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mouse and weens

Hollywood vs housewife sisters fascinated by how people think.  a fun conversational podcast with heart.

E76 - Ahmad Ahmed Hassan, HGTV Yard Crashers Host and Friend

Ahmad Ahmed Hassan, HGTV Yard Crashers Host and Friend

Listen here to Podcast Ep 076 - Mouse and Weens

TRANSCRIPTION:

00:00:02 - 00:05:06

Hey hey!  It's Mouse and Weens. Look at you guys. We have a special guest today you guys. Look who it is! You can even see him. We're on YouTube too. But this is...Weens, how do you pronounce it? We were just talking about this. My wonderful dear loveliest person in the world. My good friend forever Ahmad Hassan! Ahmad! Whoa baby. That was pretty big, Julianne. I know. What'd she say? Something about loving me forever? Yes! You're the best. It's been a while. Yeah, thank you sweetheart. So tell us why you are here today? I mean besides being the love of Julianne's life, in a friend way of course. Yes. Okay, wait. Can I just...? Yes. We might want to back all this up and redo it. Because your lovely lady might be like what...? No, it's all good. Are you sure? She already knows. I informed her. How could I not tell her about Julianne, who was the love of my life since I was 17 years old, but we figured out how to turn that into just a great friendship. I've already explained it. Come on. Okay. Oh my! I didn't know this! I don't know the background. I'm 46 Julianne! That's how you have mature relationships. You gotta just tell it from the beginning. That's what I was telling my sister yesterday. We were on the phone after talking to you and how wonderful you are. You're very mature in the way that you handle relationships with your kids. Like what happened yesterday. Can you talk about that? With your daughter coming in and how you handled...? Oh the day before. Well let's...Can we just do a quick intro too? Because I want people to know who this guy is that they might recognize his voice and his face. Format, format, format! Is that what it's called? Yeah.

So my name is Ahmed Hassan. That's how I pronounce it. I'm best known as the original host and co-creator of Yard Crashers on HGTV and DIY Network. Yay. I never get away from that title! But really just a professional landscaper who happened to develop a television show for HGTV and the DIY Network. I'm a landscape professional and I'm a dad and I'm forty six years old. I'm what you call a light-skinned black man who lives in America who's not Arabic but has an Arabic name and it's a long story and involves a lot of people and yeah! We're going to get into some of that today I think. He's sitting outside in his beautiful backyard. There's a gorgeous tree of course and... No Joelle, this is the front yard. Oh this is the front yard. Oh my. This is the front yard. So I have a little court that I live in and then my house is a nursery that... Look at that! I have plants everywhere, because I sell plants of course for a living so that I can pay for this property that I call home. And I see vehicles... That's the front yard. Yeah the back yard is blasted with the rising sun this morning and I was out there taking a hot tub bath this morning, drinking coffee. One of my favorite things to do. Where do you live exactly? I live in Cameron Park, California, which is thirty minutes east of Sacramento. So I live in the Sierra foothills, sort of the beginning of the foothills below Placerville above Sacramento. I've been there. It is a beautiful rolling-hilled area. It's gorgeous. Clean air, clean fresh water. And you only get snow maybe every five years you'll get two weeks of snow on the ground. And what made you choose there? Because you've always been.... I am a Bay Area guy and I still run back and forth to Bay Area very regularly. Cameron Park was the last place I could afford to have a house on the hill with a view! And you grabbed it. And I'll bet you couldn't afford it now probably, right? Growing up primarily in the East Bay, I always loved the Oakland Hills and the Berkeley hills and I just loved that picturesque view on top of the hill looking out at the bay. And when I finally got to the age where I could buy a home, I realized I'm of age but I have no money to buy a home here in the Bay Area. And so my first house was in Hayward and did not have a view. You live in giant intersection. And then my second house was in Antioch so I was playing that Wagons East! game, how everyone in the Bay Area does. You just move a little east and you work west. And then we were shooting Yard Crashers primarily in and around Sacramento so I moved to Sacramento.


00:05:06 - 00:10:04

And once you get out that far, you're never going back to the Bay Area. So then when I was ready to buy in Arden Park I realized I couldn't afford Arden Park. So I moved to the more affordable Cameron Park. Here I stay.And here he is. And that's how it happened. Because now if I leave, I couldn't afford to move back into my own home! Right This is true. This is most people's issue. California, especially right now. Oy.

Yeah so with the Yard Crashers, what was your progression of...how did you decide to be a landscaper and how did Yard Crashers find you? And how did you create it? I don't even think I decided to be a landscaper. I think landscaping is something that.... I'm a second generation landscaper. So my dad was a landscaper and got his start in San Quentin penitentiary in their landscaping program. He became a Muslim while he was in there, got out, and ran a landscaping business. So I grew up around my father who was a landscaper who evolved into earth-moving equipment and construction. And so I grew up thinking, you know, sort of the old adage of you do what your dad did, if you like what your dad did. And I thought what my dad did was fabulous, working with earth equipment and creating spaces outside. So my job was to just outdo that. Can you talk about what he did to get into prison? Because I know that that'll be a question everyone's thinking about. It's just human nature. So were you, Joelle? Kinda. So you want to know how many people he killed? No I'm just playin. No, it wasn't for that. No my dad grew up... My dad was born in '43 so he grew up in a very different time especially with black folks in America. And in the 60's - fifties and sixties - he was running around being a bad ass. And I think the straw that broke the camel's back was he had strong-armed robbery for the Michelin Tire Company in Oakland and I think there were guns drawn and police cars around. And ultimately he ended up in prison because he had already had this crazy rap sheet from being a youth growing up in San Francisco, getting into trouble. And my dad got sentenced at a time...Back in the day what they used to do was they would always give you so many years to life. But even if you only got like two years it was like "two years to life" or "five years to life". So he got sentenced five years to life. He served six years got out and never went back to prison. He was a devout Muslim through the nation of Islam which is why I have a Muslim name. And he discovered that in prison? You weren't raised with that? Yeah, like a lot of black men discovered the Nation of Islam in prison, especially around the sixties. That was the Black Panthers? Absolutely. It was the whole black power movement. It was for those black folks that got tired of being obliterated and slapped in the face down and shot down with water hoses in street and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, it was sort of a a revolt and my dad was a proud black man. And so I grew up around that, which is why I have a lot of the energy I have because it was what I saw. I just decided I wasn't going to go into the Nation of Islam. I already have an Arabic name and I'm a black man. There it is.

