Archive for the 'Yard' Category

As requested, pictures of The Tree

Here are some pictures of The Tree and sundry limbs that came down on October 9, roughly between and/or on top of the old garage and the lawn building.  Perhaps one of the advantages of having so very many outbuildings (five, I think) is that there are plenty of things for trees to fall on, other than one’s house!

Here’s the view that first greets you when you look up our driveway.

From the middle of our long driveway, looking back toward the shop

From the middle of our long driveway, looking back toward the shop

Walk a little closer with me.

Looking back toward the toyport

Looking back toward the toyport

Now, we’ll step off to the right into the yard, around the sandbox.

Standing on the yard side of the sandbox, looking toward the old garage (left) and the lawn building (right)

Standing on the yard side of the sandbox, looking across the driveway toward the old garage (left) and the lawn building (right)

We’ll move onto the driveway now, on the uphill side of The Tree.  (You can see the yellow playroom with tiny blue Durango in the distance.)

Standing near the toyport, looking toward the lawn building (right) and old garage (left)

Standing near the toyport, looking toward the lawn building (right) and old garage (left)

We’ll back up and stand in the toyport – actually up on the front towing frame of the camper, where the propane tanks ride.  Some of us like to gain as much altitude as possible.  Actually, being a foot or two higher helps me get a better shot of this stuff.

From the toyport, looking toward the house

From the toyport, looking down the driveway toward the house

Still standing on the camper frame in the toyport. . .

Looking back down the driveway

Looking back down the driveway toward the house

Here’s The Tree laying (or is that lying?) . . . oh, let’s not worry about that pesky verb construction and just say reposing(!) on the roof of the lawn building.

From toyport, tree on roof of lawn building

From toyport, tree on roof of lawn building

And, since you might like to look more closely at a segment of The Tree, I give you this.

Close-up of tree on lawn building.  (It's not supposed to be there!)

Close-up of tree on lawn building. (It’s not supposed to be there!)

For quite a few years, we have had a small canoe trailer parked beside the old garage.  It is now buried somewhere under all this leafage.  Some people think burying the canoe trailer would be a good idea. . . Do you have to pay property tax on buried and unused canoe trailers?

Invisible canoe trailer beside old garage

Invisible canoe trailer beside old garage

So there you have it!  Tomorrow, our friend, Steve, is coming to help clear The Tree and its associated branches.  I think he, Scott, and Andrew will be chainsawing, other sawing, hauling, burning, and stacking quite a bit of wood.  That’s not women’s work, is it?  No, I’m pretty sure it’s not.  In fact, I’m almost certain I have a lot of academic planning to do tomorrow morning.


A week or so ago, there was a storm, and a huge limb from the life tree broke off and landed partially in Coffee Road.  Someone (Scott?  Andrew?  a neighbor?) dragged it out of the road, such that it’s lying in our yard at the very edge.  It’s way too big to drag to the burn pile, so it will have to be chopped up first, and that will require some equipment we don’t have.  We’re kind of known for not rushing into things like that, so, since it’s out of the road, I’m fine to leave it for a while.  I think Andrew may actually be glad, because it covers enough of the yard that the area he has to mow is somewhat reduced.

This morning, I was out walking early.  I had gotten up 30 minutes earlier, because yesterday, when I started walking around 7:00 AM, MoDOT was out in force.  Traffic was one-lane only from Casa de Luz toward the east.  There were all kinds of signs up and cones and a flag man and a pilot car (truck) to be followed.  This meant that while up to 20 cars stopped in front of our house and waited their turn, I, in my neon yellow vest, walked back and forth on the shoulder.  It was a little awkward.  It doesn’t bother me at all to walk while cars zing by, but to keep walking back and forth past the highway department workers and all those stopped cars was for some reason rather embarrassing.  Thinking I never wanted to go through that again, and realizing that the work on 160 (although it’s quite a lot of miles of 160) is expected to be completed in a couple MONTHS, I asked one of the guys if they would be starting at 7:00 AM every day, and he said, “I dunno.  I guess so.”  That’s why I hit the pavement a half hour earlier today, and then there was NO construction work anywhere around our house all day!

