Escaped mice and battered-but-still-alive birds took up residence in the walls and on top of high places, where they eventually died and began to stink. Better yet, the neighbor's tom cat learned to let himself in and befouled Gen's pretty, mint-green velour sofa, with further deterioration of the indoor air quality.

Not content to limit her destruction to the inside of the house, Gen headed outdoors. She planted English ivy under the side porch and encouraged the ivy to attach to the siding, where it set to work inserting its pretty tendrils under the boards, effectively prying them off the house. Snakes and rodents took up residence in the moist ivy bed under the porch. Gen also felt compelled to create a level place for the vessels of her container garden, so she dug up the lawn and exposed the concrete lid for the septic tank.

She bought a beautiful compost bin and installed it behind the house. The bin was designed to be easy to use and aerate. It had sturdy doors that could exclude compost raiders like the critters who were now living under the porch. She didn't assemble the bin properly, however ("What instructions? I never saw any instructions."), so it was never stable. It soon collapsed so that its doors would neither open nor close properly, which made it impossible to turn the heap. The outdoor air began to smell like rotting cabbage.

Gen complained that her garden tools were cluttering up the porch, which was true, so Ted and I procured two tall plastic sheds and built foundations under them with cinder blocks. We set the sheds up next to the compost heap behind the house and loaded them with tools, carefully distributed between the two sheds and stowed in an orderly manner. Gen figured out how to stuff all her tools willy-nilly into one shed, then brute-force the doors closed. It wasn't long before the doors wouldn't stay closed. She also decided that the narrow space between the sheds and the house was ideal for storing hoses and chicken wire and various other dross in an ever-expanding mass that ultimately dislodged the sheds off their foundations. That caused them to rack so the doors were even more difficult to close. Rain played havoc with the garden chemicals.

Even if the sheds behind the house didn't turn into a Superfund site, the crawl space under the house did. Gen kept a garden hose in service next to a hose bib off the front porch. The faucet, which was brand new, didn't connect properly to the hose, which was not. The connector on the hose was bent and leaky. Gen controlled the water with a nozzle at the hose's distal end and she never turned off the flow from the faucet, so a steady stream of water ran from the proximal end, down the hose, under the porch, and puddled up next to the foundation. The water that accumulated under the kitchen sink was soon augmented with water in the crawl space. Gen got the heating ducts cleaned, but to no avail. She was always a champion at fixing the wrong problem.