And you've never been a righteous preacher of anything .You've just been all about love, and you wanted to... Yeah. I grew up seeing a lot of that from different perspectives, whether it was the Nation of Islam or Christianity, and then found out about Buddhism and Religious Science, and Science of Mind.  And so I kind of appreciate all walks of life and all spiritual aspects of all religions. Because your mom is pretty Born Again, right? Or, I'm sorry, what did she choose? She's Christian right now but my mom has... She was sort of the searcher and the seeker of all religions. She did what you did on a much larger level. Like, my mom's had fourteen different name combinations to whatever faith she was in and or whatever marriage she was in. But she's Christian and I don't really claim any religion except religious science and I respect all of them. Like, "What works for you? Great. Work that!" Right. And you've always been like that. Can I tell you? Ever since I've known you from a little wee twink fourteen-year-old or however.... When did we meet each other? I think... I'm forty six. You're what? Forty-four? Forty-five? Yeah, forty-four. I think, okay, so you were fourteen 'cause I was sixteen. So we met each other quite some time ago. Okay, and what did you think about me? Yeah. You told me this last night and I don't think I knew this. Wait, I don't know how you guys met. What's the story?


00:10:04 - 00:15:02

All right. So your sister was a pothead and I was a pothead and we were both teenagers who did pot... I wasn't a pothead! I almost spit out my coffee! It was 4:20 yesterday so woo hoo! No wait! I really wasn't a pothead though Ahmed. I didn't like weed. No she wasn't really a pothead. I was a pothead and she was a little... kind of a little hippie chick. She was just into hanging out with folks and having fun. And I was into doing the same thing but I always had a joint mouth! And yeah I was like sixteen years old and I worked in Walnut Creek at La Petite Boulangerie, right? Or what was it called? It was... No it was Boudin's Bakery. Yeah they had sourdough bowls and it was a part of Nordstrom's mall in Walnut Creek. So some of the folks I worked with down there knew Julianne. And so I met this tall Amazonian brunette. Of course she was fourteen at the time but she was taller than me still and and I don't know. I was like, "She's great". She had great energy and we would hang out and yeah. I think I was like sixteen at the time so then what happened was within a month maybe of meeting your sister -it might have been a week. I don't know - I got busted for selling weed. And the feds came in... haha.  It wasn't really the feds. It was like Walnut Creek P.D. who came in - like six cops came and arrested me in Boudin. Maybe Uncle Mark! We have a cop uncle. And I was like extremely paranoid because I was like, "What the hell?" They treated me like I was some big time drug dealer because I used to sell grams of brown weed. Like, you can't give away brown weed today. You should be arrested if you're selling brown weed! Mexican dirt weed - all seeds. They came in, arrested. me, and I got an all this trouble. It was the first time I'd ever gotten in trouble. I've got a felony on my record to this day for selling marijuana. And my claim to fame was that I could sell an ounce in grams on a daily basis because I knew that many people! I would just.. I was always very social. So immediately I was like, "Julianne is a cop! That's what it is! She is a cop because I met her and all of a sudden I'm in trouble! She's an informant! A 14-year-old informant!" Now on the record: Weens, is this true? Are you a narc in fact? Not a narc. Oh okay. Sorry. Keep going! Here's what was hilarious. I liked her but I was like, "I don't trust her." Ugh, story of my life! "But she's a cop. But I've met her mom!" That's what marijuana will do to you. You will be extremely paranoid. Yeah paranoid! "What the hell?" And that went on for years until I finally realized I was paranoid and we were friends. And thirty something years later, we're still friends. And I still think you're the best person. You've always had the most integrity. You're my favorite person. I just love you. And you've done so well for yourself. Spoken like a true narcotics officer! And I'd like to tell you that you're going back to prison. Okay, everybody get in! Get in! Grab him! Oh okay.

So let's go back to the Yard Crashers. Okay so you were... you're at the point... Where were we? ...that you decided because your dad was in landscaping that you followed suit. Oh so it's kind of interesting. So when I got in trouble for selling pot, I was in high school and I was like in the eleventh grade. And I realized, "Ahmad you're doing swell. Let's see. You're a black man who lives in America who now has a felony and you're not graduating high school? Good job kid. You're going places." So I was like, "What am I going to do with my life?" Because I grew up in a family that didn't have anybody who was going to college - didn't even have high school graduates for the most part. And I was like, "Yeah you're screwed. You better figure out something. Maybe you'd better work for yourself." Well, what are you going to do working for yourself? And I thought, "Well, what do I know how to do? I know how to do yard work. I know a little bit about painting". But the last woman... I painted her house, she kind of complained a lot because I didn't do certain details right. "Yeah I think I'll be a landscaper." And literally like that was my idea since I was like seventeen years old. And what it was is landscaping and gardening was my hustle. Hello. It's still my hustle. I just had to up my game a little bit, which means I needed to take classes. I had to get a higher education in horticulture.


