04/19/10 — Workin' it landscape style

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Workin' it landscape style

By Laura Collins
Published in News on April 19, 2010 1:46 PM

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Supervisor Calvin Artis directs reporter Laura Collins in shoveling during her time "Workin' it" with the crew of Landscape Design of Goldsboro.

The Job: Landscaping

The Company: Landscape Design of Goldsboro Inc.

The Location: Goldsboro

As a reporter, you would think I'd ask more questions.

When I scheduled the job with Landscape Design, I should have asked chief executive officer Darnay Barefoot for a bit more detail.

"This job will be perfect for you...Do you own a hard hat?" he said. And yet, no warning bells sounded in my head.

When I think of landscaping, I think of planting flowers in flower beds, watering gardens with watering cans and a hanging plant or two.

I do not think of 80-pound rolls of sod, irrigation, hard hats and Dingos.

I joined supervisor Calvin Artis and his crew at a yet to be opened dentist office. I started by digging holes and planting bushes. Artis is a 21-year employee of the company and is so knowledgeable he could do the work in his sleep. He seemed to take notice of my inexperience, and talked to me like I was a 5-year-old.

"Don't cover the rootball with dirt," he said about the bush I was planting. "It's just like people, if you cover our head, we can't breathe." Later he added, "You're going to need some compost, and yes, there is some poo-poo in it."

According to my estimates, we planted about 80 bushes. According to the real estimates, however, we only planted about 10. Of those, I planted one and a half. The other guys on the crew were much more efficient -- digging the holes, planting the bush and making the water ring before I was even done digging the hole. They are the reason a commercial landscaping job is finished in days rather than weeks.

After we planted bushes, it was my job to blow the dirt off the sidewalk with a leaf blower. This is when I discovered my first bad decision of the day -- wearing Chapstick. It sounds innocent enough, but with clouds of dirt flying into the air and me walking into them, the Chapstick provided the perfect landing place for all the dirt. I can still taste dirt when I chew gum.

Next, Artis and I installed sprinkler heads. The pipes were already in the ground, I just needed to attach the sprinkler heads to the pipe and cover it with dirt. When attaching the sprinkler heads, a trick of the trade is spitting on the end of it so it's easier to put in the pipe. So I attempted to spit on the sprinkler.

"OK, well you missed. Try again," Artis said. So I did. I should have taken the wind into account. The second try landed on my shirt.

"Um, maybe just skip that part," Artis said.

I think my favorite part of the day was the crew. They were hilarious, giving each other a hard time and me as well, although getting them to remember my name was a little hard.

"Hey, Melanie," one of them said. I didn't respond. I knew he was talking to me because I was the only girl out there, but he was going to have to do better than Melanie.

"Candy? Hey, Candy," he tried again. No response. Then his friend tried to help him out. Tried.

"Dude, her name is Lori," he said. Not quite, but it was close enough. The crew and I started laying down sod, which I contend weighed 80 pounds. Artis claimed it was only 10-pound rolls I was carrying. It's likely 80 pounds is a stretch. I'm sure it's actually somewhere in between, like 75 pounds.

Laying the sod brought about my second realization of the day. Apparently I am allergic to sod. I didn't notice it then, but when I got back to the newsroom, it looked like I had a mild case of leprosy on my arms.

Aside from the leprosy, landscaping was rewarding. It was much more labor-intensive than I anticipated, but in the end it was worth it.

"What I like best about the job is that you get to see your work," Artis said, and he was right. All the digging, measuring and planting paid off when I saw what I had accomplished. Granted, my accomplishments consisted of one and a half bushes and a dirt storm, but it was still worth it.