Monday, January 4th, 2021

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.

weed man | 4:35 pm CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, random idiocy, yard work | Tags: ,
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Saturday, January 19th, 2019

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.

snow blows | 8:31 am CDT
Category: housekeeping, weather, yard work | Tags: ,
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Monday, May 23rd, 2016

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.

department of lawns | 5:31 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, yard work
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Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

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.

Fertile | 9:51 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, yard work
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Saturday, June 20th, 2015

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.

chip off the old block | 6:25 pm CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Monday, April 20th, 2015

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.

mummy | 7:38 am CDT
Category: Life & Death, yard work | Tags:
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Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Phrases about working in the garden that sound normal when My Darling B says them but sound dirty when I say them:

  • pruning the sage
  • plowing the potato bed
  • weeding the patch
  • sowing the sweet peas
  • is that a dibble in your pocket?
is that a dibble in your pocket? | 11:06 am CDT
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Friday, April 17th, 2015

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.

blister | 3:15 pm CDT
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Saturday, May 24th, 2014

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.

field of dreams | 10:38 am CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Sunday, April 27th, 2014

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. My 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.

rebuilding | 7:05 am CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Saturday, April 12th, 2014

I can just barely bend at the waist after spending an afternoon working in the yard yesterday. I certainly can’t touch my knees. That’s how out of shape I am.

This happened last year, too, and after groaning and shuffling our way through last spring, My Darling  B and I vowed to enroll at a gym where we would at least do a light workout twice a week through the winter, or take yoga, or something. 

But guess what? We didn’t. Big surprise.

All I did was get the lawn chairs down from the garage attic, wash them off and put them on the deck in the sun to dry. While I was washing them off I kept getting distracted by the windows that have been propped up against the side of the house since I replaced them, ah, two, three, maybe five years ago. Mean to do something with those last summer. I tend to procrastinate a tiny little bit. [Added: It was five.]

So when I finished with the lawn chairs, I got some tools from my basement lair that I used to carefully knock the frames apart because I didn’t want broken glass all over the yard. And what do you know, it worked! So I’ve got a pile of scrap wood to get rid of and two panes of glass to convert to cold frames, or use in windows, or something. Or probably just throw away if that procrastination thing kicks in again.

While I was taking trash to the garbage can I got distracted by the paving stones the cans stand on. They’re not actually garbage cans in the sense of those galvanized steel cans everybody used to have back in the day. Does anybody still have those? We have the plastic wheelie bins that the city bought for everyone in town because the city has a contract with a certain sanitation service that uses one of those trucks with a robot arm, so all the bins have to be a certain size and shape. I laid paving stones in the corner where the garage joins the house and parked the wheelie bins on it, which worked great during the winter. The paving stones conduct heat from the house and stay clear of snow and ice all winter long, and they’re a nice, level surface. If you’ve ever tried to park wheelie bins in the snow, you know how quickly that can get you pissed off.

And that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about my trash cans. Anyway. We have lots of paving stones stacked in a heap in a corner of the back yard. One of the previous owners apparently collected them. Not in a heap; I did that when I dug them up from various places around the back yard. That was when my back was a little stronger and I was in better shape. Now I have to load them up on a wheelbarrow to move them around the yard, and even that was too much for my hollow back to handle, I guess. I won’t be moving any of them today. Probably not until after next week.

But while I was wheelbarrowing the paving stones around the yard I bumped into one of the stumps left behind after I cut down a stand of lilacs a few years ago, just before we put in the garden. The stump was so rotten and the ground was so loose that I could easily kick it out of the ground, so when I was done moving paving stones I got the pickaxe out of the shed and dug up the rest of the stumps. All but one of them came out very easily. Now I’ve got a big pile of stumps to burn after they dry out. Bonfire!

And that was all the yard work I did yesterday, honest: washed chairs, broke down the windows, moved the paving stones, and pulled stumps. The way my back is throbbing today, you’d think I’d moved the pyramids.