00:15:02 - 00:20:01

Which is what I did and I've literally spun my hobby into my livelihood; my hustle into a career. So now I am a licensed landscape contractor. And look at his shirt. You even have your official shirt. What does it say? I do. I wore my official shirt because I'm plugging myself. Yeah! Do it! Do it! Well say it! Ahmad Hassan Landscape. I can't read it. Ahmed Hassan Landscape Services. Landscaping services. Landscape services. A. H. L. S. Good! Boom! Ahmad Landscape Services, everybody. So that's how people find me. If you look me up online and you spell my name A. H. M. A. D. which is the correct spelling or you spell it the way we spelled it on. TV - A. H. M. E. D. - and you put the word "landscape" behind it, you'll find me. Yeah. Just look for the very handsome handsome man with... currently with a beard. Sometimes he doesn't have a beard. I did some research. I looked up your pictures. The beard is now staying. So a lot of my shows on... HGTV wasn't fond of facial hair. If you had very faint scruff, you could have that. And you notice that's where most of my white hairs are. I like it. This makes you very refined. Very distinguished. It's interesting these days. I pretty much sport a beard unless I get really bored and I shave it all off and I'm Mr. Buttface for a while. No!

So how did you go from being your - you know - educating yourself on horticulture to hosting a TV show? Hosting the TV show. I am in love with landscaping and horticulture and talk a lot. Remember how I said I used to be able to sell an ounce of weed per day in gram bags? You can only do that if you're very social. Yes, social and fun, and you have the energy that everybody thought you're hilarious, and still do so we want to be around you. That's what you have to have. You have to have all of that and then you could host your own TV show. So I was taking classes with a gal and she was a designer. And she started moonlighting and doing little design work for Curb Appeal and for a show called Landscape Smart. And Landscape Smart was where I got my start. So you had to... The premise of the show was you had to come up with some wonderful landscaping ideas. They had to be smart. They had to be clever. And I thought that was the greatest thing ever. So I would come up with clever ideas and producers were like, "We love it. You should host shows!" And I'm like, "I don't know what you're talking about. All your hosts are white guys who wear tight jeans and makeup." Yes. Little did we know that Ahmad would wear tight jeans and makeup! So I did and I became a host! Sell it! Sell it! To this day, I still wear tight jeans. I just don't wear the makeup! That was one of my questions. Did you ever have a casting couch moment? Actually we asked some of our listeners for questions and I think - who asked that one? Yeah, the girls at.... We'll do a nice little plug for our friends at the Nerdy Bitches Podcast. The Nerdy Bitches? Yeah, they're two girls and they talk about anything and everything - video games, movies. They're really cute and they're getting lots of followers and buzz. So they're great. That's awesome. But they they wanted to know did you ever have any casting couch moments or Me Too moments and why are landscapers so hot? This was the general line of questioning! Why are landscapers so hot? Because we work. You know, it's funny because I have a decent physique for forty six year old man and I don't go to the gym but I move boulders regularly, I wheel wheelbarrows regularly, I shovel and pick regularly, and I do it with proper body mechanics. You know, I took yoga classes for a few years and I learned all the proper body mechanics and breathing techniques and I like to feel good. There you go. And I have never seen you sitting, by the way, for long. You'll sit and eat and that's it. Yeah this is hard for me but I knew we were doing Zoom. So if I get up and move all over the place.... You can lead us in some jumping jacks if you want. I mean, we're open. No. It's too cold to! What I do to warm up is I have recycled water tanks at my house and I just barely have a little bit more water left from the rainy season and I fill them up with cans and I'm running around my house and my yard watering plants all my plants. Nice! Because I'm going to leave tonight and go stay with my lovely sweetheart in Hercules, California. Aw, April! I've got to meet her. I've heard great things. So I get to see April. I've got to water all my plants because I'll be gone for like thirty hours or so. This is a thing for those of us who like plants and gardens. I got Weens up running on a drip system for her backyard so that she could go on vacation and enjoy herself without worrying about her plants because it's a real thing. Exactly. It's scary. Good for you. And I don't even have drip irrigation for my nursery. I literally have to pay either my fifteen year old or the fifteen year old kid down the street and I pay them like twelve dollars an hour to stand around with a water hose.


00:20:01 - 00:25:13

Wow. And I told them... I was like, "You cannot stand with the water hose and your phone because you'll be wasting my water!" Trust me I know, because I can't do it either. It's a resource and you're super green. You're all about this green landscaping. I live as green as I can be without being a purist. But I'm kind of a freak at home. Like April puts up with a very interesting man that she gets to call her lover. Because I'm weird. Like, here's here's my latest weird thing and I'll just share with you guys and then I'm not going to tell you everything but... So I finally restarted my hot tub. I have a wooden hot tub in my backyard and it's been down and out for like five months. And it was the cold season so I was like nobody wants to be out there anyways. And I didn't have time to fix the hot tub because if you have a wooden hot tub - I have a snorkel tub - you have to drain it, you have to dry it completely out, which means you have to tarp in the wet season or good luck with that. So finally when it got warm, I had it all dried out. You open it up. You have to loosen up the hoops on it. You have to knock in all the staves with a mallet. You have to tighten up all the hoops.You have to fill it with water. And then you have to hope like hell that it's swells up and it makes itself waterproof all over again. So I filled it up two days ago and then yesterday I ran the hose at like less than a quarter percent running constantly in it because I could still see it and hear the leaks coming out of it. So I'm sort of putting water into it and water is dripping out of it and I'm wasting water and I recycle as much as I can. And it was killing me the waste water. So for the last two days. I've been bathing in my hot tub! So you don't waste it! Oh, that's why! I keep calling and he's in the hot tub! Because I'm not going to go inside the house and then turn on the shower. I'm like I'm wasting water out here. It's at one hundred and two degrees. Just dip into the hot tub. Good for you! Just don't use soap. I'm running chlorinated water from my hose into the there. I'm throwing chlorine tabs in here and so I'm bathing in the hot tub. But this morning because I knew I was doing Zoom call, I shaved and then I jumped into the actual shower and put some Dr. Bronner's on to get all fresh for you guys! Ooh, wow, thank you! Thank you! We can smell you from here. You smell great. We rank! Wow, I like that. But yeah, I compost like crazy. I catch all my graywater. I dump it onto my compost pile. I recycle wherever I can, whenever I can. And I have about a thousand gallons of water than I'm able to recycle from rainwater up here and then I have to cart it by hand or run hoses down a hill and water my plants. That's awesome.

