Spiritual Lessons from Spring Clean-up!

Above photo: Gracie and I are hard at work in the backyard

Followers of this blog know that every Fall, I whine on and on about my arduous Leaf Collection Campaign. Every November and the first couple of weeks of December, much of my spare time is consumed with collecting all of the leaves that fall from the oak trees in our yard and from those in neighbors’ yards bordering our property (Argh!). This last campaign, I hauled 70 tarpfulls of leaves to the curb. Nope, that’s not a typo. 7-0 tarpfulls.

Anyway, I had 3 months to convalesce and now I’m in the middle of the Spring Clean-up Campaign. That entails:

  1. Collecting all of the large branches and twigs that fell throughout the Winter.
  2. Picking up all of our dog’s droppings from the last 3 months.
  3. Raking the lawn thoroughly with a metal rake to remove small twigs, acorns, dead grass, “snow mold,” and all leaves leftover from the Fall.
  4. Using a metal rake to carefully remove all of the leaves that accumulated in the ivy and pachysandra patches in the yard.

I’ve completed steps #1 and #2 and I’m methodically still working on #3 and #4. Our lawn is about 1/2 acre and raking the entire area is a lot of work for a senior citizen. I’ve brought 11 very full paper lawn bags to the curb so far. The large amount of leaves in the ivy and pachysandra will require hauling tarpfulls to the curb.

The good thing about Spring Clean-up is I get to be outside and breath lots of fresh air after being cooped up inside for three months. I also get to listen to good sermons via my iPhone and earbuds while I’m working.

A spiritual lesson often comes to mind when I’m raking in the Spring. As I drag the metal rake over the grass, it removes unwanted objects, but it’s also stressful on the grass. I’m not one who credits plants with having feelings, but if they did those grass blades would be letting out a big “Ouch!” every time I dragged that metal rake over them. While the raking is stressful to the grass, in the big picture it’s very helpful as I’m removing dead grass (dethatching) and exposing more of the soil to air and moisture for a healthier lawn.

The Bible says that God has us go through difficulties and trials to refine us to be more like Jesus Christ. We often accumulate bad habits and temptations in our lives that need a good cleaning out. When the negative attachments are removed, our spiritual walk with the Lord becomes sweeter and healthier.

The Lord’s discipline may be uncomfortable and even painful in the short term, but in the big picture we will praise the Lord for His wise and perfect care.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:4-11

Postscript: No raking today! A thin blanket of snow is covering all of the lawns here in Rochester.

2021 Leaf Campaign – Week #6

After five weeks into the 2021 Leaf Campaign, I had dragged a total of 63 tarpfulls of leaves to the curb. But there were some defiant leaves still clinging to the oak trees. How would I make out in week #6?

The weatherman had forecasted a very windy day for Monday with wind gusts expected to reach 60 mph. I was both pleased and disappointed to hear that because, while the wind would knock off the remaining leaves from the trees, it would also blow the neighbors’ leaves into our yard. I took Monday off from the leaf campaign due to the approaching chaos, a welcomed break after an exhausting work weekend. As predicted, strong winds rolled into Rochester in the afternoon, and as I anticipated, all but a few of the remaining leaves were knocked off the trees (Yay! See photo above) and many of the neighbors’ leaves blew into our yard (Boo!).

The wind was gone when I woke up Tuesday morning, but there was a large amount of leaves scattered on the ground in the front and back yards. At 9:30AM, I strapped on my boots and fired up my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower for the final assault. In the backyard, I corralled the leaves into two large piles, while in the front yard I blew the leaves into the existing mammoth leaf pile at the curb. I then got out my rake and tarp and began the process of raking the leaves onto the tarp and dragging them to the curb. Five weeks of leaf work had taken its toll. I was physically exhausted. But I wasn’t going to quit with victory in sight, so I pressed forward. The positive was that the leaves were very dry for a change and I was able to rake huge amounts onto the tarp. At 1:30PM, I put away the rake and folded up the tarp. The tally for the day was 7 very large tarpfulls of leaves taken to the curb. Phew! I was a physically-drained zombie the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Hurrah! The 2021 Leaf Campaign is over! There’s still some leaves in the ivy and pachysandra patches that I may get to if there’s a mild spell, but for all intents and purposes the campaign is over. The grand total? Drumroll please. This year I dragged a total of 70 tarpfulls to the curb. Why 10 more tarpfulls this year than my usual 60? Wet conditions predominated this year, making the leaves heavier and resulting in more trips.