B was the workhorse, cleaning out the garden shed all day. She says she’s not sore much at all, but I think she’s putting on a good face. 

immobile | 9:54 am CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Friday, April 11th, 2014

My Darling B has a whole new attitude about mice since she opened her garden shed and discovered they’d pooped and peed on just about everything in there. Before she was on Mother Nature’s side, making me trap them live so we could release them in a nearby city park, but now that she has to hose down everything that was in the shed and throw out all her gardening gloves, her ideology has gone from bunny-hugger to “Kill Every Stinking One Of Those Little Poop-Machines!”

I knew she’d come around eventually.

changeup | 1:59 pm CDT
Category: garden, hobby, housekeeping, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, yard work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, June 16th, 2013

I had to destroy our lawn mower to save it.

The handle of our lawn mower broke off. I don’t know whether or not you’ve ever tried to use a lawn mower after the handle breaks off. If not, I can tell you it ain’t easy to do. Damn near impossible, would be my best estimation. If you have been in this situation, you already know this so what am I telling you for?

The handle was attached to the deck of the lawn mower in the very loosest sense of the word “attached.” The handle is like a wishbone, and at the forked ends there are pins about as thick as my pinky pointing inward, or there were before one of the pins broke off. The pins fit into holes drilled through a couple of brackets on the deck of the mower. The idea, I suppose, was to make it easy to put together after unpacking it from the box. The reality is, without either one of those pins the handle flops around uselessly, making the lawn mower useful only as a boat anchor.

I probably broke the pin off by being stupid. Grass clippings tend to get matted against the underside of the deck and when the mat gets thick enough, it starts to fall out in clumps. Whenever that happened, I would help it along by pumping the handle up and down as quickly and roughly as I could to make the deck jump up and down. I would be surprised if that kind of treatment didn’t put a teeny-tiny bit of stress on the pins.

Anyway, one of them broke off and there was no way for me to put it back on. It was welded in place, not screwed or bolted, and I don’t have a welder or know how to weld. I tried to solder it, but that was a disaster. Solder doesn’t stick to just any kind of metal and apparently the steel that the handle is made of is one kind of metal that makes solder ball up in a puddle. It wouldn’t even make a cold joint.

So then I tried bolting the handle back on, and here’s where I found out that the people who designed our lawn mower were sadistic, or idiots. I could easily shove a bolt through the hole at the end of the handle, but bolting it to the bracket on the deck of the lawn mower was a problem because it was sandwiched between the engine cover and the thick plastic hood that covers the deck. There wasn’t enough room to squeeze the bolt in there once it was stuck through the handle. There wasn’t enough room to sneak the bolt down there on its own, either. There was barely enough room to hook a finger down there when the bolt slipped from my grasp and I had to fish it out.

This kind of engineering pisses me off no end. What kind of asshole makes it all but impossible for a do-it-yourselfer to fix a broken lawnmower? Or nearly impossible. That asshole must have figured that the possibility that I would have a sawzall would be pretty slim. That asshole figured wrong.

They say that, when it comes right down to it, the only tools you need in your toolbox are a hammer and duct tape. It’s a clever sentiment, but wrong. For a start, I don’t use duct tape nearly as much as other guys seem to. Hardly ever, really. And your minimalist toolbox had better include two kinds of screw driver, a flathead and a Phillips head, or you’re never going to get anything fixed around the house. But after a hammer, the most important tool in your tool box is undoubtedly a saw of one kind or another, and if you’re not a woodworker but you will be fixing things around the house, you could do worse than to get yourself a sawzall.

Vaguely shaped like a bazooka, the tail end of a sawzall is a pistol grip with a trigger. That right there makes it one of the most awesome power tools in your kit. At the other end, a piston sticks out of the nose of the sawzall. You can stick all kinds of cutting things into this piston and clamp them down. A powerful electric motor shakes the cutting edge back and forth at high speed when you pull the trigger, making it possible for you to demolish just about anything. Except maybe zombie hordes. But anything short of that would be a walk in the park. I would feel confident about taking down a wall, or even a whole house if I had a sawzall in hand.

And because the blade sticks straight out of the nose of a sawzall, it’s perfect for jobs that no other power tool can do, such as sawing holes in the plastic cover on a lawn mower. After fitting a sawzall with a fine-toothed blade, I easily cut away the parts of the hood that prevented me from sneaking a bolt down through the narrow gap between the handle and the bracket. That done, I needed only a minimum of cussing to put things back together the way they were supposed to go. There was a short hitch while I figured out how to get a wrench down in there to turn the nut, but I was back to mowing grass not too long after that.

