Sunday, September 1, 2013

Landscaping and Loose Coupling

A few years back, my wife and I bought a shiny new home. The house was almost brand new and the previous occupant had traded a goodly portion of their kid’s future inheritance to a landscaper for a collection of shrubs, trees, and mulch large enough to adorn Hogwart’s Tri-Wizard maze.

So we had a shiny new home, with shiny new landscaping, and shiny new deer to infest our lawn and digest the lower half of the taller organic decorations. One particular tree, a Hemlock, was especially attractive to the indigenous animal traffic, and before the first winter was a third over the tree was half gone. As a child I loved Bambi, and all of her relatives. As an adult I am no longer so afflicted. I have thoughts, desires, and aspirations which would satisfy the retirement fund of at least one Psychologist.

After consulting with a number of plant and tree professionals, we came to the conclusion that the tree was not salvageable as anything but a deer trap. It had to go. The good news is that it was only four years old and so, according to the experts, the roots wouldn't have had time to escape the root ball. For the horticulturally-challenged, let me explain that when one plants a tree the roots are neatly packaged in a burlap sack (a ball) - all tied up so as to easily fit into an easily dug hole (another topic for another rant). Over time; a long, long time so I'm told, the roots will poke through the burlap and take hold in the ground. Since mine was a mere toddler in tree-years, barely into Tree-dergarden, popping it out of the ground would be child's play.

In the vernacular of an architect, the root ball should have been properly coupled and elegantly cohesive. In other words, the object I was trying to remove should have been able to receive the necessary moisture and nutrients through the burlap root ball (it's interface), without spreading into the surrounding environment (i.e. brown dirt, clay, overpriced mulch). Had it been loosely coupled, removing it, and then subsequently replacing it, would not have required my neighbor's Dodge Ram 1500, the anchor chain from an aircraft carrier, and four hours of alcohol-induced colorful metaphors.

Not only did the tentacles of the hemlock escape the perimeter of the root ball, thus becoming tightly coupled to the surrounding objects, but the metal cage that encased the root ball had never been removed. (In the store, the root ball is often held in place by a wire frame - this is to be removed when planting the tree.) In the context of a planted tree, (as opposed to a tree in transit), the metal cage has no purpose - a clear violation of proper cohesion.

Whomever did the landscaping for my shiny new house may have been excellent landscaper, but they didn't know jack about Enterprise Architecture!

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