2020 Leaf Campaign Update – Week #4, the Grand Finale!

Photo above taken Saturday, Nov. 21st. No leaves remaining on the oak trees.

Last week was a VERY good week in the 2020 Leaf Campaign, with all of the oak trees prematurely releasing most of their leaves because of a warm stretch of weather, resulting in my hauling 34 tarps of leaves to the curb. This past week was the finale and there was a bit more work than I expected.

Thursday, Nov. 19 – The few remaining leaves had fallen from the oaks and some of my less-fastidious neighbors’ leaves had swirled into our yard due to some high winds, so I gave the entire yard a once-over with the leafblower, corralling the backyard leaves into piles and blowing the leaves in the front yard to the curb.

Friday, Nov. 20 – Seven tarpfulls. I raked the leaf piles in the backyard onto my tarp and made multiple trips dragging them to the curb. I also began removing the leaves from a large ivy patch in the back corner of our lot with my metal rake. It’s a very painstaking job, which is why I always save it for last. I removed about two-thirds of the leaves from the ivy patch, saving the balance for Saturday.

Saturday, Nov. 21 – One tarpfull. I finished removing the leaves from the ivy patch, accumulating one large tarpfull. I also got on the roof and blew out the small amount of leaves in the gutters before the snow falls.

Number of tarpfulls, week #4 = 8
Total number of tarpfulls to date = 67
Percentage of leaf campaign completed to date = 112%

Huh? 112%? I’ve always used 60 tarps as the estimated total number of tarps per seasonal campaign and it’s always worked out pretty close, but this year I ended up with 67 tarps. I’m guessing some of that spike can be attributed to the fact that I purposely didn’t load as many leaves onto the tarp on average due to my advancing age. 👴🏻

That’s it folks! I’m happy to say the 2020 Leaf Campaign is complete, a full two-weeks ahead of schedule! Thanks for all of the support and encouragement throughout the campaign!

Leaf campaign trivia: After raking leaves for 12 years, I finally broke down in 2016 and bought my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower. It’s been a HUGE help in dealing with the leaves, but it’s a bit temperamental. The salesperson warned me that I should use non-ethanol, specially-blended, high-octane, Husqvarna-brand gasoline sold in cans at the dealership. But that stuff is VERY expensive, especially for a guy like me with TONS of leaves. Instead, I buy non-ethanol, 89-octane gas at a Fastrac gas station near me, and add Husqvarna two-cycle engine oil. Sometimes the leafblower sputters like a Model-T jalopy and other times it roars like a well-tuned Pratt & Whitney jet engine. It still beats raking even when it’s not blowing air, full-throttle.

Week #1
Week #2
Week #3

2020 Leaf Campaign Update – Week #3

Photo above taken Saturday a.m., Nov. 14th. Only 2% of the leaves are still on the oak trees

Wow! What a week!

Week #3 of the 2020 Leaf Campaign began as normal.

Monday, Nov. 9Four tarpfulls hauled to the curb

However, a seven-day stretch of unusually warm, dry, sunny weather had accelerated the “abscission” process, and the oak trees began prematurely shedding their leaves en masse, in numbers I’ve never seen before. The result…

Tuesday, Nov. 10Nine tarpfulls to the curb. I also cleared the roof, gutters, and front yard.

Wednesday, Nov. 11 – Seventeen tarpfulls. Yes, folks, seventeen! In my sixteen seasons of removing the leaves from this property, I had never before hauled so many leaves in one day. I believe my previous one-day record was thirteen. I also cleared the roof, gutters, and front yard.

After dragging twenty-six tarpfulls of leaves to the curb in two days, I was physically spent, to put it mildly, and took Thursday off.

Friday, Nov. 13 – Four tarpfulls. I also cleared the roof, gutters, and front yard.

Number of tarpfulls, week #3 = 34
Total number of tarpfulls to date = 59
Percentage of leaf campaign completed to date = 98%

Because of the unanticipated early leaf fall precipitated by the unusual weather conditions, the 2020 Leaf Campaign is almost complete, three full weeks ahead of schedule! Unbelievable!