Anyway, on my final lap back toward the house, I saw Scott come home and drive the Honda up to the shop.  I didn’t know why he did that – still don’t – but drive it to the shop he did.  That was about 7:00 AM.

Around 2:00 PM, I looked out the back window and saw some limbs across the driveway back by the sandbox.  I hadn’t seen them before, but I figured some limb had fallen or something and I just hadn’t noticed it.  No big deal.  In a day or so, I’d ask Andrew to go out and drag it to the burn pile.

At 5:35 PM, Andrew called to me.  “Hey, Mom, look out back!”  I did, and I saw Scott in the back yard, walking around back by that limb.  Or was it limbs?  Or was it a tree?  Or trees?  What the heck WAS it?!?

I looked more closely.  It appeared that a very large limb had fallen down across the driveway back there.  It was on the far side of the sandbox, and it was big – really big.  I got my shoes on and walked out there.  Scott was back near the toyport (under which is parked the camper), and I called out to him, “Can’t go camping this weekend!”  It was a joke; we just went last weekend.  I was just pointing out the obvious fact that there was no way to pull the camper out of the toyport with all that leafage in the way.

I still didn’t have a good grasp of what had happened, but Scott had evidently pieced the mystery together.  A large tree across the ditch at on the hillside at Tanyous’ had evidently fallen over.  On its way down, it hit another tree, catching a large branch and pulling either that branch or the whole tree (I didn’t examine it closely) down.  The combo of tree(s) and limb(s) came down between the old garage and the lawn building and onto the roof of the lawn building.  There’s quite a lot of tree atop the lawn building, but Scott said he looked inside and he doesn’t think the building is damaged.  You can see across the ditch where the whole tree came out of the ground, and the top end of that tree sticks all the way across our driveway and I believe out past the sandbox.  Big tree!

We were getting ready for church, so I didn’t stay out there long and I hadn’t taken my camera.  It’s dark now, but tomorrow, I will get some pictures.  The whole thing is  – ahem – quite impressive.  What’s amazing to me is that A) it seems that there’s no major damage to any significant structures – I’m so glad it was the lawn building and not our house!, and that B) the tree fell over sometime between 7:00 AM and 2:00 PM on a clear, sunny day with no wind, and we never even heard it!  Now, we were gone from 8:20 AM to 9:15 AM, so maybe it fell then, but still – on a nice day with no inclement weather and not even a notable breeze?!?

As Scott and I walked back to the house, he motioned to the life tree branch by the road and said, “I just borrowed a chain saw to deal with that one, but that one looks like a twig compared to this!”

Never a dull day in Walnut Shade.

Ski bibs

It’s the last week of August, and this afternoon, Andrew appeared in his ski bibs.  No, it’s not snowing here.  It’s not even cold.  The high today was 89.  No, there’s no odd sporting competition that involves pretending to ski through the Ozarks.  Actually, Andrew was doing the yard work.  He had finished both the riding and push mowing and he was ready to tackle the weed-eating.  He was working really fast, because a friend had invited him to spend the night, and he couldn’t go the friend’s house till a certain list of responsibilities (including mowing the yard) was done.

He wears his ski bibs to weed-eat, because, in his words, “Nothing can get through these.”  Weed-eating is fraught with discomfort.  Not only do your arms and back get a workout just from holding the implement, your whole upper torso vibrates till your head starts to rattle.  Of course, 14 year-olds are pretty robust and can deal with all that.  The worst of it, the part that’s unavoidable and painful, is that little things like rocks and clods of dirt and sticks and stuff like that tend, with no warning whatsoever, to fly up to sting your legs.  Sometimes they attack with a vengeance, so Andrew has developed the habit of wearing his ski bibs as armor when weed-eating.  They’re nylon, so whatever hits just slides off, as opposed to jeans, which, while also a fairly good defense, tend to attract debris and leave a person with a ring of grass stain and dirt in the ankle-to-shin range.

At least he’s not wearing his ski goggles, as well.  I know someone who claims they are a most effective tear-preventative when cutting onions.   = )

Maybe pinking shears?

Andrew started this week’s mowing last evening, completing the biggest part of the riding, and he went out this afternoon to finish it.  Scott had told him the whole job had to be done by suppertime tonight.

