little enterprise by the 12th day of Christmas, give or take a shovel or two.

As is par for the course, I didn’t think of that while I was in the process of “doing,” or that I could have bought three ready-to-assemble kits for less hassle and less money, given my special knack for cutting boards an inch short of whatever the length should have been.

So let’s see: that’s $560 for the wood, $22 for flashing to hide the boxes’ uneven corners so my more talented neighbor doesn’t see them, $8 for screws of some kind and another $8 to replace the box I misplaced and was too impatient to look for, $5 for a screwdriver drill bit to replace the one that’s in the back of my truck somewhere, and $3.17 to replace a regular drill bit that may or may not have been on the bumper of my truck as I drove off to Home Depot for the 45th time.

And the dirt and help I need to fill up these things, so the back yard doesn’t look like I bought three refrigerators and left the crates out back? At this point, priceless.

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