Leaf campaign trivia: Besides removing the leaves from the lawn, the other problem with living in a house amidst so many oak trees is that the gutters constantly fill up with leaves in the Fall and with catkins in the Spring. If a rain comes and the gutters are not cleaned out, the downspouts become clogged and the rainwater seeps over the gutters. We have one particular stretch of gutter where the rainwater seeps over and down into the basement window wells and the next thing you know, I’m removing rainwater from the basement floor with a wet vac. But climbing an extension ladder and getting up on the roof and cleaning out the gutters with a handheld electric blower is dangerous for a young guy, let alone a 64-year-old. My wife keeps nagging me, er, I mean, lovingly warning me to stay off the roof and have gutter guards installed. But gutter guards have mixed reviews. They’re expensive, they don’t keep out all of the leaf and catkin material, and they limit water intake in a heavy downpour. What to do? This is a problem that won’t go away and only get’s more dangerous for every year that I age.

Above: Yup, that’s me corralling leaves in our backyard this past week with my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower.

2020 Leaf Campaign Update – Week #2

Photo above taken Sunday a.m., Nov. 8th. – 58% of the leaves are still on the oak trees

I’m pleased to report that Week #2 of the 2020 Leaf Campaign went very well. A brief summary:

Monday, Nov. 2 – The wet, cold, and windy weather that arrived in Rochester last Sunday continued into the evening and early Monday morning. When day broke, there was a substantial number of leaves on the back lawn. After taking care of a few other chores, I fired up the Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and collected the backyard leaves into large mounds and also blew all of the frontyard leaves to the curb. I then raked the backyard leaves onto my tarp and dragged five tarpfulls to the curb.

A spate of unseasonably warm and dry weather precipitated some major leaf-fall for the balance of the week, enabling me to hit the leaves hard.

Wednesday, Nov. 4 – I cleared the roof and gutters with my handheld electric blower.

Thursday, Nov. 5Four tarpfulls to the curb

Friday, Nov. 6Four tarpfulls to the curb.

Saturday, Nov. 7 – Three tarpfulls to the curb. In addition, I once again cleared the roof, gutters and frontyard.

Number of tarpfulls, week #2 = 16
Total number of tarpfulls to date = 25
Percentage of leaf campaign completed to date = 42%

Week #2 was very productive with 16 tarpfulls and I’m closing in on the 30-tarpfulls halfway point. But all of the activity this past week really tired me out – I feel like I was hit by a Mack truck – so I’m taking a break from the leaves today.

Leaf campaign trivia: Every year, my lovely wife remarks that she thinks my leaf collection process is inefficient. She believes it would be much more efficient to wait until all of the leaves fell before collecting them, which, she suggests, would leave me more time to address her to-do list. Every year I must explain that waiting until the beginning of December, when most/all of the leaves are down would mean processing 60 tarpfulls in the one week prior to the last town pickup; a guaranteed coronary event. And there’s the very-real possibility of snow at that time, which would interfere with the collection process. With the help of my leafblower, I’m able to collect and process the 60 total tarpfulls over the course of 6 weeks, which still breaks down to a very challenging amount of leaves to process each week.

Above: Tarpfulls #s 7-25 piled up on the curb and awaiting pickup by the town.

2020 Leaf Campaign Update – Week #1

Photo above taken Sunday, Nov. 1st. – 85% of the leaves are still on the oak trees

I thought I’d send out a weekly update every Sunday on the status of my 2020 Leaf Removal Campaign.

I usually drag 60 tarpfulls of leaves from our backyard to the front curb every season. The campaign usually starts the last week of October and ends the first week of December, when the oak trees finally give up their last remaining leaves.

Some leaves fell early this year, so I got a jump on the season, beginning on Friday, October 16. Using my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and my sturdy metal rake, I corralled 3 tarpfulls of leaves and dragged them to the curb. On Friday, October 23, I was able to collect and haul another 3 tarpfulls. The town highway department picked up that leaf pile a few days later.

I anticipated gathering up another 3 tarpfulls today, but after watching our livestream church service this morning, I saw it was sprinkling slightly outside with heavy rain forecasted for the afternoon. Too bad. Leaves don’t wait. I fired up the Husqvarna, gathered up the leaves, and hauled 3 tarpfulls to the curb. The rain was very slight and didn’t slow me down.

