This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 23 November 2013.
It’s the ants that are the problem. I’m sure of it. I know that they’re spending every night silently doing their best to sabotage my plans. I just know it. I’m trying to grow some lawn you see. Rather than a dusty patch of bindiis and weeds, I’m trying to cultivate a lush green carpet. And so for the past few weeks I’ve been making regular trips to Bunnings and coming back with hoses, soakers, spray guns, sprinklers and boxes and boxes of lawn seed mix. If you are a shareholder in Wesfarmers, owner of Bunnings, you may see my contribution in the company’s next set of financial results. Each day I check the five day weather forecast, and if the omens look good, I sprinkle a few boxes of seed over the lawn and wait for the rain. At night however, the ants come out. In their thousands, they diligently scour the yard for my precious grass seeds and carry them back to their ant hole, burying the grass seeds deep underground where they’re of little use.
I thought I could defeat the ants by sheer quantity – each one kilogram box of seed must contain tens of thousands of seeds, surely the ants don’t have the time or antpower to collect all of them? Yet each morning I notice a deep ring of grass seeds surrounding every ant hole, knowing that the ants have been busy all night harvesting the rich seed bounty. And so it’s off to Bunnings again, and another $40 in grass seeds. The problem of course, is that my entire strategy is wrong. I probably need professional help. Preferably a turf company who would come in and simply lay down an entire lawn in just a few hours. The upfront cost will almost certainly be higher, but the lawn would thrive and grow, unlike my current approach of simply throwing box after box of lawn seed in the dirt and hoping for the best.
In some ways unfortunately, my approach to the lawn mimics some people’s approach to investing. Rather than engaging the services of a professional (and yes, almost certainly paying a fair amount for that service), some people try the DIY approach. Newspapers, the 7 pm finance report and a hot tip from a neighbour take the place of grass seeds, fertiliser and hoses. It’s likely that their success at long term wealth creation is not much more impressive than my efforts with the lawn. A few straggly bits of green here and there, but mostly a waste of time and effort and a lot of happy, contented ants.