Evolution of a yardman

SOME THINGS just stick in your mind.

As a kid, a century ago, living with my family in Florida, one of my responsibilities was mowing the yard. I was not fond of it.

That ended when I graduated from high school and headed off to college in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt. Ahem!

Flash forward about a quarter century. I bought my first house — in Houston, Texas. It had a yard. Two, actually. One out front abutting the street and another out back abutting the rear neighbors who, strangely, in my nine years there, I never met.

Once again, I was faced with mowing a lawn, and here’s where the moment came that sticks in my mind.

I was mowing the front lawn for the first time, and a neighbor across the street walked over. I mentioned that I had not cut a lawn in decades. Her response was: It hasn’t changed any, has it?

I laughed. No, it had not.

clippersI mowed that lawn for nine years until 1995 when my then-wife divorced me for an illegal-alien yardboy. Just a coincidence that. She worked at a plant nursery.

I moved into an apartment and then another. No yards. And then I moved to Mexico in 2000, renting a two-story house that came with its own yardman. Indeed, I was not confronted with a yard that needed cutting until 2003 when we moved into the new Hacienda.

My new lawnmower was not big, and it sported a Briggs and Stratton motor. Those engines have changed little since I was mowing in Florida. They are clunky. A couple of years later, I bought a bigger, better mower from Sears that came with a good Craftsman motor.

For about six years, I mowed the grass. I got older. I got my wife to chip in, 50-50. I got older. That was when I hired Abel the deadpan neighbor to cut the grass. I still did the edging with a weedeater. I got older still.

About a month ago, I hired a guy down the street who has his own gas weedeater to edge the Hacienda lawn. I am out of the yard business in all its aspects. Last week, after removing the extension cord, I hung my electric weedeater on a wall. That’s all she wrote.

I’ll hit 71 very soon. It’s interesting to watch life wind down.

Time to smell the roses, which hopefully are not growing overhead.

Winter cut & sweep

stone

I’VE ALWAYS loved stone, and now I live with it. Loved mountains too, and now I live among them. Don’t forget cool weather, and here I am in eternal cool. It’s a perfect world.*

Normally, the yard doesn’t need a cut in January. Usually, we stop in November, or rather Abel the Deadpan Yardman loses his summer gig in November. I quit mowing years ago.

But we’ve had the occasional unseasonable rain of late, and the lawn gobbled it up, deciding it was summer, and grew a bit, mostly around edges. The lawnmower wouldn’t crank, so I turned to the weed eater.

(Aside:  I saw someone with a grass blower the other day, and it was strange. Though Mexicans are always noisily blowing everything above the Rio Bravo — or did when I  lived there — a blower here is rarely seen.)

Out to the yard I went. The sidewalk is stone, and so is the Alamo Wall. The mountains soared in the near distance, and the sun was shining sweetly through the 70-degree air. I sighed. It was Heaven, honey.

But there was work to do, so I started the edging. The weed eater is electric, so no physical effort is required. Since most of the high grass was around edges, it didn’t take long. Down the sidewalk, around the property wall, under the bougainvilleas and fan palm and other stuff. Then a good sweep with an old broom.

The first winter cut and, with good fortune, the last.

A month ago, I posted First fire, last rose in which I imagined the sole rose out in yard was the last of the season. Boy, was I mistaken. After a couple of near freezes in December, the climate has returned to November’s style, and it’s wonderful. We have a number of new roses and golden datura.

And more fires have been ignited, the last being on Thursday, dead leaves from the loquat and pear trees. Fires provide the aroma of Autumn, and that’s real nice.

* * * *

Once a year I climb the circular stairs to the roof to sweep. But that only puts me atop the second story, which covers most of the house. The kitchen area is just one story, so that requires hauling a ladder to the service patio out back to ascend to that part, which is the part that most needs a sweep.

roofThis is the kitchen roof, swept pretty clean, that you see in the foreground. The tile roof farther on, left side, is the roof of the Garden Patio. Roofs of red clay tile don’t get swept. After some decades, it’s a good idea to remove them for a good shake and brushing, however. God knows what you might find. Bats probably.

* * * *

* Most of my life was spent in South Georgia, North Florida, South Louisiana and East Texas, places notable for lack of stones and mountains and an excess of sweltering heat. I’ve done a 180. Praise be, brother!

First fire, last rose

fireWE STAND ASTRIDE the cusp of two seasons. Fall and winter. And today they held hands.

The rose bushes out by the stone wall, in an heroic final effort, birthed a bloom. I’m sure it will be the last we’ll see till next Spring. I cut it, and it now sits in a rosebud vase on the dining room table, looking lovely.

After settling the rose into its spot, I returned to the yard, picked up a large rake and started to toil. Beneath the loquat tree was a sea of dead and dry leaves.  I made a mountain.

Nearby was another ocean of dead leaves. They had descended from a pear tree. They too were brown, but they were damp. I collected them into a separate pile not too distant from the loquats.

I was hesitant to burn them together due to the quantity. Once last year a blaze got away from me, causing quite a bit of dashing about and bellowing. I’m too old for that. But the grass was brown then. Now it’s still green. No matter. Two fires are preferred. Last year someone laughed at my predicament.

Dignity must be maintained.

I got a bit of ocote in hand, plus a lighter. Ocote is starter wood that burns readily. I had a piece the size of my thumb. I lit it and slowly sank it into the loquat leaves. It began to spread. I stood back.

roseThe pile in the photo above are the loquats.

When that hill had almost burned out, I raked the pear leaves atop the smoldering loquats. As mentioned, the pears were damp. Dry leaves burn nicely. Wet leaves do not burn at all. Damp leaves can burn, but they smoke. Man, do they ever smoke.

I would have been executed in California. I sent massive smoke plumes throughout the neighborhood.

But I was burning leaves, for Pete’s sake. It was neither nuclear waste nor even plastic bottles. It was a natural, if bountiful, smoke arising from some of the Goddess’ own children. I felt no guilt.

So the lawn looks better now, and there’s a rose in the dining room, the second loveliest thing in the Hacienda.

I am married to Number One, of course.