Well, mid-process, the rider quit working, and it seems to Andrew to have the same symptoms that cost him a $100 repair job last summer.  Sigh.  Hopefully this time it’s something simple that Scott can fix.   So, very disgruntled and very discouraged, Andrew headed back out to push mow the rest of the yard.  I heard the mower running for quite a while and then silence.  Some fifteen minutes later, Andrew entered the office, hot, sweaty, dirty, and trying not to scream.  He informed me that now the push mower won’t work, either.  It had run out of gas, he filled it (two processes that he has probably done successfully a hundred times), and he tried to start it.  It would not start for love or money or ME!  I even went out to hold my mouth right and yank the cord, but neither of us could get so much as a sputter out of the beast.

So much for yard work done by suppertime, and we have church tonight.  I told him to go ahead and do the weed-eating, and he did almost all of that, but the mowing. . . who knows?  Andrew and I jointly hate the fact that mowers are in that specific genus of equipment that simply cannot EVER be relied upon to faithfully perform as designed.

Our grass cutting resource collection seems to be shrinking.

The downside of an early spring

Technically, spring will begin in three days, but it’s been spring around here for the past three weeks!  However, since winter never arrived, maybe we’re really just going from fall to spring.  I can’t remember ever having to do the first mow on St. Patrick’s Day, but that’s how it fell this year.

We’re hosting a life group here tomorrow night, and in Scott’s honor, I have been somewhat stressed about the yard.  Generally, I care about how the inside of the house looks when we have guests.  The only outside part I care deeply about is the porch and walk.  Scott, on the other hand, sees no problem at all with a messy house, just so long as the yard is mowed and neatly weed-eated.

I think the main problem is that we have no lawn; at least not the “real” kind of lawn tended by people who live in subdivisions.  In a couple months this will not matter, because once the weeds get thick enough and we whack them all off at the same height, the uniform greenness will effectively imitate lawn, but right now, there are just too many inconsistencies.  For example, there are the dandelions.  Today, they are blooming so close to the ground that the mower has no effect.  Frustrating little yellow blooms.  And then we have these little purple weeds that are EVERYWHERE in thick four-inch high clumps.  Of course, in a deeper shade of purple we also have a nice but widely scattered collection of grape hyacinths, which I actually like; but in a bed, please!  NOT all over the yard.  Rounding out the unwanted flora are lots of wispy, grasslike green onions.  They’re probably six or seven inches high, but once mown, they are still unsightly mini-imitations of wheat shocks!  Ugh.

I decided the yard had to be mowed before this group, and as I did not want to be working on that project in the forecast 82-degree Sunday afternoon heat, I told Andrew we’d tackle it this (Saturday) morning.

A few days previous, at my insistence, he had already tried unsuccessfully to start the rider.  No surprises there.  It never starts for the first mow, but the push mower had started, which was a hallelujah blessing.  Then there was the weed-eater.  I knew there was something to be done with a little square bottle of oil, so I told Andrew to go read the instructions and fill the weed-eater and try to start it.  He came back in saying that there were no instructions and the weed-eater wouldn’t start.  This was bad news, because the weed-eater is what we really needed to tidy up the front (the part that matter most when guests are coming).  I called our handyman friend and explained that the rider wouldn’t start and would he b3e willing to drop by sometime when he was in the area – he lives some 15 miles away and Walnut Shade is not on his way to anywhere – and take a look at it for pay.  He said he’d come by Saturday.  I also told him about the weed-eater:  that Andrew had poured “some” oil into the reservoir, added “some” gas, and couldn’t start it.  J.R. explained that that bottle of oil was supposed to be pre-mixed into a gallon of gas and THEN poured into the tank.  Well.  He said we’d need to drain it and then he’d take the spark plug out and clean it and see if he couldn’t get it started when he came.  Super nice guy, that J.R.

So this morning, we went out to tackle the yard with only a functional push mower, but lo and behold, here came Andrew driving the rider!  Yee-ha!  Things were looking up.  Why on earth that beast started for the first mow, I have no idea.  Clearly something new and different.  But wait.  It would drive but it wouldn’t mow.  No matter how many times Andrew moved that certain lever, the blade wouldn’t turn.  With my lightning fast mechanical mind, I diagnosed the problem.  Are dangling belts like dangling participles?  The mower’s was hanging at a rakish angle, clearly NOT encircling its intended wheel.  I could not discern a way to get the belt back on, so I had Andrew put the rider away.  That belt will have to be a problem for Scott on another day.