TL,DR: Don’t buy the Black & Decker lawn mower with the handle that breaks off. Get yourself a sawzall. Not instead of the lawn mower. You’ll have to read the whole thing to find out why.

lawnmower hack | 7:53 am CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Sunday, May 19th, 2013

I spent two and a half hours slaughtering dandelions this morning, and I’m bushed.

I was going to say “doing battle with dandelions” instead of “slaughtering” but, unless you count their ability to reproduce faster than rabbits, they can’t really fight back much, which makes it kind of a stupid metaphor.

“Slaughtering” is totally accurate, however. I waded into our knee-high crop of dandelion flowers with a weed eater, swinging it back and forth like a scythe as I advanced, and where they were so densely packed together that they formed a supercolony as thick as my thigh, I turned the head of the weed eater until the floss was cutting perpendicular to the ground so I could effectively mow them all the way down to the dirt. It was a bloodbath, or whatever the vegetative equivalent would be. A sap-bath? Doesn’t sound nearly as gruesome and awful as it should.

This is the third time in eight days I’ve mowed the lawn, the first two times with a lawn mower, this time with the weed eater because at this point I was just cutting down dandelion stalks. The grass wasn’t growing nearly fast enough to need mowing already and the mower isn’t effective at all in cutting down dandelions. The stalks get pushed to the ground by the front edge of the lawnmower’s deck, helpfully holding them down as the blades pass harmlessly over the majority of them, so that the next day the yard is a forest of dandelion stalks once again. Hence, my unconventional use of the weed eater.

Seriously, some of those dandelions have grown so old and thick that they should’ve evolved arms and legs so they can scramble away when I come at them with certain death. Life would certainly be a lot easier for me if they had. I’ve been reading about ways to control dandelions, not because I don’t want them in my yard, I do. I think they have pretty flowers and I don’t particularly care that other people don’t. I only wish there weren’t so many of them. Our front yard is practically nothing but dandelions. We could do with fewer.

As far as I can tell, though, there are just two ways to keep dandelions down: Poison them or pull them. Both methods have their problems. We don’t want to use poison in our yard, even though all our neighbors do, so that option is out. Pulling them is not really an option, either, because there are too goddamn many of them. If I had the leisure and/or the mental instability to commit eight hours every day to pulling dandelions, I’m pretty sure it would still take years to bring them under control.

So at this point it’s possible that the only way we’re going to make our yard presentable again is to cover it in black plastic, kill off every living thing and start over next year, a project I’m more than a little daunted by. I’ll need to think about this a while. If you need me, I’ll be in a lawn chair on the back deck, thinking.

slaughter | 2:02 pm CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Saturday, May 11th, 2013

If you were driving down Sylvan Lane in Monona this morning, you would have seen yard after yard of neatly-tended, uniformly green lawns, and then you would have seen a yard where Chemlawn had obviously not been welcome for many years.
imgage of more dandelions than you've ever seen in once place before

I finally mowed our field of dandelions this morning because, even though I think they’re pretty, I can obviously tell that the rest of the neighbors do not share my sentiment, and I have some sense of shame, so out came the lawn mower and, after the devastation, our yard looked normal once again, if you think looking like everybody else is normal. It’s not, but that is again only my opinion.
image of field of slaughtered dandelions

I left the patches of uncut grass around the base of the tree because a rabbit has made her nest in a hole there, so I wanted to leave her some cover.

after the devastation | 2:33 pm CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Saturday, September 8th, 2012

A list of things I should get done this weekend:

  • mow the back lawn
  • pick up all the crap laying around in the back yard (should probably do that before I mow)
  • clean up all the crap that’s accumulated on the deck
  • mulch the branches I’ve pruned off bushes over the summer and piled in the back yard
  • mow the front lawn
  • prune the ivy that’s overwhelmed the front porch
  • clean the crap out of the garage (there’s a lotta crap around here)

What I’m going to do this weekend:

  • ask My Darling B to go to breakfast with me
  • ride my bike
  • ask My Darling B to ride bike with me
  • play with trains in the basement (I’m going to stay up all night, if I have to, to make sure I get to this one)
  • mow the front lawn, if I can work it into my busy schedule

Laziness: It can be quantified.

measurable laziness | 7:33 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, hobby, LoCo Rwy, Our Humble O'Bode, play, restaurants, yard work | Tags:
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Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

I ruined evening silfay last night, but it had to be done. The back yard needed mowing in the worst way. I sort of got out of the habit of mowing at all during the summer-long heat wave when there was nothing to mow. It was all just turning brown and shrinking away, but not dying. I thought it died out, but I guess grass and dandelions are tougher than that, way tougher. Especially dandelions. They came back with a vengeance. And rabbits love dandelion leaves. The back yard was like a walk-through all-you-can-eat buffet for the family of bunnies that’s living under our back porch. I found one of them out in the middle of a thick patch of dandelions, munching away, when I stepped out the back door yesterday evening in my ratty work clothes and thought, Aw, man, I’m going to spoil his dinner! I could put it off until another day. But I really couldn’t. I’d already put it off too long. The dandelions were as big as cabbages. Out came the lawn mower. It took an hour and a half to convert a yard full of green, leafy dandelions into a tossed salad.

silfay | 5:57 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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Monday, August 13th, 2012

I love yard work! Wow, do I ever love yard work! I love yard work so much, I did it all Sunday afternoon, and man did I have a good time! I wish I were doing it right now!

This just in: The power of positive thinking is a load of crap. Yard work sucks, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise.

As originally planned, I wasn’t going to do much more than mow the front yard. As it turned out, though, I painted the walls of the bathroom in the morning, then had to wait for four hours to hit it with a second coat, and mowing the yard only took an hour and a half. I suppose I could have taken a nap but I was trying to make that positive thinking thing work, so I got a few tools and implements of destruction from the shed and went after a few things in the yard that I’ve let go a little too long.

Like the weeds growing through the joints in the driveway. There was so much of that going on that the driveway looked more like a row of stepping stones, if you can imagine stepping stones that big. The joint across the middle of the driveway is almost an inch wide, wide enough to support its own ecosystem. I dug enough purslane out of that joint to make a salad that would have fed a family of four, and there were so many rolly-pollies it looked like one of those “what does one million look like?” school projects.

Digging all this up should have taken no more than fifteen minutes, twenty tops, but I made the mistake of using a weed eater that wasn’t sure it wanted to eat any weeds that day. It was much more interested in eating its own floss. An hour after I started, I was still trying to get the last clods of weeds out of the joint at the end of the drive. When the floss broke three times in less than five minutes, I threw the weed eater down in disgust, fetched an old toothy steak knife from the garage and sawed off the last of the weeds by hand.

Then I cleaned off the driveway with the garden hose. I tried to tell myself at first that this was the best way to do it, because the green leaves of all those dandelions and purslane were going to be impossible to sweep aside with a broom until they dried out and I didn’t want to leave the mess laying around that long. I didn’t try to tell myself that for too long, though, because I knew, deep down inside, that I was just a boy with a garden hose playing in the water, and I let it go at that. Driveway looks really nice now, and I had a little fun cleaning it up.

Finally, there was a row of bushes along the front of the house that were looking pretty sad on account of the hot weather. They were mostly tumbleweeds, really, and I knew from experience that they were the kind of bush that would grow back if I just hacked them off at the base and let them start over. I tried to get rid of a row of similar bushes in the back yard by mowing them to the ground with the lawnmower, but they kept popping back up and eventually I had to dig the root balls out with a pick and shovel. I didn’t do either to the row in front; instead, I gave it a crew cut with a pruning shears. That was the worst part of the afternoon. There was a murder of mosquitoes hiding out in those bushes.

When I was done with all that, I had enough time to surf the internet for some Mars porn and drink a couple glasses of water before I went back to painting the bathroom.

grassy | 6:20 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, painting, yard work
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Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Planting season has arrived. It’s official when dinners go from being meticulously prepared over a period of hours and eaten long after sundown, to being deli-sliced pastrami and cheese sandwiches with a bag on chips on the side – still eaten after sundown, but now so that My Darling B can spend the last hour or so of daylight in the garden, poking holes in the ground and filling them with onions and radishes and spinach. Although we cheated last night and stopped at Stalzy’s Deli for dinner, wasting a precious half-hour of daylight as we sat in a booth by the window. She still had time enough to get some onions in.

seeded | 6:01 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, restaurants, yard work | Tags:
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Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

image of rough lake

Day after Labor Day, back to the grindstone. Oh, wait. I’m still on seven-day weekends. Never mind.