Can I bring you guys back to where we were? Because I had my brain on a trajectory. A trajectory. Yes. Dr Ahmed. When we were discussing...oh yeah. How do you get to the point where you're a landscaper and then you get on television? What happened? Someone came up, they said, "You've got the personality we want...?" Oh no, you're just in horticulture class and TV producers come over there and look for hosts. Just take classes! Oh that's how! Okay, so I'm taking all these classes in horticulture always at night because I'm always working during the daytime. I'm literally learning information at night. The next day I'm regurgitating information to my clients and my clients are like, "Wow. He's a wizard." I'm like, "Yep, and here's my bill." So I'm working with... I'm taking classes I mean with designers, with installers, with different folks who do different things all in landscaping and horticulture. And one of my designer gal friends, she was moonlighting for HGTV shows. And she was getting paid as the designer. And she told me, "You know they're always looking for good looking young people who have great ideas." I'm a good looking young person and I think I have great ideas! And so I got the number of the production company and I pitched them an idea to redo this fabulous landscape that happened to be in my backyard with me and my wife and my first home. And they're like, "Well, you know you can't really do it at your own house but could your wife be like the homeowner?" I'm like, "Sure. I don't know who that attractive white woman is. She's just the homeowner." So my first show was we pitched it, and my wife at the time - Tiffany who Julianne knows - was the homeowner. I was the contractor. and I faked the whole thing like Hollywood fakes it. Meaning, I really led the landscape and I directed the landscape. But I had to look like I was a builder. So I just put on my buddy's nail bags. I made him, who was the actual builder, look like he was my laborer. And we all just faked it for television and it worked! That never happens! You faked it. You're kidding. Imagine! And then the rest of my television career was similar to that, in the sense that it's not faking it like completely faking it. It's like faking it like improvising a little bit more. So you have to pretend like you're doing a little bit more and you know a little bit more than you actually do, until you actually arrive there and you do know it because you learned it during that project.


00:25:13 - 00:30:02

Right. And that's a lot of what my television career was. Totally. Wow. So I was watching the format of Yard Crashers. So you would kind of go and scope out people at home improvement stores, places like that? Or did people come to you? Or what was the -- how did you find your people? We were always going out to the home improvement stores In northern and southern California it was primarily Lowe's because Lowe's was kind enough to turn off their music when we were in the store. Home Depot was like, "No. You need to come after hours. Bring your extras." And we're like, "We don't have that kind of budget." So yeah it was... By the time we got two Yard Crashers because my first television show was actually a little gardening show called The Dirt On... That was the title of my show. I had an ellipsis in the title! And it was a gardening show and it was really horticultural information - gardening information. And it was great, but that was a show more geared towards women because that's who was watching HGTV and DIY Network at the time. And they don't have those kind of shows much anymore. Now it's all houses and homes, and I loved the gardening stuff. I used to go for that. So the gardening shows - the problem with them and the reason that they don't exist is that one, the gardening industry is very regional. It's regionalized.So like your gardening stores in your area and your garden supply centers, they don't have money for television ad space. So they're like, "Yeah, we'd love for you to be on. But no, we're not going to pay you for ad sales marketing." Where the real estate industry will pay for ad sales and marketing because it's a huge industry. It has more money and it's nationwide. Sure, okay. All the regional-based gardening elements can't afford television. So therefore they're not on TV because that's really where the dollars come from. As much as the world would like to think that TV is just about entertainment, it's really about ad sales and marketing. It is. Bottom line. When someone figures that out, maybe I'll get to have show on television again. Until then, there's just there's no money in it. Yeah. And I demand quite a bit of money for me to drop my life and go be on TV everyday again.

Well, and I want to talk to you about that part, and I want to bring it back to.... You got some money for me for TV? I know. Here we are on a free podcast! Because let's start a show! I know! Okay so when you're on the Yard Crashers show, what was the style of that? You would go to Lowe's and you would find someone that had bags of stuff and it looked like they were going home? I would just have to be Ahmed and my job was talk to everybody. And I had producers with me and producers were like, "Pitch to them. We're going to go home with them. They look great. They will be great on TV." And I'm like, "I think they suck. Now I'm going to prove that they suck. Watch this." Is it true they really were strangers then? They weren't set up? It was a mix. So really, my job was talk to everyone. And typically the producers would set me up and they would have a ringer in there or a few ringers in there. But the ringers weren't guaranteed to be able to get their yard done. It was really whoever was the best that day on camera. And a lot of times it was the ringers and sometimes it wasn't. But ringers are people that they found where before? Ringers are kind of like sent over to the store. There's somebody who got the inside skinny that we were going to be there. A lot of times we would do someone's yard and so producers would call them and say, "Hey we're going to be at the store again. If you have any cool friends like yourself, you know, good-looking young people who can talk on camera and would be great, send them over to the store." So it doesn't mean they're going to get chosen but the producers always want to make sure that there were plenty of people to choose from so they want to cast a larger net. Which, being on the other side television, I understand this because you don't want a dead fish. I don't know what other term to use. You don't want a real milky person on camera. You don't want a dud. Right. That word. But here's the thing. I do want that on camera because that person is hilarious. Because that's going to give me something the play off of. So I always preferred (ugh, sun's coming out)... I always preferred real life folks and I couldn't stand the ringers. But the bottom line was it was my job to really figure out who are you and why should you be the one? Mmhmm. I think I'm going to move. There we go. We're going for a walk. Whoa, that's bright! Actually in that light, it's great! There. He's well lit! So that's what happened. The sun comes up over my house in the morning. It's really bright, but that was a good spot for a while. Your house is beautiful. I love it. He's really high on a hill too. I like it. Over there, behind him, you will see there's a ravine, isn't it? Yeah. Cameron Park is pretty cool.