He brought me the push mower and started it for me.  I’m not too good at starting lawn equipment.  I began pushing the front, and I sent Andrew to re-fill the weed-eater’s tank with the pre-mix I had prepared the day before and see if the stars were aligned so as to enable it to start, even though its spark plug had not been cleaned.

God was merciful to us again, and the weed-eater started!  So I mowed and Andrew weed-eated, and when I was about to drop, he took over the mowing.  We only did the front, both sides, and the near back.  The far back is not yet high enough to need mowing, and as the Oldest Female On Premises, I made an executive decision that the mowing of ditches is vastly overrated.

The whole task took us a couple hours, and while the yard doesn’t look stellar, it looks good enough.  I was thankful that we were able to work together to get it done, even with some staffing and equipment deficiencies.  I also texted J.R. that we were fine and to please take care of his own family today.

I am quite sure that yards are really not intended to be mowed till April 15, so does this mean I have to pay taxes today, too?

Feed the birds

That’s a song from “My Fair Lady,” I think.  I like to see birds in our yard, and as everyone knows, the best way to see the birds is to feed the birds.

When we moved to our home over 15 years ago, it came equipped with a nice big wooden bird feeder on a pole in the back yard.  The pole was mounted in concrete in the bed of pink peonies, and the feeder featured clear plexiglass sides and sported a hinged roof, into which, over the years, we dumped innumerable hundreds of pounds of black oil sunflower seed.

Of course, the neighborhood squirrels all know our street address, and it took us quite a lot of experimenting to figure out how to squirrel-proof the pole.  I could give you a list of all things that didn’t work, but I guess all that really matters is the one that did:  an inverted massive plastic dome mounted on the pole about two feet below the feeder.  The dome kept the squirrels from climbing up the pole, but it did not keep them out of the feeder.

Walnut Shade squirrels are a uniquely resourceful sub-species.  They quickly figured out how to climb local trees and/or the smokehouse and fling themselves bodily out onto the roof of the feeder.  They landed with a “thunk” that caused the whole pole to quiver, and even though we have repeatedly trimmed back trees to prevent their acrobatics, they continue to launch themselves with a vengeance.  We have actually watched them leap 15 to 20 feet and stick their landings, gripping their claws catlike into the gradually-rotting wooden feeder roof.

A few months ago, what we greatly feared did finally come upon us.  A male person graciously filled the bird feeder for me, and when he dropped the lid shut, one of the plexiglass sides shattered.  (A male person is reading this post over my shoulder, and he has informed me that the actual reason for the shattering is that a number of years ago, Josiah shot the plexiglass with a BB gun, rendering it structurally weak, causing it to gradually splinter more and more over time and eventually shatter upon roof-dropping impact.  The male person presenting that information is not Josiah.)

Once the plexiglass side was removed in all its shardiness, there was no way to hold the seed in, and so the bird feeder could not be filled.  This was sad for me, sad for the birds, and inconvenient for the squirrels.  The lonely, broken bird feeder stood sentinel on its pole, empty for over two MONTHS, much to my displeasure.

For my birthday, I asked for a bird feeder.  Knowing that in our family, if there’s a certain gift you would like, it’s best to give folks a link to the specific item, I went online to research bird feeders, and I learned that (A) you can no longer buy one a wooden one like our dead one, (B) bird feeder technology has come a long way in the past 20 years, and (C) even a smaller replacement costs an arm and a leg. I was looking for a durable, LARGE (doesn’t have to be filled so often), pole-mountable bird feeder with an easy-open roof.  Easy-open roof is a priority, because although right now Josiah or Andrew fill the feeder, I am smart enough to know that someday those guys will be gone and the task will fall to me.  I, being slight of stature, need a roof that’s easy to open, as I have to strain on tip-toe to do so.

