The better half birthday quandary part two

OK, so I’ve had many, many people (three) ask me about last week’s column. For those of you not a member of those three readers, last week I commiserated about the very weighty quandary concerning what to get my Better Half for her birthday. I wondered aloud whether she would most appreciate a gift card from Canadian Tire or Rona.

Turns out, I somehow made even a dumber decision – I decided to surprise her by making something with my own two hands for her birthday. An outdoor wooden plant stand, to be exact. She had showed me one in a picture a while back. One shaped like a ladder that you can put pots and flowers and window box garden thingies onto. This momentary lapse in judgment was my first mistake. My second mistake was actually making the thing.

Early on, all went well with the materials in terms of purchasing the cedar planks, screws, glue, etc., etc. – and something called a “speed square”. This last item was to facilitate the cutting of an angle of 60 degrees on each end of two support planks. I was already confused – What’s a “speed square”? 60 degrees of what? Support planks??

Never mind, I thought as I printed off the 13 pages of instructions – it will soon become clear when I start the project. It didn’t. I read the instructions three times and made notes in the margins. Heck, I even watched (twice) a YouTube video on How To Make Angle Cuts. Then I took the whole kit and kaboodle out to the sister’s farm where I could be a temporary clandestine carpenter. It was 45 degrees Celsius on the deck as I unloaded the wood and immediately sweated so much I got significantly discombobulated and had to have a rest in the shade.

Eventually, my head still swirling with early symptoms of a stroke, I reread the instructions one more time. Then I measured four times. And then I cut the two of the four angle cuts backwards.

After a protracted temper tantrum yelling things that made the nearby cows blush, I had to reconfigure, re-speed-square, re-measure and recut four or five planks with a crooked skill saw, which took another hour or two in the blistering hot sun and resulted in the whole crooked plant stand being 6.5 inches shorter than intended. Which also messed up all my other measurements. (Did I mention I’m not much of a carpenter? Did I tell you about the crooked cat door I installed? Did I mention I get sun stroke really easily?)

But finally, after assembling the shelf brackets upside down (twice), inadvertently cutting my thumb (no stitches required), and melting into a puddle like the green Wicked Witch of the West, five hours later – voila! – there it stood: a ladder plant stand the size of the bleachers at the baseball diamond at Great Chief Park. I kid you not, somehow this behemothic monolith was at least five times bigger than the photo on the interweb building plans.

I had planned to have it sitting there, looking awesome in the back yard as I revealed it to the delighted surprise of the birthday girl. Nope. I had to get the B.H. to help me unload the monstrosity out of the back of a truck. But even though the seemingly random pile of lumber didn’t really fit anywhere in our little yard, I think she kind of liked it because it was an ungodly mess and therefore absolute proof that I actually did built it.

Me? I’m eyeing our firepit and thinking: at least we don’t have to get firewood for a while.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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