Total number of tarpfulls to date = 9
Percentage of tarpfulls completed to date = 15%

After I finished working on the leaves today, the weather worsened dramatically as forecasted with heavy rain and some wind, resulting in many leaves coming down. I anticipate hauling at least three more tarpfulls tomorrow.

With approximately 51 tarpfulls remaining, I need to average 10.2 tarpfulls per week for the next 5 weeks.

Tarpfulls 7-9 resting on the curb

Yet another summer painting (just a portion of) the house

A couple of weeks ago, I completed painting one-quarter of our house, an annual project. House painting is quite a painstaking endeavor and I’m glad the job’s complete. I have a few thoughts:

When we bought this house in 2004, it was based on emotional impulse rather than cool analysis. From my standpoint, there were MANY drawbacks to the house and property, including the fact that the house had wooden shingles that would require regular painting. I do think wood shingles look better than vinyl siding, but the upkeep that’s required is a negative. Our previous house had aluminum siding, which meant I didn’t have to paint for the entire twenty-two years we lived there.

The previous owner of this house had it painted immediately prior to putting it on the market, so I knew it was good-to-go for several years after we moved in, but I waited way too long. By the time I finally painted, nine years later in 2013, the house was starting to look shabby with the paint layer becoming very thin and peeling away in many places. Because I had waited so long, the preparation (scraping, sanding, and priming) was intense, plus the entire house needed two coats of paint to cover properly. It was MAMMOTH undertaking. Condo, anyone?

I remember whining about my travails to a co-worker, and he recommended an excellent strategy. He himself had a routine of painting one-quarter of his house every summer and taking one season off after each cycle. This five-year strategy required minimum prep and only one coat of paint because the paint layer wasn’t given the opportunity to degrade to a significant degree.

I’ve been using that strategy ever since and it works great. Yes, I’m painting four years out of five, but it’s not a HUGE, backbreaking project.

I painted the southwest area of the house this summer (photo above). I usually procrastinate and wait until early-September to begin painting, but I felt ambitious this year and started in early-August. The early start meant that I could pay A LOT of attention to detail, like thoroughly filling in cracks and holes and priming and painting the wooden lattice on the inner-windows. The early start and finish means I have a nice long break before the backbreaking leaf season, which begins in earnest the last week of October and stretches to the first week of December.

Thanks to my blogging friends who offered their support and encouragement this painting season! Thank you, Lord, for our shelter! Whenever it’s raining, cold, and snowy outside, I often forget to thank God for a warm, dry abode. It’s our place to eat our meals, to relax on the couch after a strenuous undertaking, and to sleep in the evenings.

Postscript: As you can see from the photo, our house is a ranch so when I paint I only need to use an extension ladder on the four gables. Painting a two-story house is a real bear of a job, as I remember from back when I helped my father paint the old family home.

Goodbye, lukewarm/lukecold refrigerator!

My wife and I purchased our current house sixteen years ago in 2004. It was strictly an emotional purchase. There were many, many obvious drawbacks to the house and property that were disregarded in the heat of the buying moment. We were in competition with other buyers and were advised by our realtor that we needed to make an offer immediately after our first and only viewing. Argh!

An elderly couple, the Fords, were the previous owners of the house. They spent the winters in Florida and didn’t put much money into the house up here in Rochester for several decades. Everything in the house screamed 1975. No updates. All of the appliances were old, old, old.

After we moved in, we updated various parts of the house when we could, but we weren’t millionaires. We had to prioritize. Sometimes it was by necessity when some old system (bathroom tiling, furnace, AC, oven, linoleum, etc.) reached its limit. The old, beige GE refrigerator in the kitchen was already laboring pretty hard when we bought the place. Every year, it struggled a little bit harder to keep the food cold. The recommended fridge temperature is 40F, but even with the settings set to the max, our fridge’s temp was about 50F (and even higher on warm days) according to the small thermometer we kept inside. On a hot summer day, if we didn’t have the air conditioning running, the ice cream in the freezer would partially melt. My wife and I put off buying a new fridge as long as possible, our budget is very tight these days, but a few weeks ago another bowl of partially-melted ice cream was the last straw. It was time to go refrigerator shopping.