I’m still thrilled by the great assistance provided by my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower, which I bought just prior to the 2016 Leaf Campaign. I can’t believe I raked the leaves for twelve years prior to buying the leafblower. However, dragging tarps to the curb is a younger man’s job. I sensed I was overreaching my declining physical limits while dragging tarps to the curb this year. Acquiring a riding mower with leaf collection capabilities is a must prior to the 2022 Leaf Campaign.

Thanks for following along with me the last six weeks. All I want to do for the next month is sit on the couch and blog and read books. Huh? What’s that, dear? The to-do list? Ach!

Postscript: I wrote the above on Thursday. High winds subsequently blew into Rochester Saturday afternoon and evening with gusts in the mid-70s mph, a more powerful windstorm than Monday’s. I’m waiting for daylight to assess the leaf situation. I know I will have to leafblow at least the backyard again because of leaves that blew into our yard from the yards of neighbors who are less attentive and considerate about their leaves. I complain about having to do more leafwork, but I know Saturday’s severe windstorms and tornadoes were the cause of devastation and death in the South-Central USA.

Above photo taken last week: The neighbor next door, a man ten years younger than myself, has the same amount of leaves as me, but doesn’t remove them. His leaves swirl and blow into the adjoining yards throughout the long, windy Winter. In the Spring, he hires a crew to remove the much-diminished leaves that remain.

2021 Leaf Campaign – Week #5

After 4 weeks into the 2021 Leaf Campaign, I had dragged a total of 54 tarps of leaves to the curb. In my last update, I had speculated that only 10% to 15% of the leaves remained on the oaks. That estimate was definitely on the low side. How did I fare in week #5?

Monday was a wash-out. A thin coating of snow prevented me from working on the leaves. But I wasn’t upset. I truly needed a break after a particularly exhausting work-weekend.

By Tuesday mid-afternoon, most of the snow had melted, so I fired up my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and collected the fallen leaves in the backyard, hauling 4 tarps to the curb.

On Wednesday, I climbed the extension ladder to the roof and blew the leaves out of the gutters. I also raked up 1 tarpfull of leaves that had collected near the front entranceway. The leaves that swirl through the neighborhood routinely collect in the “coves” of the front entranceway and garage.

Thursday was a breezy day and the leaves were coming down from the trees at a good clip. I fired up my backpack leafblower and collected the leaves in the backyard, including those that had accumulated in the ivy patch in the corner of the lot. I ended up dragging 4 more tarpfulls to the curb. A few hours after I finished, it looked like I hadn’t done a thing because of the leaves that continued to fall and others that swirled into our yard from the neighbors. The gutters were completely filled again.

Week #5 saw 9 more tarpfulls hauled to the curb, making 63 total for the campaign. I’m going to end up with significantly more than my usual 60 tarpfulls because of the wet conditions this year. Thursday afternoon there were still some leaves left on the trees as you can see from the photo above. It’s pitch dark when I do my weekend work commutes, so I’m waiting for daylight this morning to see what I’m up against. The weatherman is forecasting rain today and very high winds, so there’s going to be a serious amount of leafswirl in the neighborhood. No surrender! The campaign continues into week #6!

2021 Leaf Campaign – Week #4

Week #3 in the 2021 Leaf Campaign saw my tarp total reach 28, about 47% of the projected grand total of 60 tarps. How did things go this past week #4?

After my three-day work-weekend, I woke up Monday morning to a backyard full of leaves. I strapped on my trusty Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and corralled all of the leaves into two large piles and ended up dragging 7 tarpfulls to the curb. I could have dragged more, but I didn’t want to overtax myself as I had the previous Monday.

I woke up Tuesday morning to a couple of inches of snow covering the yard, definitely not good circumstances for leaf removal. Good thing I had a couple of leaf piles leftover from Monday, enabling me to drag 4 tarpfulls to the curb.

Snow still covered the ground Wednesday morning, but a high of 48F was predicted. By 3PM, most of the snow in the backyard had melted. I fired up my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower, corralled all of the backyard leaves, and hauled 7 tarpfulls top the curb, once again purposely limiting myself.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, but family wasn’t coming over for dinner until 4PM, so I was able to hit the leaves pretty hard. I raked up the leaves that inevitably gather near the front of the house, taking 2 full tarpfulls to the curb. I then cleaned up the mound of leaves in the backyard leftover from Wednesday, hauling 2 more tarps to the road. I hadn’t cleaned up the front yard in awhile and it had a healthy accumulation of leaves, so I started up my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and blew all of those leaves to the curb.

