Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I ought to be out in the yard with a weed eater right now, finishing up cutting the lawn. The weeds, I should say. After the summer-long heat wave, we don’t have a lawn any more. We have weeds. I cut them anyway because, even though the heat wave killed off practically all our grass, the four inches of rain we got last week gave the dandelions and thistles an opportunity to jump out of the ground and take over the whole yard, and I’m not exaggerating even a little bit when I say that. They’ve taken over the back yard completely, and although there are patches of dead grass in the front yard that the weeds haven’t advanced into yet, the patches are rather small and the dandelions are everywhere else, it’s only a matter of time before every inch of the yard from front to back is an ankle-deep leafy carpet of dandelions. So we’ve finally come to the time when I will have to bring home a couple bags of weed & seed from the lawn care section of our local hardware store. Either that or plow it all under, cover the whole yard with a black plastic tarp and leave it until next spring. The neighbors would love that.

dandy lawn | 1:50 pm CDT
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Sunday, May 27th, 2012

image of the rattiest t-shirt in the worldBehold! The rattiest t-shirt in our laundry basket!

“I thought I had some ratty t-shirts,” My Darling B noted as she was folding the laundry this morning, “but this one of yours has all of mine beat!”

I had a pretty good idea which one she was talking about, but I made her tell me anyway. “Is it the Bucky Badger shirt?” I asked her.

“Yes!” she answered, with no small amount of emphasis.

I don’t know how it merits the honor of being the rattiest t-shirt either of us possess. It’s a little stretched-out and faded, but it doesn’t have any holes in it yet and it’s not stained. It’s well-worn. One of my favorite shirts to wear while doing yard work. In fact, I think I’ll wear it while I’m mowing the lawn today.


rattiest | 10:17 am CDT
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Sunday, May 13th, 2012

It didn’t rain last night. This is the first weekend in about a month that the lawn is not too wet to mow, so you know where I’ll be all day. Let the yard work begin!

sunshine | 9:08 am CDT
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Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Spruced up the yard today. Got the mower out of the shed, pushed it around to the front yard, ran the extension cord to the garage and plugged it in. Made one pass across the yard, flipped the handle over and walked around to the other side of the mower, getting ready to make the second pass, when I caught sight of a hitchhiking mouse sitting on the engine cover. When I gave the handle a shake to urge him to jump down he ducked into the gap in the deck where the handle’s attached to the mower, and when I tipped the mower over on its side, then back upright again, he was still in there. I had to poke him with a stick to finally get him to dismount and run off into the bushes.

rider | 8:43 pm CDT
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Friday, May 20th, 2011

What a fantastic day! We were up at six for no good reason I can think of other than that seemed to be the right time to get up. After coffee and our customary breakfasts – B has a banana, I eat a bowl of granola – we changed into our yard work clothes and went at it.

B spent all day in the garden, of course, where she is even as I type these words. I doubt she’ll come in for good until the sun is down and the dew begins to settle on the grass, at which point I expect she will be ready only to change into her pajamas and hit the hay. And I wouldn’t expect her to be up at six tomorrow morning, but who knows? She’s surprised me before.

I spent the day at various and sundry tasks, mostly: Weeding, if you consider dandelions weeds. I know most people do, regardless of how they manifest themselves, but I’ve long had a live and let live attitude toward dandelions. I like them. They’re pretty. And for the most part they’ve decorated our yard without being overly enthusiastic about it. This year, however, our dandelion crop has been extraordinarily exuberant, to the point that it looks like a takeover, and I’ve had to ask them nicely to scale back their attendance a notch or two. I asked them by cranking up the mower and cutting them, repeatedly, about once every three days. I’m really sick of cutting the lawn already.

I’m so sick of it that today I cut a large swath through the densest ranks of dandelions with a weed eater (or, for you Texans, a string trimmer), which was really much easier to use on them than a lawn mower. Got more immediate, satisfying results, anyway, but I had to wear safety glasses to do it, something I don’t have to do pushing a lawn mower. Just can’t use a weed eater without catching chunks of flower stems with my eyeballs, for some reason.

That took up a huge part of my day, just because there are so many dandelions in so many different parts of our yard. I ended up getting the mower out to finish off the front yard because it looked a little lopsided after I was done with the weed eater. I was at that so long that I had to take several breaks, one of them so long that I manged to catch forty winks, the best part of having a day off from work. I understand there are a few civilized countries where they actually take a nap at mid-day. Sounds like Paradise.

