I like to think that Einstein sometimes had trouble estimating his bill at the grocery store. That Carl Sagan counted out the Seven Sisters and occasionally came up with eight. That Feynman, every once in a while, misplaced a decimal and ordered up a thirty-egg omelet.

I, for one, brilliant astrophysicist that I am, pride myself on numbers. Alright, strike the astrophysics part. But I do fancy myself just enough of a math geek to get a little squirt of adrenaline when everyday calculations present themselves.

When our kids were young, we’d do mental math in the big van on the way in to swimming lessons. We’d do mental math in the little van to everywhere, but in the big van on the way to swimming lessons, we happened to have the whole brood with us, and it was a bit more of a production.

Will and Sarah were wee, and would get the easy ones: You’ve got two ants and one three-legged duck. How many legs do you have?

Emily and Andrea required the next level: You’ve got four cows; two are super hungry and eat seven strawberries. One only eats five, and the other eats four. If each strawberry has 20 seeds, how many seeds did all the cows eat all together?

Rachel, Brianna (who generally boycotted such frivolous activities), and Courtney got the crème de la crème. On your farm you have twelve horses, five three-legged dogs, nine pigs, and a one-legged chicken. If you were headed to the shoe store, how many pairs of shoes would you need to buy to shoe all your animals? OR: My garden has six plants. Each plant has thirteen flowers. Each flower has thirty-two seeds. If I collect thirteen seeds per hour, how many hours will it take me to gather all the seeds in my garden?

I love this crap. It’s always given me a thrill, even back in the day when I was the little one being handed the barefoot amputee and mutant animals. As a mom, I was determined that all my kids, the homeschooled and the not, would love math just as much as me. We shall not talk about how that worked out for me.

Now, this is not the exact sort of calculation that comes up currently, in everyday life, that ones that currently open up the dopamine gates. No. Don’t be silly. These days, the juices flow when presented with a distance to estimate, or a recipe to quarter, or some other dumb thing that can be estimated to no reasonable reason, except to do the math. Statistical things. Count-y things. Unnecessary pointing out to the man in my life how much time he just spent stripping out 18¢ worth of copper, and what that might equate to in an hourly wage, if we were to monetize the hobby.

Particularly the distances. Oh, the distances. My former surveyor self gets all atwitter at the chance to pace something off and confidently declare that ‘that there mailbox is six hundred feet from our front door, give or take a foot.’ Doesn’t really even matter if I have an audience, but I will admit to a slightly fuller flush if there’s anyone within earshot at the thunder of my proclamation.

But then there come the days when the circuits misfire. You triple the batch of cookies, which I hardy ever do, and somehow forget to triple the flour. You hastily measure the tree for its place of honor in your nativity living room, and only after the fact remember standard ceiling height.

Or, like yesterday, the real humdingers.

OK… back to reality…

Two days prior to my shameful shaming, Scott had stripped the chicken wire off the garden fence to reset it. Why, one may ask? Because the bulk of the fence was prone on the grass and doing more to threaten the lawn-mower than the rabbits. Twas time for a freshening.

That former fence was in sad shape, as anyone who has ever touched chicken wire can attest. Once that stuff is unrolled, you’ve got yourself a miracle of physics situation, all wire immediately puckering into mythical shapes only possible in the fifth dimension. Tesseracts and mobius strips of wire. Toruses of wire mesh and miraculously, a spontaneous replica of those fantastical structures they find only on butterfly wings.

Anyhoo, in addition to the horrors of everyday chicken wire, ours was also rusted out some, and variously mangled by lawn mowers and rototillers and passersby. It wasn’t going back up without a fight. We needed us a shiny new roll to unleash upon the garden.

Scotty’s sister was in town yesterday and soon to be en route to the homestead, and we thought to ourselves, well, how convenient. Jane could stop at Menards for us and we wouldn’t even have to don our facemasks. Scott headed for the tape measure and I, on cue, waved him off. I got this one, dear.

And he knew I did. He murmers a little these days, but he’s been privy to my pacing prowess aplenty in the past decade and a half, and doesn’t even bat an eyelash anymore when I need to give a little show.

I sashayed my way across the yard to the garden in question, paced off two sides, eighteen paces, did a little math dance, and proclaimed: We’ll need about 54 feet. I may be rusty; plan on 55.

The chicken wire in question is sold in 50’ increments, but from all that mangled wire in the driveway we could surely salvage 5 somewhat flat linear feet. Jane was requested to retrieve one 50’ roll. 2’ high please. And thank you. You’re the best.

In the mean time, we put in the garden and fought with another hairbrained idea with which to avoid weeding.

Let’s momentarily digress into the latest of our garden improvement projects. For the past decade, we’ve sworn by landscape fabric (and for the record, I think we still do) to save us from hours of weeding and headaches. I don’t weed. It’s not something I do. It hurts. It makes me inordinately crabby. I don’t do it. And Scott wouldn’t say he’s, like, a fan, so we do what we can to avoid this particular portion of gardening.

But this weekend, as the project approached, we decided to try the old cardboard and leaf mulch trick, figuring it tons easier than fighting with that blasted fabric and its accompanying stakes and staples of frustration, and also thinking, I dunno, maybe the glues in the cardboard are less toxic seepage than all the microplastics that the fabric sheds as it disintegrates over the years.