Friday was a work holiday and I had intended to get some rest, but the morning was perfect for leaf duty so I fired up the Husqvarna and cleaned up the backyard and both side yards. The result? 4 more tarps to the curb.

Wow! Week #4 was very productive! I hauled 26 tarps to the curb in five days, bringing my total tarp tally for the 2021 Leaf Campaign to 54 tarps. As you can see from the above photo right, probably around 10%-15% of the leaves are still on the trees. Can we finally put this campaign to bed in week #5?

2021 Leaf Campaign – Week #3

As I reported last Monday, the leaves on our oak trees were finally beginning to turn color and drop in earnest. How did week #3 in the leaf campaign go?

Monday’s forecast called for rain and snow, but the leaf campaign doesn’t stop for weather. At 11AM, I strapped on my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and blew all of the leaves that had fallen in the backyard over the weekend into two very large piles. I then commenced raking the leaves onto the tarp and dragging the tarp to the front and dumping them along the curb. Because of the drizzle and snow, the leaves and the tarp were wet and heavy. The wet grass did not facilitate dragging the tarp, either. I finished at 3PM, totally exhausted. I ended up dragging 12 tarpfulls to the curb. I believe my record haul for a single day is 13 tarps. Needless to say, I was semi-comatose the rest of the afternoon and evening until I finally hit the sack.

Unlike Monday, Tuesday was a nice, sunny day. While the leaves continued to fall, there wasn’t a huge accumulation overnight. I leafblowed the east side of the backyard and collected and dragged 3 tarpfulls to the curb, a relative and much-needed respite compared to the previous day. I also blew the leaves in the front yard to the curb and mowed the front lawn for the last time this season.

Wednesday was an overcast day, but no rain. I leafblowed the west side of the backyard, collecting and dragging 2 tarpfulls to the curb. I also mowed the backyard west side for the last time of the season.

Rain was forecast for Thursday and at the crack of dawn I could see the leaves coming down fast as the low-pressure system moved in and the wind picked up. Then the rain started. Would Thursday be a wash out? The campaign doesn’t stop for a little wet weather! I strapped on my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and collected all of the leaves in the backyard into two big mounds. Just like Monday, the leaves were heavy from the rain and I quit after 5 tarpfulls, leaving the second mound of leaves for Monday.

The 22 tarps I collected in week #3 was a very decent haul. That gives me a total of 28 tarps so far in the campaign, 47% of the projected 60 tarp goal. I have a long way to go.

Huh? Hang on a second, folks.

“What’s that, dear? The to-do list? Sorry, the to-do list is on-ice until January!”

Looking out the sliding glass doors at our backyard this morning, I see that a lot of leaves fell over the course of my work-weekend. I definitely have my work cut out for me for week #4.

Monday, November 22nd, 8AM

2021 Leaf Campaign – Week #2

In my 2021 Leaf Campaign Week #1 kickoff update, published Sunday Nov. 7, I reported that the leaves on our oak trees remained stubbornly affixed to the branches. I had hauled only two tarps of leaves to the curb at that point compared to twenty-five tarps at the same time last year. Not an auspicious start.

Things improved a teeny bit last week. On Monday, I collected the small amount of leaves that had fallen over my work-weekend, just one tarpfull.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had some great weather in Rochester with warm temps and lots of sunshine that began to loosen the leaves’ grip on their branches. There was a noticeable change in the color of the leaves from green to amber-green. A slight breeze periodically blew through the tree tops and a noticeable amount of leaves rained down.

On Thursday morning, I got out my Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower and corralled three tarpfulls of leaves, making four tarps for week #2 and six tarps so far for the 2021 Campaign. That means there’s still around 54 tarpfulls of leaves still on the trees. Not good. At this time last year, just about all of the leaves had fallen (see photo above).

Postcript: It was cold and wet over the weekend while I was at work and A LOT of leaves came down. Rain is forecast for today and Thursday, so it looks like my window to collect leaves this week is going to be tomorrow and Wednesday.

