weed man

I got a visit from the Weed Man today.

He wasn’t selling weed. That would have been something I’d have considered buying.

He was selling lawn care. In January. As in, the first week in January, while our yard was covered in a couple inches of snow, we got a knock on the door from somebody selling something that didn’t exist just then and wouldn’t for many months.

I let him introduce himself, told him I was doing just fine (he asked), and then cut straight to the chase: “Thanks, but we’re not buying. Thanks.” I had to get him off our porch before I laughed in his face.

He was really very nice about it; said thank you and have a nice day before trudging through the snow to the next house.

snow blows

And just like that, I shoveled the driveway. Well, I pushed the machine that shovels the driveway. And I didn’t really have to push it all that much. It sort of pulls itself along as it digs its way through the snow. All I have to do is guide it, really, and turn it around when it gets to the end of the drive, and occasionally give it a shove when it catches on a dead weed that grew through a crack in the concrete. Other than that, the snow blower does all the work. I don’t even break a sweat any more. Best three hundred dollars I ever spent.

I do have to shovel the walk, and the steps, and the front stoop, partly because I’d feel silly using a big, noisy machine to clear off such a little patch of snow, but mostly because the snow blower won’t go over the step up to the walk, and it sure won’t go up the steps to the front stoop. If the snow blower could climb steps, yeah, I’d probably do that. I mean, I spent all that money. Hate to let it go to waste.

Just FYI, we got a bit more snow than I thought last night, at least four inches, maybe five or six.

department of lawns

If America should decide to elect me to the presidency instead of Trump (I’m not saying it’s likely, but it’s not impossible), I promise to eliminate lawn mowers from every state in the Union. And leaf blowers. Especially leaf blowers. The mere possession of an operable leaf blower for anything other than display purposes would be a class A felony. Those things pack more evil than the atomic bomb, weaponized smallpox, solitary confinement, and Stalin all rolled together.

On my first day in office, I will create a Department of Yards and Lawns whose mandate will be: 1) round up all the lawn mowers, and 2) mow every lawn. The ultimate goal will be to free Americans everywhere from the drudgery of yard work, giving them more time to read their Facebook posts or whatever they consider fun. If they consider yard work fun, they will be given a lobotomy because that kind of mental illness just can’t be dealt with in a way that’s less drastic.

In the first weeks of my presidency, teams of DOY&L personnel would fan out across neighborhoods all across America, knocking on doors and offering tens of thousands of dollars to every household that gives up every lawn mower, leaf blower, weed eater, lawn edger, hedge clipper, in fact every implement of lawn care and yard work.

The DOY&L would use these tools (except for the leaf blowers, which would be packed onto container ships and sent to America’s worst enemies) when they come to your house once a week to cut your lawn. Every other day if you’re retired. Retired people seem to need to have their lawns look newly-mowed all the time. The DOY&L will also trim your shrubs and hedges and remove dead limbs from trees, throwing the branches into those awesome wood chippers that go MEOOWWW as they shoot sawdust into the back of a truck.

Gardens are cool. You can plant all the veggies you want.

Fertile

On a beautiful day like today, nothing makes me quite as happy as realizing, as l stroll through the neighborhood and run out of fingers counting the number of people who are raking leaves, that I am never going to do that. I was going to add, not until they make it illegal, but when that day comes, I’m just going to pay the fine.

Raking the leaves off your lawn makes no sense in so many ways, the first and most obvious being that everybody I saw raking leaves today wore a look of absolute misery on their faces, as if they would rather be doing literally anything else, like picking fleas off their neighbors or sucking sewer water through a hose, than raking leaves. Another way it makes no sense is that every one of those lawn care fanatics will spend a small fortune next spring spreading fertilizer on their lawns, which is what the leaves on my lawn will compost into by the time I have to get the mower out of the shed for the first cut of the year.

chip off the old block

I pruned one of the lilac bushes in the back yard two weeks ago but I didn’t do anything with the branches I pruned off the bush because I didn’t have the time then. They’ve been sitting in the back yard for two weeks until today when I finally ran them through the wood chipper. Is it procrastination if I put it off until I had time to do it? I wonder.

What I really went out in the yard to do today was prune another one of the lilac bushes, but I knew that I should take care of those other branches first or I’d have an even bigger pile of branches in the yard reminding me what a slacker I am, so I got the wood chipper out of the shed, cranked it up and tried running the first branch through it. The chipper’s got a pair of blades on a spinning plate that chews up any stick you shove in there. Normally it’ll chip branches as fast as I can feed them in, but this time the stick went in and stopped against the plate. I leaned into it a bit but it still wouldn’t go, so I leaned against it with nearly all my weight. Nothing. Not one single wood chip came out of the chute.

I took the chipper apart to see if I could figure out what the matter was. The problem turned out to be pretty simple: The blades were dull as a butter knife. Really, most butter knives that I’ve used were sharper than those blades were. They weren’t just blunt, they were obtuse. The branches weren’t getting chipped because the worst those blades could do was slap them in a rather limp-wristed way. So I had to break out the tools to unscrew the blades, which always results in skinned knuckles, and then take them downstairs to grind them on a wheel until they were sharp again. At least that part’s fun. Lots of noise and sparks. After they were sharp again, I took them back outside, screwed them back in place and put the chipper back together. Twenty minutes after I wheeled the wood chipper out of the shed, I was finally getting around to chipping some wood. Hally-fucken-looyah.

As I started chipping the pile of branches from the lilac bush, My Darling B happened by with a couple baskets filled with leaves, twigs and dried-out raspberry canes and asked me to mulch those, too. I said sure, leave them here, I’ll take care of them, because what else was I going to say?