00:30:02 - 00:35:03

I'm on top of the hill. My front yard faces the Sacramento Valley. But there's all these trees in the way. And then the backyard looks out towards Tahoe and the Sierras. Pretty. It's gorgeous. Yeah, it's beautiful up there. Okay, so now you're doing your television show and are you loving it? Are you feeling....like, did you get an ego or you kind of cocky? Hell yeah! Getting women? You know, television helps you to be a little more pompous. I mean you have people coming around taking your food orders, and limos picking you up at the airport and you got your name on it, and treating you like royalty. And they pay you reasonably well and so it does. It does all go to your head. And then people are... You know how people talk about folks in Hollywood like, "You should see what he eats! I mean it's just crazy!" And I was vegetarian at the time and people would like to talk about my diet. And I'm like, "So wait a minute. You don't allow me to go feed myself because I can't leave the set. I can't go pick up my own food. And now you're going to take my order and then you're going to ridicule me for what I ordered because this is how I eat? Wow this is interesting!" So they were accusing you of being a diva? Right. And requiring these fancy things? If you have a special diet and you have to send someone else to go get your food, because they won't let you go feed yourself, now you are a diva. Right, you're high maintenance. But also what I have noticed on the film sets is everybody wants to have a story about the star so they want to be able to say like, "Oh he's terrible." Yes they're going to make a news story that they're close to you so yeah. So I gave them a few stories! Television was fun for me to be able to do what you do for a living - what you love to do, what's your hobby in which you get your livelihood - and to be able to make good money for that. And be recognized no matter where you go, what plane you jump off of, what train you walk off of, what car you get out of. That's pretty cool.

These days I'm the guy who walks around, people look at me and they're like, "Hey. I know you! You used be on TV." That's cool! Wow. That's what it's come to. Now do you feel bad? Like was that a fall from some...  Did you feel like oh shit. I don't know who I am now"? Nah, I went through period. Did you lose yourself? You go through that period like when you hear that. Yeah, you don't have a show anymore. The thing is nobody in television gives you a contract and says, "Hey we're going to make sure you make money and are popular for life." Like nobody does that. And your bosses don't do that no matter where you work, no matter what you do. So I was butt-hurt after my television shows went away and I couldn't work for anyone else because they owned me in exclusivity and blah blah blah. And eventually you have to tie up your boots nice and tight and go out there and remember who the hell you are and go to work. So that's what I did. So I'm kind of over television at this point. I am not over landscaping and horticulture. And my television career served me very well because I haven't shot a show since the end of 2011 going into 2012. And we're now in 2020 and I still benefit from my television career. It still helps my landscaping career and I really played myself on TV, as you know Julianne. I mean anyone who ever saw me on TV, is like, "Same guy." Yeah, I don't think you could be fake. I just curse a little more in reality. And say things like butt-hurt. He did. He talks about bowel movements too. And I talk about bowel movements on the regular. Everything else is the same. That's cool. Yeah, everything else is. It's true.

Now you go around and you tour and speak and you're kind of a spokesperson for different things too. I was digging around last night. Sure, well I did a lot of spokesperson work for different brands within the green industry. If you have products or a brand and it's something that I believe in I can honestly get behind, then I'll do that, you know, for a fee of course. And I do speaking engagements around the country. I speak to the landscaping industry, the horticulture industry, small business owners, anyone who I can relate to. Yeah, I talk to students who are interested in landscaping and horticulture. And I try and talk some sense into them like, "Go make some real money you guys! Okay, you still love this work? Okay. Here's how you going to do it." Because you know nobody gets into horticulture because they want to get rich. You know, you get into it because you love it and you're passionate about it and then you figure out 'how can I support my life and my family?' Is it a niche market? Is it very competitive? It's not competitive if you figure out who you are and what makes you special because then you're not really competing. What makes you special Ahmad? What makes me special is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to plants, soil, irrigation,


00:35:03 - 00:40:01

and I am a driver. You've heard of a slave-driver? Well I pay my people but I drive them very hard. So I get things done. I'm really a manifester. I just happen to do all my manifestations outside in nature. That's cool. He really is. So soil and...oh, go ahead Jo. I wanted to ask a couple expert questions. Uh oh, here we go! We had some write-in questions. I'm looking right now real quick since you mentioned that. The best way to get grubs out of vegetables? So I love gardening too and I'm doing school gardens and backyard gardens with little friends and things like that and doing little... OK, by the way, hey! You're diminishing yourself right now. My cat's even getting stirred up. I'm very upset. Sorry. Ahmad, she's a really... She just won like volunteer of the year over at the school She's transformed her daughter's school. Good for you. Aw, thank you. You're kind of a bigwig around there. So don't downplay it girl! Girl! And what you have to do, Joelle - you have to figure out who is your next predecessor. Who's going to come after you to do this. Because what happens with school gardens is people like you that are very dynamic come in and do all this stuff and then your kids move on. And then they're like, "Well, there went the garden." I know. Luckily we have a great team there at the school. So there's a big group of people helping running it. There's a teacher behind it, which makes all the difference in the world. Shout out to Nancy. But it's turning into a movement in our school district. So we're going to go to the board and try to get money to pay these people because it's all volunteer-run right now at all the schools. And it's such an important part. It's science, it's nutrition, it's livelihood, you know? Especially in urban areas. If you don't keep your kids active outside and understanding nature, I'm sorry, you're screwing them up. They're just going to be clueless. You really are. You know those are the things that I remember the most as a kid too, was like seeing the butterfly turning - you know, the cocoon. Those are the things that are important. Yeah. Natural processes. And kids need to get grounded. They need to get their hands in the dirt and get away from these electronics literally. Yeah. Kids have to pee outside, okay? They do! Like I had my girls working on a job site yesterday. We were doing burn piles. They're like, "Dad I gotta go pee." I pulled out..I'm like, "Here's a napkin. Go behind the barn." Figure it out! And my youngest she had no issue, right? And then she's like, "What I do with the paper?" I'm like, "We're burning piles. Won't you throw it in the fire?" Or compost it. Bury it. And my middle daughter was like, "I feel so dirty when pee outside." And I'm like, "That's interesting because every other animal pees outside and I don't think they feel dirty." Right. I said, "I actually like it. I love to not have to flush that." Like why am I flushing water behind my urine? It's true. I know. Pee on a plant. Fertilize it.