Or not. I’ve still got some yard work to do before the snow flies, and from the way the weather’s been acting that’s probably going to be at about noon on Thursday. I’ve pledged that I will finish painting the siding on Our Humble O’Bode before winter, for starters. I haven’t ever attached a condition to that – “I’ll either finish painting or eat all the paint chips scattered around the foundation of the house! With milk and sugar!” – but I’d end up eating a lot of crow if I don’t, so the push is on. There isn’t much left. I should be able to finish in a week or so. The soffits and all the window frames need to be painted, too, but I never said anything about those so I think I’m safe there.

Other yard work, such as trimming the overgrown lilac and honeysuckle bushes, will get done only if I can finish painting. In that case, I might end up taking care of that next spring. Care to put any money on that?

The other Very Important Thing I’ve got to do today is return the videos we rented from Bongo Video that we should’ve taken back last night because the late charges are crazy expensive. I don’t know why we don’t just hand them the rental fee plus one or two days’ late charges when we take the movies out in the first place. I can’t remember the last time we rented movies and didn’t pay the late fees. We used to feel guilty about that, but guilt slowly morphed into self-satisfaction that we were doing our part to keep a local business afloat with our very own financial mini-stimulus program.

I picked one hell of a day to return the videos to the store on my bike. All the wind in the world is right here in Madison today – apologies to the folks in Galveston, but it’s one-hundred and one percent true. The wind was even kicking up rollers across Lake Monona big enough to surf on, not that anyone was taking advantage of it.

Honeydew | 11:54 am CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, bicycling, daily drivel, painting, work, yard work
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Thursday, July 8th, 2010

It’s easier to find an image of a dandelion on the internet … no, wait: It’s easier to find more than 2,010,000 images of a dandelion on the internet than it is to answer this question: Do I have to declare my military pension when filing for my unemployment benefits? I know, because I’ve spent the day doing both. Or, in the case of the second half of the formula, trying to do both.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is the source for all information about unemployment benefits, as well as the office that processes claims. I filed my initial application last week Thursday using the department’s web site. It seemed pretty simple and easy to use, but there was just one thing about it that struck me as odd: I receive a retirement pension from the military but, according to the information on DWD’s web site and in their on-line application, I don’t have to report it.

When I applied on-line and got to the question, “Are you receiving a pension?” there was a footnote that said I should report my pension only if I was receiving it from an employer I worked for in the past two years. I retired from the military more than five years ago, so I clicked “No.” A little pamphlet I got in the mail from DWD likewise says I should report receiving a pension only if I’m getting it from someone I worked for during the last four quarters, which again would leave my military service out of it.

I even pull the state statute off the interwebs, and it says the same thing: I have to report a pension if I’m receiving it from an employer I worked for during the base period (the time period they used to calculate my weekly benefit amount). Either it’s really badly worded or I don’t have to report a cent of the pension I’m getting from the military.

I sort of hate to jinx it, but I really wanted to know I was doing it right, so I tried calling them. Yesterday I didn’t call until after nine o’clock, figuring that’s when they opened for business, but when I dialed I got a busy signal. I hit redial two or three minutes later with the same result. Dialed again about five minutes later; still busy. Every five or ten minutes after that, busy busy busy. I throttled back to dialing every fifteen minutes or so until about ten-thirty when I finally heard a ring tone and got the automated phone tree. Score! After navigating my way through the menu to the point where I could talk to a representative about filing a claim, there was a pause before the recorded voice pleasantly told me, “We’re sorry, but all of our representatives are busy now and we have reached the limit of the number of people we can put on hold. Please try again later.” And the call was disconnected. Can’t talk now! Thanks for calling! Bye!

Wow, that’s cold.

