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.

dandy lawn

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

Late Bloomer

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.

Polar Cub

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.

Laundry Day

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.


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.