But let's get back to the white grubs. Yes grubs. I know. Okay. So white grubs are a challenge for any garden because they eat the roots of your plants and then they undermine your plants and then your plants just fall over and die. They don't typically kill the plants but they make the plant so weak. And then what happens is the grub's natural predator are raccoons predominantly. So raccoons can actually hear the grubs underneath grass or plants. And they'll hear them munching on the roots and then the raccoons will dig up the plants. Screw the plants. They're like, "We want the grubs." So then they're going to eat the grubs. So what you can do is you can practice your IPM -  your Integrated Pest Management - and you can dig up grubs, pluck them out of the soil, eat them yourself. Gross! That's one choice. Or you can pluck them out of the soil and you can kill them to get rid of them. But I don't know a and a natural organic means of getting rid of white grubs. I do know that there's a chemical called imiticloprine. If you look up 'the control of white grubs'. If you use the word 'control - the control of white grubs' - you'll learn everything you need to know about controlling or getting rid of the white grubs. But you have to look for 'the control of'. And there's a chemical called imiticloprine that you'll have to use. And imiticloprine is not organic. It is a chemical and it works and kills the larvae of the white grubs. And then the adult grubs will die off because they only live for a short period of time and then they just die. So you have to kill the larvae so you don't have all these babies. And you could kill them with the chemical early on, and then you can manage organically after that and keep a healthy soil system. But I don't know to start off, how do you get rid of grubs naturally other than literally dig them up, cultivate the soil, and always go on a grub hunt. Yeah unfortunately. It could be fun for the kids.


00:40:01 - 00:45:10

It is fun. And they can do the grub hunt. And when you're digging up all the soil. You're cultivating the soil. You're turning it over, you're stirring in all those nutrients and everything. So it's a good thing and your plants will grow really fast. We in the school when we find them, we throw them in the compost because they're good decomposers they don't eat the stuff up so and the kids love watching them move and they they kind of roll around on their back with their little feet up and they're crazy looking. So it sounds like you guys are kind of making it work. The issue is the purpose of your compost pile is to take that compost and put it back into the garden. So when you sift through your compost put it back into the garden you have to sift and make sure the grubs get tossed back to the pile and don't go back to your soil. But how do you know you're not taking the larvae and you're just putting more grubs into your soil? I know. The little teeny ones that sneak through the cracks. Yeah we do. We pick them out but, right. Yeah, good! Okay. It's a challenge with organic gardening. You don't worry about it. Organic gardening deals with you just leave it and you work around it. Like you control what you can. You mechanically remove what you can and you just keep on gardening. And if anything, you keep the raccoons out because the grubs aren't killing the plants. They're just feeding off the plants in the same way that you do. It doesn't benefit them to decimate the plant because then they have nothing to eat. Right. So they just want to feed off of it in the same way you do. Down here in San Diego we get crows that dig up the grubs too. So the crows will also peck at the lawns and you'll see them all torn up from that. But you know how to get rid of the crows doing that, right? A BB gun? Just kidding. Bird netting. Oh okay. Yeah, thin, inexpensive bird netting and you just traipse it over your stuff. You lift it up, you do your gardening, you put the bird netting back. Birds don't want anything to do with netting. They don't have opposing thumbs and it tangles them all up. Yeah, all right! Well, there we go! That was an expert answer. Hopefully that helped.

Next question! Bring 'em! I know all right. Let's see? Easiest ways to plant some succulents in the backyard? People are all about succulents and waterwise planting. Yeah. What do you have to say about that? Succulents are a fascinating category of plants because literally a succulent is equivalent to like taking a segment of my pinky. Not even the whole pinky but just a segment right there where the knuckle is and just plucking it off, sticking it in the soil, and growing a whole new Ahmad from just a pinky. That's what you get to do with succulents. If you want to do that, it's nice to pluck off a piece of the succulent and leave it sitting so that it can callus and dry so that it's not a wet open wound. Once it calluses and dries, then you put it in the soil and then it will establish its roots and grow from there. And all succulents do that and they're extremely easy to grow. And if you screw up with a succulent, and like it's got too much water or it's drying out or it's freezing or whatever, if you can just get one piece, you can start a whole new plant all over again.

So you guys hear the little bi-plane over here in Cameron Park where I live? I'm right up above the air park so I forgot all the little planes come in. So I guess it's that time. So succulents are really easy to grow. You just want to cut off pieces, let them dry out. You can let them out for three days, five days, two weeks...like whatever it is. Keep them out of direct sun so they don't just burn. But let them dry and then you can establish them all over again and you can grow succulents forever. Just little tiny pieces. And it just has to be well-draining soil? Kind of dry type of soil too? Isn't that part of it? It needs to be well draining soil. You don't have to have succulent mix. You can just put them in regular potting soil. You're just going to water them a little bit less than you water your other exotics or perennials. So how much is that? What would you say? Like once a week? How much water? Yeah. How much water you give your son per week? I mean everyday? But how much? My son? I don't know! Right, exactly. So the way you water plants is you give them as much water as they need, just like you give your son as much water as he needs. The way you know when to water plants is you saturate a plant. So you take the soil profile of that plant and you completely saturate it so it's like dripping. And then you leave it alone until the plant wilts. And then you saturate it again. It's the same way you water your houseplants. You water your houseplants off of when they wilt. They might wilt in seven days. If you have the heater on, they might wilt in five days. If it's cooler, they might wilt in ten days or twelve days. If you see your son starting to wilt, just shove some water...Then you give him more water! Yeah, there you go. But you saturate him. Saturate him! Okay, I will. I like it! Well, what we do... What I have to do in a lot of landscapes is we just kind of keep them moist all the time but that's not really the healthiest way to grow plants. So ideally you saturate, you allow them to go fully dry, and then you saturate again. You take it to the brink.