B searched the DWD web site this morning to see if she could find an answer specific to military pensions. She couldn’t, but she did find out the DWD opens its telephone lines at seven in the morning, so I tried calling again just after the clock on the wall struck seven bells. I got through on the first try, navigated through the phone tree and was told once again by the friendly recorded voice they couldn’t take my call now, and then it hung up. I got through three or four more times this morning but every single call ended with the recorded voice hanging up on me.

You know what? I’m done. I did my due diligence. The state statute says I don’t have to report it, I’m not going to report it.

Oh, the dandelion:

I spent a couple hours in the yard flirting with heat prostration while pulling dandelions from a small patch of dirt beside the driveway. We both love dandelions and let them grow as crazy as they want to all over the lawn. There’s a pretty good chance our love of dandelions irks the older homeowners in our neighborhood who spend a lot of money on Chemlawn treatments to get rid of dandelions and other weeds in their yard, but our take on that is: We’ll pull up every one of our dandelions the day they stop spraying their lawns with Roundup or whatever herbicides they’re using. I’m not too worried they’re going to take us up on that.

Dandelions are welcome to grow all over our lawn, but in the little patch of dirt between the house and the driveway I’m trying to get creeping charlie to take root, and the big, broad leaves of the dandelions crowd out everything else. I’ve been avoiding the dirty job of pulling them up because the weather’s been so hot lately that the roadside is spotted with charred piles of slag where people parked their cars out in the sun, but today there was a cool breeze and I could stand to be out in the sun for almost a half-hour at a time if I stepped inside to drink a couple pints of water and sweat like a pig.

In about two hours I’d pulled up enough dandelions to fill a bushel basket. Also thistles, chickweed, something that begins with a ‘p’ but I forget right now, and those weeds that look like inch-tall Christmas trees with a little yellow ball of a flower at the top.

Due Diligence | 9:06 am CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, work, yard work
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Monday, June 28th, 2010

Well, here it is, my first day home after the termination of my position at the office. The whole day’s my own, yet somehow I have a whole week’s worth of work to do. Funny how that happens.

“I wish I could pay you to stay at home and be my house husband,” My Darling B said to me as I drove her to work this morning. She doesn’t know how much I wish she could, too.

Let’s start a list of things I’ve got to do, just for giggles:

  • unload the dish washer, then fill it up again; how pointless is that?
  • wash a Himmalayan mountain of dirty clothes; how two people can make such a mess is beyond me
  • clean the cat pans; these are so smelly now, the cats don’t see the point in covering their shit any more
  • load up the weed whacker with a new spool of floss and go absolutely crazy in the yard
  • clean up the garden shed, which looks like a three-bedroom house that’s been turned inside-out by a Cat Five tornado
  • pet the cats; this sounds trivial, but it turns out this task cannot be ignored whenever one or both of us is at home during the day.
  • clean the bathroom; the less said about that, the better
  • demolish the tomato trellis that’s been leaning against the side of the garage ever since I put it there, out of sight, after gluing it together wrong
  • sweep the dead leaves out of the garage that have been piled up in the back corner since last fall
  • take the tire that went flat on me Saturday morning to the garage to get it patched; can’t Toyota make anything that doesn’t break?
  • take a bike ride; the day’s too lovely not to
  • pull weeds from the herb garden in my copious spare time
  • drink coffee while doinking around on the internet

I guess you can see which end of the list I started on. Making good use of my time, yes sir!

Laundry List | 7:58 pm CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, bicycling, daily drivel, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, scrub-a-dub-dub, work, yard work
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Saturday, April 24th, 2010

On this misty, crappy, cold day we declined to make the usual weekly circuit of the farmer’s market, so instead My Darling B offered to take me to Plaka Taverna for brunch.

Plaka used to be Cleveland’s Diner, one of our favorite places to get breakfast on a Sunday, and they still serve what they call “the traditional Cleveland’s Diner breakfast,” so I took her up on it without thinking twice.

My favorite breakfast is The Deuce: two scrambled eggs, bacon, and a couple buttermilk pancakes. B’s favorite is the sausage and egg sandwich.

We still made our customary stop on Willy Street on the way home, B to shop at the co-op and me to check out the book store at Saint Vinnie’s where I found a copy of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a cracking good thought experiment.