Choosing to temporarily ignore cost, I did locate what I thought would be a quite acceptable bird feeder.  It was metal, which meant it would not rot.  It was pole-mountable, which meant (hopefully) that we could just unscrew the old one and screw on the new one.  It was green (although it also came in blue), which I thought would blend in well with the great outdoors.  It had a “huge”eight-quart seed capacity, which led me to believe that it would surely be even larger than our rotting relic.  But best of all, its little perches that the birds stand on while they eat were spring-loaded and adjustable; meaning that you can set the tension for the weight of birds you want to prohibit from accessing the seed, and when an overweight bird (or a bushy-tailed high flying rodent) steps onto the perch to feed, his own weight slams shut a little window that leaves him looking at the seed but unable to access it!  BRILLIANT!  I won’t mention the price of this nifty contraption, but it was not cheap.

Scott asked me to order myself the bird feeder for my birthday!

It arrived via UPS, and it sat in its large box under the dining room desk for quite a while, mainly because I was afraid to open it and find out that it wouldn’t work on our pole.  I can be silly that way at times.  However, I did eventually open it, and it was truly a thing of beauty.  It is smaller than the former feeder, but that’s just fine.

Scott and Josiah jumped through a lot of hoops and used a lot of tools and did a lot of going in and out and measured and compared a lot of things and discussed a  lot of options, but eventually they did figure out a way to mount that puppy on our existing pole.  Josiah also set the spring-load mechanism to allow blue jays and disallow squirrels, and the feeder is working BEAUTIFULLY!!!  I am so very pleased.

We are seeing all kinds of birds at the new feeder, and so far the only squirrels have been those who sit at the bottom of the pole, gaze upward longingly, and say to each other things like, “Well, son, when I was your age, we leaped off that branch right there and landed on the roof of that feeder.  I can still remember what black oil sunflower seed tastes like. . . “

In with the new!

This morning we planted our new red maple in the front yard.  He’s quite noble and suave-looking.  He’s tall and thin and has much potential.  Much like some other males in my life. . .

Anyway, after a phone call to a nursery and some online research, I have come to the conclusion that I am probably responsible for killing the former red maple by having a flower bed around it.  This is quite sad to me, because I love to grow things, not kill them!!!  However, I am choosing to have the attitude of my friend, Kelly, who, even when criticized, is thankful for the input because she learns something useful for the future.

It seems that there was too much soil (i.e. the flower bed) sitting on the ground around the tree (thereby suffocating its roots), and it also seems to be a major arboreal faux pas to allow significant amounts of soil (i.e. the flower bed) to come in contact with the base of the tree.  Evidently this made it feel claustrophobic and unhappy.

For these reasons, I will now need to re-create a flower bed adjacent to, but not around the new tree.  I have yet to figure out exactly how to do this, so if anyone who’s been to our house has input, please fire away.  You can fire away if you haven’t been to our house, too.

We are all quite excited about our new tree, and after its planting, we encircled it and prayed that it would live and not die and declare the works of God.  We also reminded it of Isaiah 55:10 which says that all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Amen and so be it.

Out with the old


Just as the guys got home from work today, Reggie arrived in his backhoe.  In the space of five minutes he yanked our red maple stump out of what remains of the front flower bed.  He widened the hole for us, wouldn’t take any money, and even hauled the stump away.  Thank you, Reggie.

Next step:  do a little hole prep and plant the new red maple (presently leaning against the porch) in it.

Just a little fire

Saturday was the big leaf-raking-tarping-dragging-burning party here at the home place.  Scott invited a subset of the Browns to come help, and the Fringer kids were found raking, too, which is why we had nine folks here at lunch time.

Josiah was manning the ditch (a.k.a. fire), armed with a rake, a garden hose, and the ever-useful shop vac.  It looked like he was having a grand time.

I come from a heritage of “always thoroughly douse a fire with water before you walk away from it,” but I married into the “if you spread the coals and it looks like it’s out, it’s fine,” mindset.  This has always bothered me, sometimes to the point of insomnia, but I have learned to leave areas outside my control alone.  Besides, even though there’s a fire going in the fireplace at bedtime, the house hasn’t burned down yet, so . . .

So I assumed that the guys had the fire in the ditch out (or as out as it’s likely to be put) by dark on Saturday night.  Actually, I never gave it another thought.  Then Sunday at lunch, we were sitting there eating, and Andrew was doing his usual thing in the dining room:  looking out the window to see if the neighbor kids were about, when he exclaimed, “what’s that smoke?”  Hmmmm.  Good question.  There was a bit of a smoky cloud out there.