00:45:10 - 00:50:00

Hey Ahmad will you shift your background a little? Because it's so blown out. I want to get it to a place where it's a little more... We are on the move again. On the move! Here we go. We're getting the tour. I have a big boulder and I have a Japanese maple behind me. Oh that's pretty. Let's see. There you go. I want to know too, Ahmad, going back to the TV...? I know we're bouncing around a little bit. Yeah. But did you ever have clients on the show that were unhappy with the final product? Did you ever have to deal with any drama? Yeah, I gave them a complaint line. Oh! No, I'm just kidding. You know, I get that question all the time. Yeah what do people do when they don't like it or aren't happy or something happens down the road?  I never had anyone who did a yard for who was unhappy with their yard. Nice! Because I work for people day in and day out to create spaces for them. And my job is to profile them. And I profile people very well so that I can figure out what is it that you love or that you need in order for you to identify with this space and love it? And then my job is just to deliver that. And so that had nothing to do with being a host. That had everything to do with being in service work all my life and understanding people and outdoor spaces. And if it was a married couple to make sure that I did something that was really pleasing to him and something that was really pleasing to her. Or something that was pleasing to both 'she' if  'they' were married. So that's what I always had to do. So I never had anyone who was unhappy with what I did. There were plenty of folks who couldn't take care of the spaces that we created for them and that was primarily due to the fact that we were doing a TV show. And if your yard was toe-up when we got there, your yard is probably toe-up now because you don't know how to maintain it. Very few people kept their homes. A lot of them sold their homes afterwards because, hey, we increased the value so much and they're like, "Hey, we could sell this place and make some money now." But a few of them actually really took care of their spaces and really appreciated it and a lot of the other ones they would go all different directions once we were done. So you did follow-up? I did a little bit of follow-up on my own. And some of those folks... I never really stayed connected with any...with many of them. A couple of people I did. I ended up doing further work for them and we would improve other spaces around their home. But I took it very personal because I just take relationships with people personally, whether it's a TV show or not. Yeah, you've always been like that. I mean unless I just totally wasn't digging them. I'm like, "Cool. We're done. We're out of there!" Yeah. Yeah.

How was budget decided? Was that a show thing? They gave you so much money to work with or did homeowners ever...? Budget was something that evolved. When we first started, we didn't really have a budget. We had like $1000 a show. And the first couple of shows we did were extremely weak. And then we got to like $1500 per show. And then we got to like $3000 per show. Then we were putting in $50,000 yards and I basically strong-armed the network and I was like, "If we don't get $10,000 more per yard to deliver on your shows at the level that we're currently doing it, I'm done. I'm out." Because I was arguing with producers because we would design the yards, give it to the producers, say "Here's what we're going to do",  and they're like, "We can't get all that we can't afford it. Can you redesign it?" I'm like, "No. I'm not going to redesign the yard. Your job is to go do your little Hollywood thing and make sure we have the money." Yeah, so it it evolved over a period of time. By the time I left, we had approximately $15,000 per yard and with $15,000 and trades and marketing and advertising, we were doing $80,000 to $90,000 yards. Wow. Good deal. It was fabulous. Yeah. And everybody was making money off that show for a while. It was doing great. Absolutely. There was every "Crasher" show available. And all they were telling them was, "Watch Ahmed do what he does but in your own way." So you created the niche market, pretty much. I know that by the way. We created it. It was a small production company and myself and a couple key producers and the executive producer and we literally fabricated that show out of nothing and turned it into something huge and it was a big brand and I think it's all done now because there are no more Crasher shows being shot. But there were like Bathroom Crashers, House Crashers. Room Crashers, House Crashers...


00:50:01 - 00:55:03

...Kitchen Crashers, Bathroom Crashers, Your Mama-Daddy Crashers, Sideyard Crashers...Yeah. So I could see...it just kind of went and went... Thank you for being honest about your ego getting big. I think I... It would be hard not to have a big ego. Absolutely. And then to come back to earth and say I need to take care of my kids and I'd better figure this out. Come back to work and you're like, "I'm broke. Would you hire me?" Because there's a lot of people who get the fame in then they can't let go of the fact that they had it and now they have to make life work. Yeah. So you did it really well. Reality will humble you out, you know?  And it was fun while it lasted, and then your job... All of our jobs - all of us former hosts - our jobs are to pick ourselves up, remember who we were - as big as we were or small as we were - and to turn that into something. To turn that into something legitimate. And all of us are doing that. And did they not renew you as the host? They got a new host just because it was a executive decision to mix it up or...? They got a new host because Ahmed was a pain in the ass and Ahmed got more money every season and television - especially reality TV - loves to get new booty in there that will work for a little bit less. Got it. Somebody who's going to be excited and wild about television and will work for less money. Got it. So they just have to shift things around - keep it affordable for the networks. Makes sense, I guess. Sadly but stupid. They they lost a good thing. There was even a petition to get you back I saw. There was. There was all sorts of stuff. But ultimately, it ran its course and then it's on to something new. Right. But also... I remember that time and you were  kind of like, "Hey. I sort of created this show and you should be paying me a little bit more" Because they were trying to low ball you too. Right. I remember this.Yeah, yeah.

