Revisited: Fun doing yardwork

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy mowing my grass – the sweaty brow and the dirty clothes, the satisfaction it gives me to see such perfect results, how different it is from mowing through spreadsheets and seeing my 401(k) turn into so much mulch. But now the fall has arrived and the grass has mysteriously stopped growing (something to do with the credit freeze, no doubt). Time to run the gas out of the mowers, recall how I should also drain the oil but don’t know how, and turn my attention to a different kind of yard maintenance – stapling all those damn leaves back onto their trees.

Or maybe just gathering them up and putting them down by the road would be more practical. Our yard is actually pretty low maintenance compared to most others in our neighborhood. Though sheltered by trees, over half of the area is covered by a bark and decomposing leaf mixture that requires next to zero care, except for treating the chigger bites you get any time you walk near it. The few strips of grass are largely down by the road, so transporting the autumnal droppings only a few feet into the gutter shouldn’t be that difficult. We live inside the city limits, so we can count on a giant sucking machine (a type of truck, not the city council) coming by to dispose of the collected decay every week or so.

I tried the raking thing for several years, so I could righteously scoff at those gas-guzzling, noise-spewing leaf blowers that everybody else seemed to have. It was also easier to tell me wife I was going outside to rake rather than that I was going outside to blow. But even with such a small area to clear, it was taking me so long that during the peak of fall I’d have to start over again as soon as I stopped, like those painters of the Golden Gate Bridge. I finally invested in an electric leaf-blower, which is much better than the gas guzzlers because, if it’s anything like my understanding of the electric car, it doesn’t use any energy whatsoever.

The job became fairly easy to accomplish once I understood a few basics. My first few attempts though were pathetic. I didn’t know you had to stand there like a golfer with your wetted finger in the air to tell which way the wind was blowing. (When I saw my crazy neighbor doing this, I thought he was making a key point while speaking to the assembled foliage.) I was blowing the leaves into a stiff breeze and trying to figure out why I was getting so much blowback. Once I got the right idea, I had to learn that it takes a certain scooping motion to move piles taller than a few inches, and that you had to start in a corner and establish a cleared beachhead before fanning out from there and corralling the herd properly toward the street.

The thing I’m still not too sure about is how leaf-blowing and respect for your neighbors’ property are supposed to coexist. Before, I was mostly concerned that they were laughing at my feeble attempts to blow the stuff into a 25 mph gale. I’m sure they chuckled inwardly at my look of surprise when more leaves ended up in my hair than down the driveway, because they also chuckled outwardly, and did some pointing as well. Now, I’m worried that there must be some kind of unwritten rule that prevents you from simply jetting the debris into your neighbor’s yard. I’m right that you’re not supposed to do that, aren’t I?

On one side of our lot, there’s a bit of my grass adjacent to a “wild” area, which is adjacent to one neighbor’s yard. I don’t feel too bad about blowing leaves into this spot, especially since this is the guy who walks his leashed, pooping cat onto the edge of our property near the shed where he thinks we can’t see him. Since our house is on the corner, we have only one other adjacent neighbor who is mostly behind our house rather than to the side, so who cares what he thinks? Actually, I do, so I try to find the property line and aim away from it, though I’m afraid that looks too much like I’m being careful not to clear his grass in any way, but jeez I can’t blow the whole neighborhood.

Finally I maneuver the various piles closer and closer to the road. It’s rained recently, so the individual leaves stay mostly in place. The biggest hassle is working with the electric cord and its extension – if you try to stretch an extra foot to get one last area, you risk pulling the cord and having to walk all the way up to the house to plug it back in. To save extra steps, I’m probably being too careless putting the electric appliance on the wet ground, which I’m guessing could cause my death by electrocution, though on the plus side the ensuing fire would consume the leaf pile as well as my lifeless body. It’d be a good way to go, a fitting tribute to my corporate trainees in India who send off their dear departed on funeral pyres.

Now I’ve got to gather one last bit of bluster and deposit the leaves into the road. Does it have to be one pile – more work for me – or would three or four piles be OK? Or what about one long, thin pile all the way around the corner? Do I need to stay clear of the gutter? How neat do the piles have to be? Is it OK to blow the few orphans in the general direction of nowhere, like the professional landscapers I see swinging their machines back and forth? And what is my obligation in the hours or days after I’m done? Is every subsequent gust that comes along and undoes my work in the direction of a neighbor’s yard my fault?

I doubt the city cares but, as I said, I’m more concerned with the disapproval of my neighbors than I am with silly municipal ordinances. Having someone walk over and comment “you know, you’re not supposed to use the medium-high setting on a downhill lie during the third week of October” would be devastating. They (probably) can’t fine me, but they do know where I live.

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2 Responses to “Revisited: Fun doing yardwork”

  1. Jessica Says:

    That’s why I think my husband leaves that up to the yard people. I don’t know their names…I just know they come every Friday…and sometimes when they leave, pinestraw has magically appeared around our trees and bushes.

  2. fakename2 Says:

    In Tallahassee as you may recall, we have only two species of trees: oaks and pines. A maple would die of loneliness. While pines shed needles year-round, they do seem to go into marathon sessions during the winter. Since oak trees shed in the spring, you are guaranteed to be walking on a carpet of something other than grass all year. Not to mention the extra added attractions of crunching over acorns during acorn-shedding season, and having squirrels drop shredded pine cones on your head.

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