Thursday, August 18, 2011

Natural Born Killer

We have sod webworms in our lawn. I have absolutely no idea what a sod webworm is, what it looks like, or what it does. Nor do I know how to get rid of them, assuming that they are something that should be gotten rid of. But I’m not the least bit worried – because I know that my organic gardening expertise will get me successfully through this situation. You see, back in my working career I was a project manager. So I know that in order to be an expert all that you need are the right people doing the job for you, and the ability to periodically act as if you know what these people are talking about while they are doing it.

Jason told me about the sod webworms. He is the technician from the organic lawn care company that has tended to the grassy part of our yard for the past decade or so. He said it matter-of-factly, with little or no inflection in his voice, like he was mindlessly reading from a menu of turf maladies and it was this particular ailment’s turn at the top of the queue. But Jason’s eyes belied his apparent lack of concern. They burned with an intensity that totally contradicted his bland delivery style. And his body language as he discovered this latest pest invasion and the single-mindedness with which then he applied his 100% natural spray weaponry to the crime scene indicated a level of concern probably greater even than Mars or mine for the situation at hand. He is, in the best sense of the words, a natural born killer.

Truth be told, Mars and I are pretty much bemused by this whole organic milieu of dangerous sounding menaces and wholesome solutions. We buy in totally to the general concepts of the pesticide-free cult: that healthy grass is the best defense against weeds and harmful insects; that chemical usage actually causes lawns to be unhealthy; and that run-off and residue from these poisons worsen the environment in general. It is just that the jargon that is used to describe the nitty-gritty of the organic operation sounds too absurdly amusing to be real. That may in fact be its major attraction to us.

Jason wrote down some of that verbiage on the “TODAY WE TREATED YOUR LAWN” form that he leaves behind after each visit – precise documentation is quite important to our corps of lawn rangers. – “Lawn has sod webworm (insects) in lawn. I treated all lawn areas. Please no mowing for 2 weeks.”

The paper went on to explain that he used 21 gallons of mystifying materials to combat this situation – 23 pounds of Fish Powder and 44 ounces of “K+Neem 70191”. It did not explain however how this math (lbs. + oz. = gallons) works out. It is probably just another organic mystery. In fact, this whole organic lawn care thing is one big enigmatic conundrum of previously unheard of diseases and crunchy-earthy cures that somehow are brought together into a coherent whole by its ordained priests. Our role is to sign the annual check, and act like we know what Jason et alia are talking about when they advise and recommend various lawn treatments. I listen carefully. Then I mention casually that I believe he has used the Fish Powder (or Liquid Compost Extract, or Hand-Extracted and Non-Acid Refined Dalmatian Dolomite or whatever) before in some other circumstance. Which Jason acknowledges and explains why it should be once again the weapon of choice. “You’re the man,” I say, retroactively approving the action that he has already autonomously taken

And this organic stuff is actually working. Over the years – as we have agreed to a series of Compost Tea Drenches, Natural Dethatching, Epsom Saltings, Free-Range Salmon Roe Saturations, and Pro-Biotic Grass Cleansings in order to combat various lacey-winged, multi-segmented, creeping and/or burrowing invaders– our grass has become thicker, greener, more weed-free and in general much healthier looking. Jason’s reasoning always makes logical sense – that is to say his solutions (expressed in words that we are mostly familiar with although not necessarily in this combination and context) always seem related to his statement of the problem (also expressed in familiar words used unfamiliarly). But if it weren’t for their past successes, these high-minded organic mantras would quickly turn to mumbo-jumbo gibberish in our ears and all bets would be off.

Mars and I follow the same approach in our investment strategy – find someone you trust, pay attention to the overall success of the big picture, and nod your head or furrow your brow at the appropriate times in the conversation. Recently when the market went south we managed to stay a little this side of the Mason Dixon line. And now we are once again firmly located in the northern part of the grid.

I have no doubt that Mars and I could learn to understand the arcane relationships between sod webworms and their ilk and K+Neem 70191 and its ilk – if that is what we wanted to spend our time and energy on. Then we could personally carry out these all-natural missions with the same degree of fervor and dedication as Jason does. Likewise we could pour over the financial data and generate our own graphs of trends and areas of opportunities. But neither of these would be our first choices for how to live our lives.

Better for us to leave these areas of expertise to those who truly get their kicks from anticipating stock swings or preemptively preventing the spread of the next great organic threat.

Those that can – do; those that can’t – teach; and the rest of us should consider ourselves fortunate for managing to hook up with those that know how to do it right.

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