Lithomitosis happens

When buying an old house that has its original flagstone walk (meaning, stones laid on dirt back in the Thirties), take into account that if the walk had 100 flagstones when you moved in, you will have about 200 more after living there for a couple of decades.

This multiplication of the stones occurs due to the miracle of lithomitosis, the process by which flagstones crack down the middle during the freeze-thaw cycles of Midwestern winters.

Okay, so I made up lithomitosis. But it ought to be a word.

And every time a flagstone cracks, a subterranean “Ready for Occupancy!” signal goes forth to alert wood violets, dandelions, plantain, crabgrass, regular lawn grass, and lots of other green stuff I haven’t been able to identify that there’s territory to be populated. And before you know it, it’s time to mow the sidewalk.

I’m not so pure that I won’t use a kill-everything weed spray now and then, but there’s a slim window of time with flagstones. Too early, and you miss half the stuff you want to destroy; too late and you end up with a walk full of dead-and-ugly that just has to be pulled up anyway.

I hardly ever get the timing just right, so I usually go with a non-chemical solution.

Only two non-chemical solutions really work: 1) Tearing up the old walk and doing it right, with a half ton of crushed stone on top of industrial-strength landscape fabric, and 2) Child labor.

I keep meaning to do the former, but then an appliance dies or the car needs a transfusion of money, so I always end up employing child labor (even though both of the “children” are over 21).

Younger Son has a mostly full-time job this summer so this year the work (and the glory) fell to Older Son and me. Armed with linoleum knives and five-gallon buckets, we finished the job in less than a week of half-hour after-supper sessions.

It is very satisfying to be finished with it before the Fourth of July.

Almost as satisfying as coming up with the word lithomitosis in the first place.

© 2010 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go

So there.

This entry was posted in Notes from the Neighborhood, Seasonal and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Lithomitosis happens

  1. I love the word lithomitosis. But I think it’s an honest-to-goodness real word because when you Google lithomitosos it shows up. I mean, if it’s on the computer machine, it must be true, right? So it’s official. (heh-heh)

    The walk way is beautiful. I inherited a gravel path with this house. Don’t talk to me about weeds…


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Gravel seems like it would be hard to shovel in winter, that’s for sure.


      • That, too. I just don’t take my shovel down to the gravel. Basically I take the top 3/4 off and pack down the rest by walking over it. Easy. It’s those *%#&@/* weeds that are the worst.


        • Anne Bingham says:

          I can see how that would work, Andrea. When the bottom layer melts, there’s great drainage so no ice. I’ve been looking at permeable pavement but I’m not an early adopter or anything so I’m waiting to see how it works out in the installation I know about in the area (meaning, how it stands up to a couple of freeze-thaw cycles plus the weed issue).


  2. Steve says:

    Don’t know much about writing, but I am glad to learn that your child labor isn’t really made up of children. As a legal-eagle, I must discourage you from using child labor, as that has been relegated to places now referred to as the “third world.” Since Older Son has that facial-hair going on, there seems to be no danger in immediate arrest or prosecution.

    Might I suggest though that the lovely photo of the flagstone walk replace the misty bridge. The backyard? Fort Cheese? Hmmm.

    Besides, the walkway (sans weeds) would be the perfect metaphor for a writer on a journey to . . .


  3. Vijaya says:

    It’s gorgeous … and I love lithomitosis 🙂


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Vijaya! “Gorgeous” would not be the first word I’d use to describe the walk, so thanks for the different perspective! (Just goes to show you how important good lighting is to a photo!)


  4. MaryWitzl says:

    We’ve got lithomitosis too. In Scotland, weeds can grow in all sorts of places you’d never imagine, like out of the sides of buildings and on roofs.

    Did you know you can kill weeds by blitzing them with a wallpaper steamer? I only found this out a couple of years ago and believe me, it is so deeply satisfying. Splash the denuded patches with a little vinegar and salt solution and they won’t come back for months if you’re lucky.


  5. Anne Bingham says:

    A wallpaper steamer! What fun!


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