2021 Leaf Campaign Kickoff? – Week #1

We have many oak trees in our backyard, not to mention the neighbors’ oaks that lean over our property. That makes for a lot of great shade in the summertime and a lot of falling leaves in autumn. I mean A LOT of leaves. Every year at this time, I gird my loins and start collecting and dragging the leaves from the backyard to the curb, where our town’s highway department picks them up. A typical leaf campaign starts the last week of October and ends the first week of December and involves around 60 tarpfulls of leaves. You read that right, 60 tarpfulls.

We moved into this house in 2004 and for 12 years I took foolish pride in corralling all of those leaves with just a rake, a tarp, and lots of elbow grease. But in 2016, I finally “tapped out” and bought a powerful Husqvarna 350BT backpack leafblower. Man, I should have bought me a Husqvarna way back when we first moved in!

Today’s November 7th and by this time I’ve usually dragged around 25 tarpfulls to the curb. But climate change is kicking in and the oak trees are hanging onto their leaves even longer (see photo above). To date, I’ve collected only 2 tarpfulls. Let’s do the math. There’s 4 weeks left in the campaign and 58 tarpfulls still on the trees, which works out to about 15 tarpfulls per week. I work Friday thru Sunday, so on my 4 days off I will need to collect and haul 4 tarpfulls per day. But it will inevitably be raining on some days, so I’ll need to move even more leaves per day on the good days. That’s a part-time job in addition to my regular full-time job.

I’m not getting any younger and following some recent leaf campaigns I’ve blustered/whined about selling this house and moving into a work-free condo. But the current plan is to stay in the house for as long as possible. I’ll be retiring at the end of November 2022 and the outside housework and yardwork will be a much welcomed diversion. A small riding lawnmower would be a huge help in cutting the grass and hauling the leaves, so I anticipate I’ll be purchasing one of those in the next year or two.

How are you doing with your own leaf campaign?

Throwback Thursday: Spiritual lessons from raking leaves

My 2021 House Painting Campaign: D-O-N-E!

My parents’ large, two-story house had wooden shingles and I had to help my Dad paint it a few times back when I was a teenager. Ach. Definitely not a fun job. My wife and I moved into our first house in 1979. It was aluminum sided, which meant I didn’t have to paint the exterior for the 22 years we lived there. We moved into our current house in 2004 and it has wooden shingles. Double ach! What was I thinking? I’m still trying to figure out why warning rockets didn’t go off in my head as we contemplated buying. Well, the house was freshly painted at the time so the misery seemed 100 years away. But then I waited way too long. After nine years, the exterior was starting to look shabby. I had to do a tremendous amount of scraping and priming. The weathered shingles soaked up the paint like a thirsty deer drinking at a cool stream (Psalm 42:1). One coat wasn’t enough. I had to paint the entire house with two coats. I vowed to never let things get so out of hand again. I took a three-year break and put my new plan in place. I would paint a quarter of the house every summer with a one-summer break. Sure, there’s now painting almost every summer, but there’s very little prep work and it’s a much more manageable task including applying only one coat of paint.

The southeast quarter of the house (see photo above) was due for painting this summer. I procrastinated for as long as possible, but finally took a trip to Home Depot on August 11th, buying a can of primer, two cans of paint, and a few other supplies. Our house is a ranch, so, thankfully, there’s not a lot of extension ladder work. While there wasn’t a crazy amount of prepping, I did come across some fascia board that had some water rot. How did I miss it the last time I painted that area? I must have had a lazy streak that summer.

I began by cleaning, taping, scraping, and priming as needed. I then painted all of the trim and shingle crevice areas by brush. The aforementioned is all very slow and tedious work. After the trim was done, I rolled the shingles. Boy, a roller sure beats a brush. I then worked on the rotted fascia area. I didn’t replace the rotted wood, but covered it over with a sheet of galvanized sheet metal, formed to fit and thoroughly primed and painted. Looks great!

The process wasn’t as quick and easy as the one-paragraph summary above makes it seem. I had some major obstacles like rain, the heat, and my Friday through Sunday job (including recuperation). But I finally finished on September 9th, 4 weeks after I started.

One big change this year was I switched from flat paint to satin paint. Satin is more weather resistant than flat and “should” buy me one or two extra paint-free summers.

Ah! I can now relax for about six weeks until the oak leaves begin to fall in earnest the last week of October. 🍁 Huh? What’s that, dear? The to-do list? Argh!

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.