I really don’t like to shop, but it had to be done. We spent an entire afternoon at the local Home Depot and Lowes big-box stores getting an education about refrigerators. My wife preferred a side-by-side model, but we were somewhat constricted by space because of a cabinet over the fridge area that would only accommodate models under 69″ high, which ruled out many options. The sales people at the two stores said delivery would be at least a month or six weeks away because the pandemic has played havoc with the new appliances supply chain.

I returned home with a headache from the shopping blitz. A relative suggested we try a smaller, family-owned appliance store in town; Charlotte Appliance. We drove to the store the next morning and they had one Whirlpool side-by-side model left. We jumped on it. Badda bing, badda boom. Three days later the new fridge was delivered and installed (top photo).

My wife and I are so appreciative that the food in the new fridge is actually COLD and the ice cream is frozen SOLID. Whoopee!!!

As a semi-humorous aside, whenever I heard/read Revelation 3:15-16 and its mention of “lukewarm” the last ten or so years, I thought of our struggling GE fridge and its lukewarm/lukecold food.

Postscript: Sorry, I should have included a “before” photo of our old GE jalopy fridge.

Sometimes calamities are a matter of only a fraction of an inch!

Sometimes in this life, little things, even VERY little things, can have BIG consequences. I’ve related previously that our house is surrounded by oak trees; our trees and also our neighbors’ trees, many of which bend over our property. The result is a MASSIVE amount of oak leaves that fall into the yard in October-November-December and must be cleaned up by “moi.” In May-June, a large amount of “catkins” (i.e., tree flowers) fall from the trees. What happens in both circumstances is the roof gutters become completely clogged up and when it rains the downspouts become plugged and the rainwater seeps over the gutters, filling the basement window wells, and then coming in through the windows and flooding into the basement.

I have to be extremely meticulous about keeping our gutters cleaned out during both time periods, otherwise I will end up mopping up the water on our basement floor, not an easy task with all of the stuff we store down there. Praise the Lord for our shop-vac! Despite my determined efforts to keep the gutters free of debris, I’ve had to clean up water on the basement floor at least once per year since we moved in fifteen years ago.

I did a very thorough job of cleaning the catkins out of the gutters this past May-June so when we had a torrential downpour while I was at work a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t too worried about it. But when I got home, I checked the basement and, sure enough, a good amount of rain water had seeped in and was on the floor. I immediately checked the suspected downspout and it was clear. Huh? So how did that happen? Well, I had a strong suspicion.

A few years ago, we had all of our gutters replaced. There’s a 36 inch strip of gutter situated near the bathroom window and above the basement window where the water had leaked in (see photo #1 above). Ah, I could see the problem!  The distance between the bottom of the gutter and the bottom of the fascia board at point A was 1 inch, while the distance at point B was only 3/4 inch (see photo #2 below). The gutter company had not been careful about how they installed the short strip of gutter. The short gutter piece was slopped the wrong way, towards the house! Anytime there was a really heavy downpour and the gutter filled up, a good amount of water spilled over the wrong-way sloping gutter, down into the basement window well, and into the basement. In this case, just a half-an-inch made a HUGE difference and I had to suffer the consequences.

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So, I got out my trusty tools, repositioned the gutter, and secured it. The space at point A is still 1 inch while the position at point B is now one and 1/4 inches (see photo #3 below). Rainwater coming into the gutter will now flow away from the house instead of towards it.

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Success! I’m grateful to the Lord for helping me to understand what the problem was and how to fix it. As I was thinking about this issue, it struck me that in our spiritual walk with the Lord, there may be sinful behaviors and habits in our life that we think are very small or minor, but that could lead to BIG consequences or even disaster. A little laziness. A small accommodation. A tiny compromise. What “little” sin are we hanging onto that is an idol in our life and has the potential to eventually overtake us?

Take inventory of yourself, brothers and sisters, and see if you have any sinful habits or behaviors that are “sloped the wrong way,” towards our own selfish desires and away from God. We are just weak jars of clay, but praise God for His grace and the Holy Spirit who works through us!

“I considered my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies.” – Psalm 119:59

“How many are my iniquities and sins? Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.” – Job 13:23

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7