When I was awake and refreshed again I joined My Darling B in the garden for a while, shredding leaves. She covets compost in a way that almost makes me feel as though I shouldn’t be looking, and in the hopes of making lots of compost over the winter season she gathered up leaves from the yard last fall and piled them in the garden where they sat, not composting at all, until today when I raked them up and ran them through the wood chipper. They came out the other end finely shredded, which My Darling B oooh and ahhhh in much the same way that other women ooooh and ahhhh over shoes or ice cream or I don’t know what. Really, just don’t look.

My Darling B heard that a friend of hers gets orioles to visit her yard by hanging orange halves from their feeder, so B got some oranges and bought a feeder from Ace Hardware specially made for orange halves, and she hung it out for the birds this morning. I have personally witnessed my dad do something like this and get maybe two orioles to show up over a ten-year period, so I had some serious doubts that B would get any of this particularly shy bird to show up in our yard. Well, this evening as I was setting the table for dinner I realized that I was hearing a birdsong from the yard that I hadn’t heard before, and when I turned to look there were a pair of orioles at the feeder! B was still out in the garden and managed to catch sight of them when I called her name. I sure hope this isn’t the only time all summer they’ll show up, but at least she got to see them.

weeds | 6:57 pm CDT
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Friday, May 13th, 2011

Last night was guy night so I should have been making dinner, but I got out of it by agreeing to mow the lawn instead. And if that sounds like a good deal to you, you’re probably a guy.

It really, really needed mowing. Actually, it needed mowing already on Tuesday but My Darling B won’t miss a dance lesson; come hell or high water, we’ll be waltzing Matilda at least once a week and no damn lawn mowing is going to get in the way of that. And Wednesday night we were really super busy with something very important only I’ve forgotten what it was now and it will probably stay forgotten until about two-thirty in the morning when I won’t be able to find a pen and paper to write it down after waking up in a cold sweat.

So I didn’t get to mow it until last night, and by then the grass was ankle-deep and the dandelions were twice as high. It was so thick I couldn’t walk at a normal pace without clogging the mower. I had to take it so slow that at times I looked like an old geezer hobbling along on a walker instead of a guy mowing his lawn. It was like mowing salad.

Anybody know a good way to keep down dandelions that doesn’t involve calling Chemlawn? We like dandelions, but this year our front yard looks like a scene from a movie about invaders from space that look remarkably like dandelions, taking over the world one lawn at a time, starting with ours. The neighbor to the north of us has Chemlawn or Weed Guys come in every year and last night I could see the dividing line between her lawn and ours. On her side, lush, green grass. On our side, dandelions. Millions of ’em.

salad | 6:14 am CDT
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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

image of lilac blossom

I’ve never seen the lilacs in our yard bloom more than once, early in the spring, but the bush against the front of the house has squeaked out two small blossoms. I was about to give it a good going-over with the hedge trimmers when I saw two bright splashes of violet at the ends of some new growth, and after that I didn’t have the heart to do it.

Probably a good thing, too. I got out the weed whacker to do a little trimming around the shrubs and when I pulled the trigger and started trimming, mosquitoes rose like a cloud from the undergrowth. Same thing happened when I uncoiled the hose to water the snapdragons in the planter by the stoop. I figured that would be absolutely safe, but from the first splash of water I was greeted by thousands of the bloodthirsty little bastards, which fell on me like high school kids mobbing a McDonald’s at lunch hour. And once they’ve been at you it’s like they never go away. Even after I retreated to the safety of the house I was slapping and scratching at what felt like mosquitoes all over me.

The snapdragons got a quick drink. I hate to tease them. I might go back after my afternoon nap, if the setting sun fries that side of the house to a crisp, as it usually does, and no mosquito would dare come out.

Late Bloomer | 6:04 am CDT
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Monday, July 5th, 2010

image of table fan

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Polar Cub, a table fan with sharp-edged metal blades and no safety cage to speak of. Turn it on and the blades whirl so fast you could lose a finger to this thing faster than you can say “Emergency Room.” Now that I’ve restored it to working order I imagine there’s a guy in whatever federal safety office watches out for these things kneading his forehead as he struggles to regain his breath and muttering, “I feel something terrible has happened.”

I picked this up at a thrift shop some months ago and yesterday finally got around to replacing the electrical cord, which was so old it had gotten brittle enough to crack and fall apart in more than a few places, making it even more dangerous than the original designed called for. Replacing the cord was a quick fix but I’m not a quick worker, so here it is, July, and I’m just getting around to it.

It works great except for the oscillating mechanism. The gears were so badly gunked up the motor couldn’t get them going again. I could turn them slowly by hand, though, and it seemed to help free them up, so I got the bright idea to chuck the shaft in my power drill and give it a good, long high-speed turn. Moments later the gears were stripped beyond all repair. Brilliant.