The guys immediately tore out of the house – Josiah barefoot, of course – and next thing I knew, I saw Josiah racing back past the window and subsequently dragging the garden hose across behind the playroom and toward the ditch.  There were flames, low ones only a few inches high, burning in the dry leaves on the driveway.  Wow.  It was a windy day, and the live coals in the ditch had evidently caught and then climbed up out of the ditch and partway across the driveway, aiming for the old two-car garage.

Our menfolk quickly doused the flames and then spent quite a bit of time hosing down the ashes and dumping buckets of water (why had all the buckets been hanging in the sandbox tree?) on any areas that still appeared to be smoldering.

It was hard to say nothing, and I confess that I did say to Scott, “note that I am standing here saying nothing.”  To which he made no response, but I think the whole thing gave us all a big enough scare that fires will be better doused in the future.  We collectively shudder to think what would have happened if we had not been home at the time.

The mercy of God.

Green pole leaving

This morning, I was in the kitchen doing something and the boys were in the dining room, supposedly doing their academics, when Andrew called out, “Hey, there’s a guy in our back yard.”  Now, there’s not a lot of foot traffic in general through our neighborhood, and someone walking around in our yard – especially someone we don’t know – is an unusual event.  I pulled on a sweatshirt, grabbed my cell phone and went out to say, “Howdy.”

Turns out it was a guy from our electric co-op, and he announced that they were going to replace the electric pole in our yard.  I said, “You don’t mean that pole right there, the one that my clothes line’s attached to, do you?”  And he replied, “Yes, that’s the pole, and we’ll put your clothes line back.”  I felt better already.

“However,” he continued, “There’s a problem with some tree limbs.”    Oh, great.  I could just see it now:  in addition to one kid’s braces, another kid’s college bills, and an upcoming chimney re-construction (which may fall right on the heels of the just-completed well house and playroom roof replacements) we may be facing even MORE chuh-chings to have trees trimmed – and I don’t mean with tinsel – right before Christmas!

“Ummm. . . what seems to be the problem?” I asked.  He walked with me back by the sandbox and pointed out a couple of places where two or more of the three lines traveling from the clothes line pole to the pole near the well house were being pushed down by overhanging branches leaning on them.  He then explained to me that the branches were causing pressure on the lines, wearing off insulation, and putting a drain on our electric service.  He said it wasn’t enough to cause a short that would trip a breaker, but it could, and if it did, we’d be out of water.  A lack of electricity to the pump is never a good thing.   He finished up by saying, “Those branches really need to be trimmed back,” and then looked at me.

“Well, do you guys do that?”

“Oh, yes.”

“And how much would that cost?”

“There’s no charge, but we don’t do anything about the brush.”

WHEW!!!  Was I ever relieved!  Hauling brush is one reason we have boys, so that would be no problem ay-tall.  He indicated how much they’d trim, and I said that was fine and that he could cut away.  I expected him or the other guys by the truck to whip out a chainsaw and get after it, but no.  The actual job will be done, “some other day,” at which time we’ll be powerless for about two hours.

I then asked him why White River Valley Electric Cooperative suddenly decided to replace our pole.  It just seemed a little random to me.  He explained that they check the poles from time to time and that ours is green.  That means that all the treatment is gone out of it and it is rotting, so if a car hit it (in my yard??!?!?), it might go over easily and take out a lot of other poles with it.  True confessions:   I had never noticed that it looked green, and in fact, it still looks decidedly brown to me.  In any case, my dad says it isn’t easy being green, so maybe that’s why it has to go.

Finally, I asked the guy about the pole near the well house.  As in, what if that one were to turn ‘green,’ too.  He said, “That’s not our pole.  It’s YOUR pole.  That one over there (pointing to the ‘green’ one) is ours.  And actually, your pole is okay.  It’s in pretty good shape.”  Well, that’s good to know!  Truth be told, I have plenty of things to think about without ever even remotely considering the greenness of our electric poles.

For now, we just have a spiffy new non-green pole lying in the grass beside its rotting counterpart.

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