POINT ROBERTS, WASHINGTON – The grass in Point Roberts keeps growing.
So, every morning after walking the dog, sisters Jeanette Meursing and Diane Thomas put on their uniforms – all black outfits and hats with their “2 Gals in Their Element” logo – and load up their orange Honda Element to get to work.
On average, Meursing, 73, and Thomas, 72, mow two to three yards a day. In total, they take care of 16, and most of them, for free.
It started with some of their Canadian friends asking them to water their plants. Most homes in Point Roberts, a small town bordered on three sides by water and one side by the Canadian border, are owned by Canadians who spend summers there. When the border closed in March 2020, the homes became abandoned, as many Canadians could not come into Point Roberts unless it was deemed “essential.”
The sisters went to check on the home of a friend, and realized it , like many others in town, had overgrown grass and weeds taking over the yard. They decided to mow it. Then a few more friends started asking, and a few others offered to pay.
Now, Meursing and Thomas have a collection of donated lawn mowers and run a business: 2 Gals in Their Element Lawn and Garden.
“It keeps us busy,” Meursing said. “It’s the least we could do.”
Some lawns are manageable, but others, especially those with invasive bindweed, can take up to 12 hours to finish. Their Fitbits track up to 20,000 steps a day.
Their schedule fills up fast, but they keep everything organized, marking which lawns they plan to do every day with a sparkly pen on their flowery desk calendar.
Five days a week are focused on yard work, although sometimes they work on the weekend. Wednesday and Fridays they deliver lunches to those in town who need it. And in between, they make masks (up to 500 now), groom dogs and do general house checks for people who can’t get back into town.
Thursdays are always reserved for relaxing and playing Mexican train dominoes with their friends.
“We are kind of a jack of all trades,” Thomas said.
Their kitchen table is cluttered with fabrics for masks, a sewing machine and dominoes, and their walls are filled with drawings from grandchildren.
This is the most time Thomas, who normally lives in South Dakota, has spent in Point Roberts. She came to visit her sister and her sister’s husband in January 2020, and when the border closed, she was stuck – away from her kids and grandkids. She could go home but didn’t want to risk a trip back to South Dakota when she knew Point Roberts was much safer during the pandemic. The town with about 1,000 residents had only had two families and one individual contracted COVID-19 for the entire pandemic thus far. None of the cases were severe enough to require hospitalization.
Meursing’s also from South Dakota but moved to Point Roberts in 2000.
It’s been hard to be away from her kids, but Thomas said she’s grateful to spend so much time with her sister.
Meursing smiled. “It’s been real nice having her,” she said.
Their willingness to help others comes from their dad, who Thomas said always told them to help others.
“If someone ever needs help, don’t hesitate,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
When the border closed, many residents took on the duty of caring for others homes, checking on plumbing, electricity and lawn care.
“There’s a lot of people trying to keep this town alive,” Meursing said.
When the border opens again, Thomas said she will be most excited to see her kids and grandkids again. Meursing said she’s excited to spend time with her friends, specifically to get back to seeing her girlfriends at Club16 Fitness in Vancouver, something she had been doing every day for 20 years.
But will they continue their lawn care business? “No,” they both said, shaking their heads.
“It was fun,” Meursing said, “but we’re tired.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.