It was a lot warmer outside than I thought it was when I first started. My shirt was drenched in sweat by the time I finished chipping and mulching and otherwise demolishing the pile of branches, twigs and leaves that were heaped up around me. I’d been standing outside in the heat and sun for about an hour and a half, which is more standing than I normally ever do at any time during a typical day, so I thought it might be a good idea to hydrate. I went inside where it was cool, filled a big glass with cold water and sucked it down while I flipped through messages on Twitter. Nothing like reading public texts from the general public to make me feel better about my boring life.

Then it was back outside to start pruning branches off one of the lilac bushes in the front yard — the thing I went into the yard to do in the first place! I cut about a half-dozen thickly-leafed branches, dragged them to the back yard and cut each branch up into bits that would easily fit into the chipper. The directions that came with the chipper tell me that I’m not supposed to stick branches into it that are much more than a half-inch thick, but I’ve successfully chipped branches twice that big. I figure if I can get it into the chute, which is about an inch and a quarter wide, then it’s fair game. I chipped just about all but the thickest butt-ends of the branches I trimmed off the lilac bush, and finished just in time to beat the downpour that soaked My Darling B as she was hurrying to plant her sweet potatoes.

mummy

The lawn mower didn’t start when I pulled the trigger on it yesterday. The blades were very hard to turn by hand, so I thought that maybe the bearings on the motor could use a touch of oil, and that meant I would have to take the engine cover off. I had wanted to do that last year, because somewhere under that engine cover there was a mouse generator. Every time I used the lawn mower last summer, mice would erupt from the openings where the handle connected to the deck. Sometimes they would run up the handle straight at me. I would finally get to see what a mouse generator looked like. Well, I’ve seen one now and I never want to see one again.

There’s a lot of room under the engine cover. The motor itself is about the size of a soup can. I thought it would be a lot bigger. All of the deck space that wasn’t taken up by the motor was filled with bits of trash, fur, lots of mouse turds and two mummified mice. Yuck. And it was all glued in there somehow. I don’t even want to know what glued it all together. None of it fell out by simply upending the lawn mower. I had to dig it out with a stick, then use the shop vac to get it all out of the cracks and crevices. When I was done, I washed my hands in scalding water, twice.

blister

Well, I thought I was ready to do a little yard work today, but I didn’t realize how literally true that would turn out to be. A little was all I could handle after blobbing out on the recliner all winter.

My Darling B wanted the leaves from the front yard to turn them into mulch for her garden, so I thought I’d be a gent and rake them up for her. Turns out raking is hard work. I don’t know how other people make it look so easy. I was popping a sweat in five minutes, but kept at it for another fifteen before I had to take a break to catch my breath and drink a tall glass of cold water. Then I went back out to collect all the leaves I’d raked into a bushel basket and transfer them to the back yard. That was about all I was good for today. Got the leaves from almost half the front yard raked up. Also got a blister on my thumb. Boo-hoo.

field of dreams

Behold, the true owners of the back yard of our little red house:

field of dreams

If it’s true that possession is nine-tenths of the law, then the dandelions have it.

That is not our little red house in the background, by the way. I know you were thinking it.

rebuilding

wall buildersMan, Tim’s going to town with that shovel, isn’t he? I’ll tell you something, the guy really knows how to dig a ditch. Okay, maybe not the most ringing endorsement of a man’s skills, but still nothing to sneeze at. If we’d had to do this all by ourselves yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed this morning. (It remains to be seen whether or not My Darling B will be getting out of bed, and how she will be feeling following our afternoon stint of rebuilding the garden wall.)

We originally built that wall about five years ago to border a space where B could plant an herb garden. She put in chives and mind, sage and I don’t know what-all. It’s mostly chives and sage now, and the mint is growing everywhere, both inside and outside the garden. And it’s not so much a garden, because we don’t have the time to tend it much, but the flowers are pretty and the bees like it a lot, so it’s definitely worth whatever effort we can spare on it.

Then, about two years ago, the wall began to show signs that the yearly freeze-thaw cycle was pushing it way out of shape. The blocks didn’t stand in a straight line and there were what could only charitably be called bulges. Grass and weeds were also doing their work to knock the wall out of place by growing between the blocks. My Darling B kept looking at it and saying, “We’ve got to do something about that wall.” And I would take a deep breath and answer, “Yeah, okay.”

Last year, a couple of blocks along the top row fell, and they wouldn’t stay when I put them back. This year about half of the wall tumbled down.┬áMy Darling B finally rallied the troops by calling Tim up and asking him to come over at one on Saturday. With a firm date and time set, we committed to finally do something about fixing the wall.

We started the job by dismantling most of the wall, leaving about half of the bottom row in place where the blocks were still level and firmly planted in the ground. Then Tim cut into the dirt bank behind the wall so we could step the blocks back as we rebuilt it, the idea being that if the blocks were leaning back against the dirt, maybe they wouldn’t get pushed into the garden as easily this winter. But they probably will. If the wall lasts another five years, though, we’ll call it good enough.

Then we built the wall up again. Tim worked on the end where he had to tamp the dirt down so he could set the bottom row of blocks straight and level. B and I stacked blocks up from the other end, filling in the dirt behind them as we worked our way down. The ground was wet from all the rain we’ve had in the past week, but not muddy, so the work went quickly. A lot more quickly than I thought it would; we finished the job by three-thirty. Plenty of time left over for me to rest my eyes just a bit while Tim went home to wash up and B drove into town to fetch some pulled pork from That BBQ Joint for our weekend feast.