The motor’s got just one speed, corresponding to F-5 on the Fujita tornado scale where winds from a force five tornado cause the maximum damage conceivable. Still, on a really hot July day in Wisconsin that’s about what you need to move enough air past you in order to keep cool. Come August, we could put a truckload of these things to good use.

Today’s another day off from work for both My Darling B and I, but the great big green and yellow blob that’s hovering over our part of Wisconsin on the NOAA Doppler radar screen means we probably won’t be doing any yard work today.

B’s taking full advantage of this development and sleeping in late this morning, after spending Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday in her garden, pulling weeds, setting down soaker hoses and generally tidying up. And I’m, y’know, doinking around on the internet. Because it’s there.

Polar Cub | 9:20 am CDT
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Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Today I was looking to accomplish much more modest goals than yesterday, because I was tired. I was not looking to repair windows or mow every square inch of the lawn today. Today I wanted to accomplish goals mostly while sitting on my ass.

Hmmmm….

The laundry! Of course! In the past two weeks we’ve washed enough of our clothes to fill four laundry baskets. There was even a bonus load of clean clothes in the dryer. And as if that wasn’t enough, almost all the socks we own were in the “socks basket,” waiting to be matched and folded. Folding all that should take a couple hours to finish!

And what’s my favorite thing to do while folding laundry? Watch movies! I can sit on my ass, fold all the clothes, and watch a movie at the same time! How does accomplishing your goals get any better than this? Well, I can think of one way, but it was pretty early to be drinking beer when I was folding clothes.

I borrowed Band of Brothers from T-dawg several months ago. I don’t know why he’s let me keep it as long as he has. Maybe he’s forgotten I even have it. In any case, I popped the first disk in our DVD player and watched the first two episodes while I folded all the clothes, then I watched the third episode while I matched and folded socks.

This is one of the best screen adaptations of any book I’ve ever seen. I can think of only one other book I’d want to watch if it could be rendered as a twelve-part miniseries as good as this, and that would be the two-volume biography of Teddy Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. What a bad-ass-o-fest that would be! How bad-ass? This bad-ass:

image of Theodore Roosevelt

Would you pick a fight with that kid? I wouldn’t. I don’t know what that swim cap on his head is all about, but seriously, a freshman with muttonchops? That just begs you to say something stupid, doesn’t it? And it deviously draws your attention away from his forearms, which appear to be muscled with something similar to steel cables. If the scowl on his face isn’t fair warning, you deserve the tap on the chin you’d get for poking fun of this guy, and I’m pretty sure that if Teddy were to land one on you, that’d be the last thing you remembered for a while.

I seem to have rambled a bit. Hardly unusual, really.

Once all the clothes were folded and put away, I still had some time to do a little yard work before I cleaned the bathroom, a task I absolutely had to get done today but which I also wanted to put off until the last possible moment because, y’know, yuck.

Out in the yard, I grabbed a bow saw, a pruning shears and a hedge trimmer and went at the shrubs in front of the house first, because they’re easiest to cut and shape. Then, after I’d warmed up on them, I took a long look at the lilac bush on the edge of the yard to try to figure out what to do with it. The simplest thing would be to set fire to it and walk away, but I was sort of hoping to keep it around a while, so I put some work into it instead.

Its problem is that it’s horribly overgrown, and it’s growing wherever it wants to. I don’t think it’s ever been pruned since it was planted, if it was planted. There are quite a few other lilacs in the yard, so it might be a volunteer. What this one really needed was a professional with a lot of time and an endless supply of patience, but all I can afford right now is me and my strange ideas.

After a little thought I decided to lop off the lowest branches, then trim off the wildest-looking stuff on top with the hedge trimmer. It was a modest proposal, but it still took about a half-hour and I had to drag away a surprising amount of brush. I’ll probably have to spend at least an hour feeding all that crap into the wood chipper tomorrow.

There was just one other bit of yard work I wanted to take care of today: A maple tree out back had a couple low branches that were impinging on the back wall of the garage. They’d have to come off some time this summer so I could finish painting the house, and since I happened to have my saw out anyway …

With all that done, I went back into the house and finished the last of Part Three of Band of Brothers before I had to cry uncle and clean the bathroom. Yuck.

Laundry Day | 9:13 pm CDT
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Saturday, June 26th, 2010

We were a little late getting to the market this morning because we both felt like sleeping in a little later than usual. I didn’t head for the kitchen to start the morning coffee until shortly after seven o’clock, and we didn’t hit the road until quarter past nine. There are some things you just can’t rush.

As it turned out, we didn’t get even so far as the end of the street before I realized something wasn’t quite right with the way the car was handling. I had to crank the wheel to the left to keep it going straight, definitely something I didn’t want to do for the six-mile drive into town. A quick walk-around after parking by the curb found the problem right away: the right front tire was almost completely flat. Changing it out cost us another twenty minutes.