Anyway, now we're here. Exactly. And you're doing it and you're fine and you're keeping everything afloat. Yeah I'm running my business. I'm living my life. I'm not...  I'm still living my own dreams and I'm making my own dreams come true. I mean for me to be able to get up in my own house and turn the heater on, and like, it actually comes on. And get in my hot tub and walk around and play with my plants and then, "Oh yeah time to get dressed and get out of here so you can get to work and go make some more money!" I mean it's a pretty cool life! And you have...  your son is still working for you? Is Julian there? Julian is 21 years old. You're employing a lot of your family.  I have always employed in my family until my family proves that they should not be employed! Yeah, my Julian works for me. He's twenty one. My daughter Faith is about to turn eighteen next month and Camille's fifteen. They do not want to work for me. But Dad pays them well, so they work for me when they absolutely have to. Faith is working for me during this quarantine because she can't work at the Community Service District being a swim coordinator because they're not swimming. They're not even open. So I've employed my uncle, my aunts, I've employed my mom, my brothers, my cousins, my nephews. I just put people to work. That's great. You need to make some money? Good. I need some help. Let's go to work. So that's what we do.

We have more questions. Jo, I feel like we had a bunch. Let's see. One more official question. I know you've got to go Ahmad. But what grows under eucalyptus, or in my case under a pepper tree. I have one. Mulch! Mulch grows under eucalyptus. Yeah I know - it's so hard! Eucalyptus and redwoods and oaks are very popular, very large trees, very hard to grow anything under them. Yeah. Those trees don't want anything growing under them because if they grow under it, it's taking water and nutrients from it. Right. Just like you don't want some leach hanging on you growing under your neck all the time stealing your food. I have three of them. Right? Their names are Elliot, Toby, and Charlotte. It happens. Just kidding. So those three trees in particular, nothing really wants to grow under them except when they're young. But as they start to get large and create a canopy, they will drop enough leaf matter - duff, debris, and mulch - and they will kill those little plants under them. So good luck under eucalyptus, redwoods and oaks. If you want to grow under them, put it in containers because then in its in its own vessel. It's in its own soil. It's getting its own water. Then you'll have some luck. All right. Cool. All right. That's good to know. Anything else Weens? Do you have any questions? You've got your garden that...  I just want to know where you're coming by Los Angeles again so you can jump in the backyard! I want to know when you're coming to Cameron Park Julianne! Oh man! I got room. I got a 2800 square foot house. Come on, bring your man friend, your girlfriend, your dog, your cat... Don't bring your cat! No, I won't bring my cat. I'm coming. Okay I'll come visit. Yeah, I want to come too! That sounds fun.  Bring me! Come on. There's room for all you guys! Yay. I love it.


00:55:04 - 00:59:39

And I don't have grubs at my house. Yeah, good. No grubs. All right Ahmad. I'm just so proud of you, the way that your life turned out because you really did it in a way that you planned  ahead. I thought you were so mature for back then. I was just like this crazy, wily, just gypsy, end-up-wherever person. And you were planning and saving and getting married and having kids. You know what it was Julianne? Remember, like I said, when we met each other I was a pot-smoking kid. And then I got in trouble, and then I got clean and sober for 23 years. And then I got very serious about my life. Good for you. Because I didn't like the way that my life was going. So I started changing things. Then I went through the death of my dad and I was like, "Yeah you gotta fix it. You got to get this life together." So that's what it really was for me. I was probably your earliest friend who you knew that was like going to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings back in the day. Yeah, and getting your shit together. I mean that's amazing but you stuck with it. Yeah, it took a long time. It took a long time. I wanted a life. And so I got to have a life. And you were very different then. I mean, you were the first person that kind of got your shit together for real in your family, right? Well, I think... Yeah, in my family I sort of got it together a little sooner than the rest of them. But, you know, you stop keeping score at some point and you just hope that everybody can keep their shit together. Yeah and I'm sorry. I guess the way I said that...  And for the most part they're there. So that's a good thing. That's great. Well, I was always inspired by you and you've done so well for yourself. Well come see me soon. Okay. We'll set it up and so you can finally come meet my sweetheart April. Yay! And come on down and hang out for a weekend because it's easier for you than it is for me. Okay because I'm still a gypsy. Because I've got $10,000 worth of plants to take care of all the time! Talk about a burden! Yeah. Lots of babies. Well thank you Ahmad. Where can people find you if they want to follow you? Follow your progress? AhmedHassan.tv is my website. And if you look me up on social media just look up Ahmed Hassan, or Ahmad Hassan landscaper, and it'll all pop up. And I think my cousin Seda who does all my marketing and advertising, she's going to send you all of my links and profiles and all that good stuff. Yes, they will be in our show notes. So everybody can go to www.mouseandweens.com and you can check out our transcript and our notes and all the good links. So yeah, it'll be great. Perfect. Next time I talk with you ladies we're going to talk and focus more on bowel movements. Yes. Oh yay. We miss that! Let's get into more stories. If I could get my new show on this, this would be great. I'm just thinking it's probably going to be like three episodes and we're going to run out of content! Good. Part One! And more stories about Weens back in the day. I want to hear some of the stuff she got into. Okay. Oh no. No! Don't go there. I don't wanna go there either! Thank you Ahmad! We love you! Hey love you both! Ahmad Hassan. Thanks guys. Bye bye. Bye!

 

E76 - Ahmad Hassan, HGTV Yard Crashers Host and Friend

Meet Ahmad Hassan, HGTV's original host of Yard Crashers. He and Julianne have been friends since they were teens in northern California, and you will laugh when you hear what he originally thought of Weens! Ahmad, also spelled Ahmed as seen on television, tells us about his rocky start and how he turned his life around to land on the DIY Network and HGTV hosting his own landscaping show! We get some inside scoop about the background of his career, of how the show worked behind the scenes, his work as a spokesperson, and owning his own thriving landscaping business. Ahmad answers some listener gardening questions about grubs, succulents, eucalyptus, tight jeans!, and tells us about the quirky eco-friendly way he has been bathing lately! This dynamic man is a standup dad, friend, and family member with interesting thoughts on religion and being raised a black man in America. His value of integrity and hard work shows, and we know you will enjoy listening and getting to know Ahmad Hassan!

Video version of this episode on YouTube

You can follow Ahmad for articles, updates, events and to contact his Ahmad Hassan Landscape Services on

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Song Credit: “Love of My Friends” by Julianne Eggold, available on JulianneEggold.com

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