On the former point, well, the thing is, that’s a LOT of cardboard. And no estimations having been done—off my game—only the ever-humorous eyeballing of this husband-and wife duo, we flattened out what we thought would be more than enough boxes (my arthritic fingers are still pissed), and found that pile-o-paper to cover roughly 15% of our tiny little tilled acreage. Well, huh.

So the cardboard that we used, only to make miserable little triangles around each plant? Well, no, it wasn’t any easier than the landscape fabric. Did I mention my fingers? It was a hassle, that’s about all I have to say about that.

And on the latter point? Well, since we only used 15% enough cardboard, maybe there will be less nastiness seeping into our soil, but I don’t even care. This experiment is not likely to see another year, unless a dozen refrigerators neatly shed their boxes on my front stoop.

Anyhoo, back to the chicken wire… So the garden is in, the 2×4 fencing mended and adequately protecting our tiny cabbages from the ravages of the local deer population, but that extra sumthin-sumthin to keep the rabbits out is still en route.

But honestly, they’re not going to find the goods in the first 24 hours. We’ll finish the job tomorrow.

Hwell… Jane came and went, her glistening delivery waiting atop our kitchen island to be called into service.

Yes, this is the very Jane who once survived the clutches of the rabid blue jay.

We ate the dinner (garlic tomato cream pasta with chicken and spinach and kale, if you must know). We watched a few episodes of the show (Schitt’s Creek, if you must know). And Scotty ran off to his fire meeting whilst I had retreated into the office to steal a few moments of writing. The youngest (and only kid-in-residence… holy CATS) and her boyfriend sat in the living room coloring in one of those adult coloring books. The complicated kind; not the naughty kind. Where is your mind? Soon, the complicated colorers yelled from the living room that there was rabbit in the garden.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

I was actually not writing, but on the phone with the credit card company, attempting to save myself from a hasty and poorly-researched internet purchase (there’s a whole ’nother story we won’t get into today), and was suddenly torn between my corded phone and financial lifeline and the infant cabbages that were certainly being nibbled into oblivion out there in the yard. Sarah and the boyfriend shot out the door, to the rescue. Seems the little varmint managed to squeeze into the fencing, but couldn’t manage to pull his fat little bottom back out. Reminded me, watching from the end of my cord, of a certain day in Winnie the Pooh’s illustrious history, and didn’t really bode well for the cabbages.

There was a lot of flipper-flailing out there, until the boyfriend had the brilliant idea of going around the back and scaring our invader backwards, and out through the gate. Novel. He’s a quick thinker, that one.

As the troops returned, victorious, and I hung up the phone, victorious (hmm… questionably… we shall see) Scott drove back in from his meeting at the fire hall, mostly just frustrated. He was once again the only guy who would deign to be seen in a facemask. It’s Duck Dynasty around here.

As the man shucked the disappointments in his fellow firemen, I reported the scamming of the innocent me with the internet scammers, the hopeful conversation with the temporarily-working-from-home-with-his-german-shepherd-having-an-aneurysm-in-the-background Chase Bank representative, and finally the villainous infestation of the rabbits, and we hastily headed out into the emerging mosquitoes and twilight to tack up the rabbit fence until we had time to do it right.

All 50’ of that baby were unrolled and got us exactly 5’ shy of—dammit. It didn’t get us exactly 5’ shy of all the way around, but it did get us exactly 5’ shy of halfway around. As one would expect when one forgot do double the dimensions one paced when one paced two sides of the garden.

My husband is a patient man, and did not once needle me for my mathematical stupidity. Don’t worry, it’s coming. Tomorrow, as we bemask ourselves and waltz the aisles of the local Menards for the other 50’ roll.

Yes, we threw up that old, rusty, kinky, operating-beyond-the-fabric-of-space-time chicken wire. It should hold til we can yank it all down and do it right later this week. And no, that rabbit didn’t decimate the seedlings. He apparently just tried to escape through a smaller 2×4 hole than the one he entered through. Humiliating for all in attendance.

The only thing worse than putting up chicken wire is putting up chicken wire twice. If you need me, that’s where I’ll be,
KJ

8 thoughts on “Calculations”

1. I almost never underestimate – I’m more likely to buy too much. If I’d been doing the math, you’d have an extra 100 feet of wire and possible a couple of bags of Cheetos …

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2. Nice hosta bed! As for the math problems, they make my brain bleed. And while I always use weed blocking paper when starting a new bed, after mulch and a few years time, the weeds grow right on top and I still spend hours on my hands and knees pulling the bastards out.
😡

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1. Yeah… We replace the fabric every year in the actual garden. The one with the veggies. There is no good answer. 🤪

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3. I got a good chuckle at your math problems. I am not a math person, so my children took Kumon. Your children do a wonderful job taking care of the plants. Good training!

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1. We did lots of different math things over the years, but the mental math in the van was definitely the most fun! But the green thumb didn’t come from me. Must skip a generation! 😀

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1. Thanks for the chuckle. I have an Italian mother, from Italy with accent. She was afraid we wouldn’t know that Italy was a BOOT, so she constantly had my twin brother and I standing on a stool with a big map of the world calling out different countries, oceans, rivers, continents and teaching us about Greek Mythology and playing Opera. We would BEG her not to do that when our friends came over. She said it was her DUTY to teach us these things. Thanks for reminding me of my own childhood memories. 🙂

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