Then, finally, we were on our way. We filled a basket with meat and veggies at the market, filled another with all manner of good foods and sundries at the co-op, but our weekly trip to the thrift shop was almost a flat-out bust except for the nifty platter My Darling B found buried amongst the china. We have almost as many platters as we have plates now. “We should start eating off platters,” B suggested. “Why not?” I agreed.

It was muggy and hot today, the kind of day when it would be best to crank up the air conditioning, grab a cool drink, push back in a recliner and read a book until the sun went down. I got as far as the first step, but as usual I got distracted and never did get around to the second step before I was doing something else.

“Something else” was yard work. There’s a corner of our yard, under the mulberry tree, where some volunteer raspberries have sprouted and begun to grow up, and I’ve recently acquired a taste for raspberries, so I’ve been encouraging them to grow.

Trouble is, there’s quite a lot of creeping charlie, night shade, wood violet and garlic mustard growing in the same patch of ground. I don’t mind having any of those growing in our yard, but in the past week we’ve had a little more than four inches of rain, and in our part of Wisconsin every quarter-inch of rain translates to at least a million mosquitoes. During the day, all those mosquitoes hide away from the heat under the leaves of whatever plants they can find, so that overgrown corner of the yard was one huge mosquito party.

In order to pull up all that undergrowth, I would have to dress up in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and, just to make sure I didn’t end up looking like a smallpox victim the next time I went out in public, I’d have to throw a net over my head, the kind you see some bee keepers wearing. B bought one a year or two ago when the mosquitoes were really thick in her garden. Wearing all those clothes on a cool day that wouldn’t have been a problem, but on a day that’s muggy and on the hot side of eighty-five degrees, I didn’t have to spend much time in the yard before all my clothes were soaked through with sweat and I was gasping for breath.

I made three trips to the compost heap with our wheel barrow to haul away all the undergrowth I pulled up. It was thick and wet but came out easily in clumps. All I had to do was gather it up, hand over hand, and pull, throwing it over my shoulder as I worked my way across the patch. I thought it would be an epic battle but the hardest thing about it was enduring the rivers of sweat that ran off me, soaking every inch of my clothes.

After about an hour of that I was done and could go inside to peel off my clothes, which was almost more work than tearing up all that undergrowth. Then I sat in front of one of the air conditioning vents, sucking down pint after pint of ice-cold water, for about a half-hour until I felt normal again.

Creeping | 8:03 pm CDT
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Sunday, June 13th, 2010

I do love Ubuntu (like Windows, but free) (yes, free), but getting it to talk to my wireless network is going to drive me to drink. Or something. What do maddening things drive you to when you already drink?

After spending about an hour and a half trying to get my laptop to talk to my network I had to get up and work out my aggressions, so I grabbed our largest weeder out of the garden shed. It’s got a handle that’s six feet of solid hickory and a sharpened V of iron on the business end that can slay any weed that grows in the green, effective earth. Striding across the yard with that weeder in my hand I feel as though I could repel Hannibal’s army, so it’s perfect for slaughtering the monstrous crown-of-thorn thistles that have infested the far corner of the lawn out front.

These beasts are not like the nettles that sprout and grow up six feet tall if you let them. The crown-of-thorns grow very close to the ground. If you want to get rid of them, you have to get the blade of your weeder well under the ground, probing until you can feel the trunk of the root. That’s why a stout weeder with a sharp blade is essential. Once you’ve connected, slice it off at least three inches beneath the surface and pop the crown of the thistle out. You’ll have to repeat this several times over the course of the summer with each weed before it finally spends every calorie stored in its roots and gives up the ghost.

Or you could just spray Round-Up on it, but where’s the challenge in that? You can’t work out your aggressions after wrestling with an intransigent software system by pumping a little Round-Up on weeds. BORing!

nettled | 5:56 am CDT
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Monday, June 7th, 2010

The first crop of thistles is in! After cleaning up the dinner dishes, I spent the evening hours in the garden with My Darling B, pulling weeds. Now, every keystroke sends a pulsing bolt of pain through my fingertips. Got a pair of tweezers I can borrow?

I started in the lettuce patch because it was easiest to weed. Even a doofus like me can tell the difference between a thistle and a head of lettuce. I pulled up quite a bit of dill, too, but only because I couldn’t pull up the thistles without getting some dill, and they were all voluteer plants anyway. There are plenty more, all over the yard. It’s not like we’re going to be hurting for dill any time soon.

