It was supposed to be a day of skydiving, but the weather
wasn't cooperating. Wouldn't you know that it would clear up just in
time for a bit of yard work. You'd think the weather gods
more attention. But then, maybe they were.
I've only owned the house since August, and didn't manage to get the
previous owners out until mid-September. Moving's not something you
do all at once, and by the time the inside of the house was in a
state to be livable and comfy, we'd gotten well into November and
though things don't quite die in the winter in
this part of
California, they do grow more slowly.
Which was a blessing, really -- my semi-ex L. (there's a story in
itself) didn't uncover any of the yard tools until last week. She
dropped them off while I was soggy and in the middle of washing my
motorcycle, and she and J. just dropped everything in a pile in the
middle of the garage.
So here I was, yard tools, sunny day, no excuses. Well, I could have
gone skydiving, but no one's better at nagging me than I am, and I
just couldn't do it. In retrospect, it's quite possible that this was
a mistake, but we'll get there soon enough. I took stock. What
exactly was bugging me the most? Definitely the hedge. It had little
sprouts all over and looked very unkempt.
In this neighborhood there are no sidewalks, and the streets are
all narrow and winding. When you park, you pull as far off the road
as possible, just to leave the road passable. But we're also on the
side of a hill, with lots of trees. I think some of the neighbors'
landscaping was done purely with the intention of keeping folks from
parking in front of their house. But I should talk, I've got this
five and a half foot tall hedge that runs most of the length of my
property, leaving space for one car and the driveway.
I own exactly one powered yard tool and it's not the
lawn mower. I
always felt guilty about buying a powered mower because
had so little grass. Hedges though, I've always had quite enough of
to justify an electric trimmer. Of course it hadn't been used in
about five years. But it still ran, and made really short work of the
hedge, so to speak. I didn't really shorten the hedge at all, but it
looks so much nicer after a trim.
That took all of twenty minutes and having done it I felt cocky and
ready to take on the next task, which was a plum tree. I may sound
like I know what I'm doing here, but I don't really have a clue about
plants. Okay, I have a tiny bit of a clue. Enough of one that it was
pretty obvious that the tree was in need of a trim too. I'm not sure
how long it had gone without one. At least a year, maybe two. The
tops of the branches were tangling with the phone lines, and that
couldn't be good.
I swapped my hedge trimmer for a nasty looking tool for branches. It
has a little tiny clipper at the end of a very long pair of handles.
I have no idea what it's called, but it's really good at trimming
branches. I'd hate to get a finger stuck in it. Anyway, I went round
and round, trimming and trimming. And hardly making a dent.
Eventually I got most of the reachable stuff and discovered that
wasn't even going to be close to sufficient.
So I went for the ladder. It's an old ladder, wood and little wobbly
metal bits. It worked great when I bought it ten years ago, but it
doesn't seem to quite be holding up the way I'd like, and did I
mention my house is on a hill? Not a good combination, I think.
Some of those branches were rather thick, and most of them were
rather high too. I kept walking up and down that ladder, and moving
it. Over and over.
Eventually I took a break. I'd been working on that tree for over an
hour. I grabbed a soda and nearly dropped it my arms were so tired.
Okay, take a break. Have lunch. Watch some TV. Check tree. Yep,
still there. Alrighty then, looks like I'll have to finish the job.
So I continued. Only this time I was standing on the top step. With
the cutters waving over my head trying to get the higher branches.
Why do the neighbors always pick times like this to wave hello as the
walk by? Eventually I got to the point where there were only three
branches that really had to come down. Thick ones. Ones that needed
But I had no saw. I made a quick trip down to the hardware store and
came back with a nice bow saw. By this time the light was fading a
bit. So, there I was, standing on the top step of a wobbly wooden
ladder, on a hill, sawing like a mad woman. One branch down. Two.
Halfway through the last and highest branch the ladder did something
that ladders are not intended to do. It twisted. Looking
down I saw that one of the metal latches and popped out sideways and
was looking decidedly unlatchlike. I slowly got down off the ladder
and inspected the damage.
There is no way I was going back up on that thing. Time for a new
ladder, but it was getting dark. D. had come over and helped me
gather up all the branches. I'd swear I cut down at least a tree's
worth. I was nowhere near finished with the yard, but it'd have to
wait for another weekend.
Just as well. I was tired, I was achy, and I'd completely forgotten
about my allergies. The sneezing fits started about an hour later.
But when I got up the next morning, getting ready for work, it was
still standing there. One branch raised high, giving me