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My next door neighbors are Geoff and Karly Short. Geoff, whom I call "Bishop Short" on Sunday, is a reasonable and congenial person. Not only is he my spiritual leader and occasional borrower of tools, our dogs take turns excreting in each other's yards.

We would be the perfect neighbors if it weren't for his wife, Karly. She is trying to kill me with her yard. If it wouldn't greatly upset Geoff, I might strike first out of simple self-defense.

For everyone else in Utah, spring officially is on March 21. Next door, it arrives three days after New Year's. That's when Karly dons her gardening gloves and goes to work manicuring her yard. I have actually watched this woman mow snow.

Karly's grounds — Geoff is just her yard mule — reflect the love and effort she puts into gardening. The place is so immaculate that surgeons could perform an organ transplant on her lawn.

What does this have to do with me? A lot. Or so my wife thinks. She knows that we'll never be able to have the kind of yard Karly has — and I'd rather have my tonsils removed by a weasel than try — but we could at least make an effort.

She means at least I could make an effort. As soon as the weather breaks, she starts dropping Karly yardwork hints.

"Karly doesn't have bowling balls all over her yard."

"Yes, it is only 24 degrees, but Karly is out there pulling weeds."

"I see Karly is making Geoff dig up that tree they planted eight years ago and move it a couple of feet to the west."

There's no way an old guy can win this kind of war. Karly is younger, more neurotic and way more interested in yard work. And she has a slave, whereas I'm on my own. The best I can do to keep up with her is fight a rearguard action on the sly.

It's childish, I know, but I have actually transplanted dandelions into Karly's lawn in the middle of the night. The gopher she thought they had was actually me with a drill and a wire bore brush. And those flowers she thinks the deer eat? Me and a pair of scissors.

This is a desert, people. Yes, the early Mormon pioneers made it "blossom like the rose," but that was back when there was enough water to go around. Several million people later, we're lucky to make the desert blossom like crabgrass.

Note: Brigham Young did not say we would make the desert blossom like a golf course.

Were it up to me, I would xeriscape my entire yard with the appropriate local flora and fauna — concrete, Roundup, salt, asphalt and Agent Orange.

I could save a million gallons of water a year with these ecologically sound applications.

I'd also be divorced. My wife is from eastern Canada where, until she married me, deserts existed only in some cruel imagination. When she looks out the window, she wants to see at least some form of soothing greenery. And she expects me to provide it.

This year, maybe I'll try paint. If all the bowling balls are green, it's possible that she'll feel better and I'll have to work less.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or