After I cleared out the lettuce patch of all the thistles (and some dill) I moved on to the bean patch. That wasn’t so easy. Well, pulling up the thistles was. They’re big and ugly as hell and they don’t look remotely like a bean sprout. Tomatilla sprouts, on the other hand, do look sort of like bean sprouts, and there were a milion zillion quadrillion of them growing in the bean patch. Tomatillas are the rabbits of the plant world.

We like tomatillas; they make great salsa, but they’re not supposed to be growing in the bean patch. The thing about tomatillas is, once you plant a bunch of them, you never want for tomatillas ever again. They grow like weeds, prolifically, everywhere. They grow in your hair if you scratch your head while you’re pulling them up. Don’t even think about rubbing your nose.

To weed them out, I had to slowly pick through the thick mat of tomatilla leaves to find a bean plant, then pull up tomatillas all around the bean until I could see dirt. After that, I could pull them out of the ground by the handful and toss them aside after shaking the dirt out of their roots before I had to slow down and pick through the leaves, looking for another bean plant.

Once the beans were free and clear I moved over to the corn patch where some monster thistles were rearing their ugly heads. All the rain we had this weekend made them easy to pull out. If I was careful I could get six or eight inches of root to come out with one long, steady pull.

After a couple hours of that my knees and lower back were stiff enough to warrent knocking off before the sun went down so I could stretch out my stiffened legs and imbibe some muscle relaxant.

cropping | 7:47 pm CDT
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Sunday, June 6th, 2010

I’m encouraging six different maple trees to grow in our yard. I say “encouraging” because they’re all volunteers, growing from two-leaf sprouts that popped up high enough above the tops of the grass that I noticed them and stopped myself before I ran them over with the lawn mower. Then I looked around to see how close they were to the house, power lines, pavement, etc. and, deciding they weren’t a threat to any of those, detoured around them.

Hang on, make that seven. The first was a shoulder-high maple tree that was growing beside the back deck the day we moved in. There were no shade trees anywhere in the yard and I reasoned that a big, leafy maple growing beside the deck would be a good thing to have. And indeed it is: It turned out to be a very fast-growing maple, no idea which variety, but it’s now about twelve, maybe fifteen feet tall and its branches shade about half the deck. When I decided to let it grow, I did so with the thought in the back of my mind that I would cut it down if its widening trunk ever impinged on the deck, but I’ve grown so attached to it that I would now consider cutting away some of the decking to keep it a bit longer. Don’t tell My Darling B I said that; I have yet to figure out how to get her to go along with that idea.

The second one was a maple in the middle of the front yard, where there was apparently a mature maple growing many years ago before one of the house’s previous owners had it cut down because they believed they were in imminent danger of being crushed by its branches, should they fall down in a storm. There is a gaping hole in the lawn now where the stump used to be. I fill it with river rocks that B digs up from her garden, and when the hole stops gobbling them up I’ll top it off with some dirt and sow a little grass seed to cover it over. The maple that’s grown up right beside the hole may not be an offshoot of that older tree, or it may be a volunteer that fluttered into our yard from a neighboring maple, I’m not sure.

Those little propeller seeds can travel a lot farther than I ever thought they could. None of the maples in our yard seem to be related to one another. None grow as fast as the one beside the deck, for instance, and the one in the back yard by the garden appears to be a red maple. The two by the front door are growing as slowly as the one in the back yard by the shed, but that’s about the only similarity between them that I can see. All this would seem to indicated they’re the progeny of the various maple trees growing in the yards around ours, all of them more than a hundred feet away, many more than two hundred feet. Only one or two of them are more than fifty feet tall, yet so many of their propellers fall in our yard that they clog the eaves troughs and down spouts of our house completely two or three times a year.

Clogged down spouts are the only down side to having maple trees in your yard, though, as far as I’m concerned. Granted, it’s a pretty significant down side. I’d be just fine if I never had to climb a ladder to the edge of the roof ever again. I just love big, leafy trees, though, and can’t wait for them to grow big and lush enough to give us a little more shade. Or any shade at all. I’ll keep on climbing ladders for some of that.

treed | 7:46 pm CDT
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Saturday, June 5th, 2010

I thought it might rain today, but the grass in the back yard had grown knee-high in places after several days of steady rain falling over the past week. I was determined to get out there this morning and mow even while a steel gray overcast gathered overhead. Until I started actually getting wet, I had to make a try at cutting back some of the jungle growth, so I backed the mower out of the shed, hooked up the extension cords and began hacking away.

Two hours and not a drop of rain later I was finishing up with the weed eater (I’ve recently learned it’s a “string trimmer” to some of you, so here you go) and the yard looked almost like a proper lawn. Still need some work in the far corners and along the back of the house, but baby steps are important.