Then it was home to … yard work! Even though everything outside was wet, I still trooped into the front yard to salvage as much as I could from the cedar tree I cut down last month. I piled the branches up and the curb and had hopes that I would be able to run it all through the chipper by now, but no luck there. Instead, I cut off all the branches I thought I could grind into useful mulch and stacked them in the back yard where the city crew wouldn’t haul them away next week.

While I was peeling back the layers of cedar boughs I found one of the bunnies that had been nesting in our planter. Curled up in a tight little furry ball, he seemed more than a little scared and not sure what to do after I exposed him to the elements, so I took a break to give him time to find a new hidey hole, which he must have done because he wasn’t there when I went back to work a half-hour later.

The only other thing I did that counts as getting anything done was a couple loads of laundry, and replace the outdoor electrical outlet in the back yard, which was a plain old socket. I’d been worrying about that ever since I read an article in a handyman magazine that said it really should be a GFCI outlet, giving me nightmares of My Darling B electrocuted by her electric tiller. Maybe I’ll get some sleep now.

that was the day that was | 5:49 pm CDT
Category: books, daily drivel, entertainment, farmer's market, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, restaurants, yard work | Tags:
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Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

It was a day of yard work …

After breakfast at the farmer’s market and a quick stop at the thrift store to see if there were any books I had to bring home (there weren’t, but My Darling B found a platter she absolutely had to have), we took time out to have one last cup of coffee before changing into our work clothes and heading into the yard to clean up the mess we made out there when we started our spring cleaning. It makes sense in a twisted kind of way.

I spent the better part of an hour hacking up branches with a bow saw and feeding them into a wood chipper before Tim stopped by, at his mother’s request, to help us tear down a retaining wall and rebuild it. The wall holding up her herb garden had shifted quite a bit during the winter until it looked as though it would fall over at the barest suggestion, so we took it apart, setting the hundred or so bricks to one side while we cut back the wall of dirt left behind, then re-stacked the bricks so they leaned into the dirt ever so slightly. With any luck at all, that should hold the herb garden back at least another year.

When we were done with that I asked Tim, “Wanna see our new power tool that can eat trees?” No guy can resist a suggestion like that. He followed me to the back yard like a lost puppy. I thought he would maybe say a few admiring words about the wood chipper, maybe play along and mulch a few branches, then take his leave, and when he disappeared into the house I was sure I was right, but he soon came back and said to me, “Mom told me I could use it, too.” Damn kid did an end-run without even bothering to give me the courtesy of saying no first.

So for the next hour or so I cut up yard waste into easy-to-handle bits while he fed them into the chipper, and you know I think he really liked it. He said he might have to get one for himself, which would be kind of odd and maybe even a little scary for a guy who lives in an apartment but I sincerely understand the way he feels about it. You don’t really, until you’ve had your own chipper.

He had to take off at about three o’clock so I finished up the few branches he left behind, then stretched out on the sofa to rest my eyes a bit while My Darling B mulched some leaves. Everybody’s got to get a little time on the chipper or the day’s just not complete.

When I woke, B was beside me on the sofa, googling one thing or another on her laptop, probably food or gardening, maybe both. I put my shoes back on, got out our new power mower and tried it out on the front lawn, which has been looking a little bit shaggy the past few days.

Our new mower is electric because yes, we are a couple of tree-hugging hippie weirdo freaks. And I have to say that, even if it’s not saving the earth, an electric mower is one hell of a lot better than one powered by a two-stroke engine because first of all it doesn’t weigh more than Godzilla. I can turn it around with a finger but I don’t have to because it’s got a flip-over handle and why don’t gas mowers have that anyway? See, there are two things I don’t miss about a gas mower and I’ve only cut the grass on the front lawn.

After mowing the front yard I called it quits. There’s just so much yard work a guy can tolerate in a day.

After cleaning up I ran to Bongo Video to rent a movie and came back with Zombieland, maybe the best zombie movie ever made, and we watched it while finishing off the better part of two ten-inch pizzas from Glass Nickel Pizza Company. Tim even came back to join in the festivities. Almost a perfect day.

Saturday | 10:11 am CDT
Category: Our Humble O'Bode, yard work
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