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