What’s in bird seed that makes the grass grow so lush under the bird feeder? Or is it maybe the mad poopin’ birds, or a combination of bird poo and bird seed? I haven’t been able to figure it out, but man is the grass thick right there. I have to make two or three passes with the mower, very slowly and patiently, to get it all, and by tomorrow I know it’ll have grown tall enough for the rabbits to hide in.

trimmin | 7:30 pm CDT
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Sunday, May 16th, 2010

shrub, yard work, evil, satan, killer death plantPictured: A freshly-beheaded thorny shrub from hell.

Correction: No, not from hell. Is there some place worse than hell? Some place way more painful? Because this shrub is worse than anything hell could spawn. It’s got thorns sharper than kitten’s teeth. Brushing up against it absent-mindedly will cause searing pain and draw blood. To remove it I had to don a pair of heavy leather gauntlets and then, working very gingerly from the outermost branches, prune it one sprig at a time until nothing but the bald root ball was left. I’ll hack that out of the ground later this week.

I admit it, I don’t understand landscaping. It’s one of those arts I just don’t get. Why anyone would consider for a moment planting this abomination in a yard where presumably they’d want to be able to move about without having to wonder if they’re going to injure themselves while retrieving a frisbee is beyond me.

I do understand the whole yin-yang thing, that everything’s got its place in the world, that even things which seem bad have their good points. This is, I have to admit, a pretty shrub after its leaves turn rusty red, but those killer death thorns take away from all the pretty redness of the leaves. I don’t want to be in the same county, much less the same yard, with a shrub like this one.

This was the last one standing. There used to be two more in the front yard. I let Tim tear them out with a pick axe, which he was all too willing to do after he poked holes in his hands (I told him to be careful). This one was growing in the spot to the left of the air conditioning unit where it was mostly out of the way, so I let it live until today. I’m going to finish painting the house this summer (promise, Dear!), though, and that shrub was going to be in my way, so bye-bye devil shrub from worse-than-hell! Time to die!

killer death shrub | 1:26 pm CDT
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Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

bunny!A quick pass with the lawn mower last Sunday uncovered the hiding place of this little guy in the tall grass next to the planter. The little pocket of grass he was curled up in didn’t look like a rabbit nest, which are usually lined with fur, so I assumed he was hiding out while his mother was away. He stayed hunkered down there even though he wasn’t hidden at all any more, so I cut the end out of a cardboard box and put it over him to keep the sun off him.

When I showed him to My Darling B she cooed, “He’s so cute!” and started worrying about him half a second later. “What’s he doing out here? Where’s his mommy? Is he okay? I hope a dog doesn’t get him!” And so on. She was so worried about him that she spent the next two hours Googling every scrap of information about wild rabbits she could find. She even called the Humane Society to see if they did wild bunny rescues the way they rescued injured birds.

The Humane Society told her not to worry, that it was normal for the mother to leave her bunnies alone all day and come back at dawn or dusk to feed them. She watched him all afternoon and, sure enough, right after dinner an adult rabbit came into the yard, wandered around for a bit to make sure the coast was clear, and then jumped up into the planter.

B just about wet her pants when three or four bunnies appeared from under the cover of the dead leaves and daisy stems in the planter to crowd around the mother and feed. “The nest’s in the planter! The nest’s in the planter!” she burbled. We’d been poking around the planter all afternoon, but somehow it had never occurred to us to look there.

As soon as the mama left, the bunnies disappeared again. B put on a pair of gardening gloves and went straight out there to scoop up the little lost bunny and put him gently back beside the nest. He seems to jump out every so often, but the mama must be finding him and putting him back. They’re almost big enough to leave the nest anyway, according to the web sites B read on the intertubes, so maybe he’s just impatient to see the world.

bunny! | 3:43 pm CDT
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Saturday, April 10th, 2010

bench grinderBench Grinder. You gotta get yourself one of these.

If you have any kind of tools that cut, chop or mulch, do yourself a huge favor and get a bench grinder and sharpen the blades of your cutting, shopping, and/or mulching tools.

I bought it specifically to sharpen the blades of the wood chipper we bought two weeks ago. I’ve been grinding up small brush with it ever since and just I realized the blades had gotten so dull that I had to push harder to force even the smallest branches through it.

The owner’s manual says that when the blades get dull you should go buy some new ones right away. I admit that I’ll probably have to buy new blades at some time in the future, but two weeks after I bought the machine? Sounds like some major assholery to me.

I tried honing them on a whetstone and that worked okay, but they went dull again after just a day’s use, which really kinda torqued my nose because using a whetstone takes quite a bit of time. And that’s when I got the idea of using a bench grinder.

You can get them for forty bucks at most hardware stores, and once it’s powered up you can put a sharp edge on any cutting tool with just two or three careful passes. Not only is it easier, it puts an almost magically sharp edge on your yard tools. After I sharpened both sets of blades on the wood chipper I had to hold the big chunks back as I fed them into the throat of the thing! It wanted to snatch them right out of my hands. I let it grab one stick about as thick as my thumb, just to see what would happen, and the results were pretty spectacular, but not quite as explosive as I thought they might be.

Anyway, I finally finished up chipping every stick of wood from the lilac tree I could feed into the chipper, and it took only three hours. Nap time.

bench grinder | 8:32 am CDT
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Sunday, April 4th, 2010

It wasn’t supposed to rain today, so I figured I could do about two or three hours of work in the yard and, if I got through at least one of my tasks, I could take the rest of the afternoon off on the excuse that I got enough done for one weekend and I still hadn’t had a proper nap, dammit.

So I started cleaning up some more of the mess I made cutting down some trees (Will I ever finish? Doesn’t seem likely at this point.) and spent about an hour or so before lunch putting it through the chipper, then another half-hour, maybe forty-five minutes after lunch doing the same, before we were able to prove once and for all that the dorks at the National Weather Service make their forecasts by flipping a coin.

I didn’t hear the thunder approaching because I had plugs stuffed deep into my ears to save my delicate cochlear nerve endings from the howling of the wood chipper. However, I did get a tad bit wet now and again, and it was definitely not coming from My Darling B’s garden sprinkler, so when the sky was looking its darkest and I finished off the batch of branches I’d brought from the front yard, I switched off the chipper and pulled my earplugs … and that’s when I heard rolling thunder.

B was already gathering up her gardening tools. She finished up quickly enough to help me wind up the extension cord and put away the rest of the wood-chipping gear, and we got into the house and buttoned up just before the rain came pouring down. B checked the NWS’s web side and it still said 20% chance of isolated T-storms. I guess we’re very isolated here.

cochlear | 10:09 am CDT
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Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I was working in the yard after dinner last night with our new wood chipper, mulching my way through the pile of branches I amassed after I pruned the storm-damaged branches off the overgrown lilac bush next to the garden shed. My Darling B joined me about ten or fifteen minutes after I got at it, and together we filled up a gardening basket with mulched wood chips, leaves and twigs. Took us about an hour, and somehow the pile of branches didn’t appear to get much smaller.

It was so warm I worked in a t-shirt! There’s a first for the season. Temps were in the seventies yesterday, and my little foray into yard work was the first time I had a chance to get out and enjoy it, if “yard work” and “enjoy” are words that go together. Word of advice: When you’re shoving branches into a wood chipper, wear long sleeves, no matter how warm it is. Otherwise, you’re going to scratch your arms bloody no matter how careful you promise yourself you’re going to be.

chipperer | 10:14 am CDT
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Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Somebody grabbed my lawn mower yesterday afternoon, threw it in his truck, and drove away with it! Watching from inside the living room, My Darling B and I cheered and waved as they loaded it up.

I bought a new lawn mower last weekend and did what everyone else does when they want to get rid of an old lawn mower, or an old sofa, or a book case or pile of wood: I put it on the curb and, in a day or two, somebody took it home with them. In fact, I cleaned house of all the things I just mentioned that way. It’s like magic.

We weren’t so sure the lawn mower was going to go, though. It sat out front all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and I was pretty sure it would be gone when we came home from work on Monday night, but there it was. And there it was again on Tuesday night. I was starting to feel a tiny bit insulted by then. Anybody could see that it was a perfectly usable lawn mower. What, mine’s not good enough?

Then last night, as I was waiting for B to finish brushing her teeth so we could go to our dance lesson, I heard a cheer rise up from the bathroom, followed by, “Take it! Take it away!” Running to the front window, I saw two guys loading the mower into their truck.

“Wave at them!” B said, coming into the front room, waving like a maniac. “Wave so they’ll know it’s okay! Hi, guys! Have fun with that!” They paused for a moment to look in wonder at the crazy lady jumping around waving her arms inside the house, then finished packing up the lawn mower before driving away.

free to a good home | 7:51 pm CDT
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yard work, wood chipperIt’s an electric wood chipper and it can turn all our yard waste into garden mulch. Well, maybe most of it. Okay, some. Because if I wanted to shove all our yard waste into it I would have to use every spare minute from now until the snow flies again, and I don’t know how willing I am to devote even half that kind of time to garbage disposal.

Still, though, it’s a really cool toy, and we’ve always got plenty of twigs, branches and leaves to mulch at pretty much any time of the year. It’s always been a bit of a problem because although the city sends a truck around periodically to pick the stuff up, it never seems to come around when I really need it, and always seems to be there when I’m feeling especially lazy and wouldn’t pick up a pruning saw if you pointed an assault rifle at me. Literally.

We revved it up right after dinner this evening because we just brought it home from the store and, y’know, we couldn’t just let it sit there in the box, could we? Bolting the legs on was stupid easy. My Darling B wanted me to read the directions — as if! So she read the book while I bolted the legs on, and we were happily feeding junk wood into it about ten minutes later.

And we just happen to have plenty of twigs and branches on hand after I cut down the cedar out front and pruned the shit out of the lilac in the back yard. I jammed it almost right away by shoving the thickest branch I could find into the feeder. You don’t know until you try, right? After taking it apart and clearing the blades, I found I could grind even the thickest branch down to chips if I fed it in very slowly, and we soon filled a big yard bucket with lots of mulch. Fun!

chipper | 7:49 pm CDT
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Monday, March 29th, 2010

I got my bike down out of the garage attic yesterday afternoon and took her for a spin for the first time this season, just to limber up the legs a bit, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt regret more keenly than I did that day. Really, I didn’t know how out of shape I could get from laying around all winter. Every muscle in my body seems to have the tone of a limp dish rag.

And if riding my bike was a Herculean effort, trimming dead branches off the trees and bushes took more sheer willpower than the creation of the universe. On Saturday I didn’t feel too bad, but by Sunday I was moving very gingerly and all my joints were going snap-crackle-pop.

I feel like I need at least six days to rest but, perversely, I only get five until next Saturday when our plan is to tear down the retaining wall around My Darling B’s herb garden and build it back up so it doesn’t fall over. That means lots of digging and bending and picking up twenty-pound paving stones. Oi.

unhibernating | 7:53 pm CDT
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Sunday, March 28th, 2010

December 10, 2009: A crazy powerful snowstorm hammers the Madison metro area:

snow, snowstorm, stormThe snow was heavy and wet. It clumped up on trees like badly-applied Christmas flocking and tore branches off all over town. The lilac in our back yard was quickly overwhelmed, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that it became apparently how badly it was mangled by the heavy snowfall. Several of the thick, old-growth trunks were snapped clean off at about head-height, and just about all of the rest of the boughs were bent all the way to the ground.

yard workFlash-forward to today: Home owners all over Monona have been hacking broken, dead branches off the trees and bushes in their yards and piling them up along the curb. I cut down the big cedar in the front yard yesterday, with a lot of help from a neighbor with a chain saw, and today I hacked away at the big lilac in the back yard until it was a leaner version of its previous self.

I really had no idea how much dead wood I had cut off the body of the tree until I was finished and stopped to take a good look at the pile of branches that had built up in the middle of the back yard:

yard workHoly crap! That’s enough wood to make two more lilac bushes! I guess I probably let it get a little too overgrown.

skullI pulled this out of the lilac bush along with a big handful of dead wood.

skullSquirrel, I think.

deadwood | 7:59 pm CDT
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Saturday, March 27th, 2010

yard workI spent the afternoon trimming branches off some of the bushes in the yard that got hammered pretty badly by the monster snowfall we had back in December. After having a look at the damage to the great big cedar in the front yard I figured it had to come down completely; the problem was, it was really a tree, not a bush. I don’t have the tools to cut down a tree.

I suppose it probably started life as a shrub, and maybe it remained a shrub for many years, but at some point it grew wildly out of control and it’s been a tree by virtue of its enormous size since before we moved in. It was about twenty feet tall and had a trunk that was probably a foot thick at its base. I’ve got a pruning saw and a bow saw. I might as well have tried to cut it down with a toenail clippers.

But I made a start of it by lopping off the broken branches I could reach, then stepping up onto a low branch and lopping off a few more, and so on until I had climbed about ten feet up into the branches and had managed to hack away just about all of the topmost branches.

yard workThis was about the time Harley showed up. Harley almost always comes over when I’m doing yard work to see what I’m up to and offer to help if he can. This often turns out well because Harley seems to collect chain saws the way I collect typewriters. As it turned out, he just bought a new one last weekend and seemed to be itching to try it out. “Did you want to cut the whole thing down?” he asked eagerly. Why yes, Harley, I believe I did.

So he went back to his place to break out his new toy. In the meantime, I trimmed off as many of the lower branches as I could to make it easier for him to get at the base of the monster. When he came back, it took him barely ten minutes to do what I would have needed a couple weeks of heart-pounding work to finish with my little bow saw. Harley is the coolest neighbor I believe I’ve ever had.

Once the beast was felled he cut the trunk into chunks about a foot long and advised me to stack them by the curb. “They usually disappear overnight when you do that,” he said.

yard work

felled | 8:10 pm CDT
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