Timber! Part 2

Two posts in one day? It doesn’t happen often, but circumstances had me typing out this second post early this morning.

Back on September 5th, I published a post about one of the oak trees on our lot that was dead and had come crashing down with a huge THUD! See here. The good news was there was no damage to our house. We needed to have that tree removed and also needed to have three other dead or dying trees on the property cut down before they also fell and did serious damage. Well, our next door neighbor “knew a guy” who removed trees. Mike assessed the situation and gave us a very reasonable quote of $2000. We got a second quote from a commercial tree removal service that came in at $4000. We called Mike and gave him the go ahead and he’s planning on getting the work done next week. Sweet.

However, yesterday I pulled into the driveway after a trip to the local comic book shop and saw my wife standing in the garage still in her pajamas with a very worried look on her face. She said she had just heard another huge THUD, this time coming from the garage. I quickly scanned the garage, but saw nothing out of place. Well, as soon as I walked out the back door I knew what was up. Argh!!! The riser on the garage roof was bent way over at a 45o degree angle (see photo above) resulting in the electrical power lines strung from the house to the transformer in the corner of the lot sagging badly. What happened??? A big dead limb (see photo below) from a neighbor’s oak tree leaning over our property, had broken off and came crashing down on our power lines, pulling over our riser. Thankfully, we still had power.

So the misery of removing the four dead trees has now been compounded by this damage to the riser. So I ask again, whose idea was it to buy a house in a wooded lot? Ach. We’re now in the process of getting estimates to repair the riser. The very same riser was pulled over three years ago when a different neighbor’s dead oak fell on the shared power lines. The repair cost then was $1500, so I’m expecting at least $2000.

This riser fiasco happened at the same time Hurricane Ian was/is pummeling Florida. Compared to that catastrophe, our damage is just a miniscule blip on the radar.

We live in a fallen world where these natural catastrophes, big and small, come suddenly and often without much warning. Climate change seems to be precipitating and accelerating these natural disasters. There’s more and more of them and they seem to be getting more severe. A “historic” or “generational” climate/weather event seems to be happening in this country monthly. I pray for the folks in Florida, that they recover from this calamity. It’s going to be a long road of rebuilding for millions of residents, many of them elderly and not in the best of health. I pray that many in their despair come to trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Sin and its consequences is mankind’s biggest calamity.

Above: The offending dead limb from a neighbor’s tree.

Timber!

On Tuesday, August 30th, I was making preparations for my wife’s birthday party celebration when we both heard a ground-shaking THUD. That’s a sound we’ve come to know quite well in our heavily-treed neighborhood. Well, one of the oak trees situated on the corner of our lot had come crashing down. Thankfully, it fell far short of the house and also missed the power lines.

I can’t say I was surprised by the event. Maybe two years ago (or was it three?), that particular oak and another one close-by began shedding bark, a clear sign they were dying. I’m guessing they were victims of the gypsy moth caterpillars that I wrote about previously (see here). We also have two pine trees on the property that are dying a slow death due to pine weevil infestation. I procrastinated about removing the 4 trees, because the cost is so astronomically expensive. But this was a wake-up call. I surely don’t need another tree crashing on the roof. Some of you may recall when a large limb from a neighbor’s tree came crashing down onto our roof in March 2017, doing substantial damage (see here). I’m getting a couple of estimates pronto and we’ll go from there. Whose idea was it to buy a house in this neighborhood, anyway?

The one good thing out of all of this is there’s less leaves to collect in November. We started out with 14 deciduous trees when we moved in 18 years ago, but we’ll be down to 7 after this operation is over. However, about 10 of the neighbors’ tall oaks lean over our property.

These expiring trees remind me that death is all around us in this fallen world. Praise God for the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ!

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Getting rid of the grime

Our house has a nice, curvy-shaped cement patio in the backyard where we often sit from May until September. Over the 18 years that we’ve lived at the house, the patio cement has slowly darkened from air, rain, and snow soot. It happened so gradually that I hardly even noticed. My oldest sister was coming up from Arizona to visit for several days recently and as part of the pre-visit scurrying, my wife asked me to rent a pressure washer to clean up the patio.

I had never used a pressure washer before. I drove to one of the local Home Depots that rents out tools and equipment and picked up a gas-powered pressure washer. It was fairly easy to hook-up and start and I was blasting the grime off of the patio cement in no time. The pressure washer did a fantastic job! What a difference! See the before and after photos above. After I was finished, I wrestled the heavy pressure washer back into the trunk of our small VW Jetta, securing it once again with lots of nylon twine, and returned it to Home Depot and gladly paid the $60 charge.

Like other aspects of house and yard work that I’ve written about in the past, cleaning the patio cement brought to mind a spiritual lesson. We may accumulate sinful attitudes, habits, and behaviors in our lives. We need to regularly evaluate our Christian walk in light of God’s Word and repent and confess our sins to the Lord. Scripture has a cleansing effect. I think of Ephesians 5:26 which speaks of “the washing of water with the word.” Although we are born-again through the Savior, Jesus Christ, we still retain our sin nature. We need to be in God’s Word daily so that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us where we’re getting spiritually “grimy” so we can repent and go to God to confess.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:5-10

The Attack of the Gypsy Moth Caterpillars!

We moved into our house here in the suburbs of Rochester, New York way back in 2004. Wow! It certainly doesn’t seem that long ago. Our backyard has a lot of oak trees as many of you well know from my whiny annual “leaf campaign” posts each Fall. In addition to our own oaks, many of our adjoining neighbors’ oaks lean over our property. To say we’re inundated with leaves in the Fall would be a tremendous understatement. When we first looked at the property, we saw the trees as a very appealing asset. My opinion changed 180o immediately after we moved in and the leaves began to fall.

Most of the homes in our tract also have oak trees and we noticed many of the trees had dark rings painted around their trunks. After we moved in, we asked a neighbor what was up with the rings and they said it was a chemical paint that discouraged gypsy moth caterpillars (photo above) from climbing the trunks and proceeding to the branches to eat the leaves. Bands of plastic are also used (photo below). Years passed and we never had a problem with the caterpillars until last year. This year is even worse. When I look up at the leaves on the trees, I see they’ve been ravaged by the insects. Our backyard and even the street that winds through our neighborhood are littered with small scraps of leaves leftover from the insatious caterpillar eating machines. I’ve determined gypsy moth caterpillars aren’t too bright because many scale the house, thinking it’s a tree, only to get stranded on the roof eaves and die.

In regards to gypsy moth caterpillar infestation, Wikipedia states, “If a tree loses more than 50% of its leaves for more than two years in a row, it will certainly be weakened and may not survive.” I’m all for less leaves to clean up in the Fall, but dead trees cost a lot of $$$ to remove. We already have two oaks that have died and need to come down.

This gypsy moth caterpillar infestation brings to mind the locust plague mentioned in Exodus 10:1-18. Of course, our insect problem is nothing compared to what the defiant Egyptians had to deal with. I also think about how calamities come into our lives that we have no control over. For me, there was being laid-off by Kodak after working there for 43 years, the frustratingly-long job search and the daunting challenges at my new company, my wife’s ongoing disability problems, the pandemic, helping my sister with advancing dementia to relocate to a Florida seniors’ facility, and now we’re all headed into a recession with a rise in prices and interest rates and steep drops in our 401Ks, partially caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

We like to think we have a great deal of control over our lives with our digital planners and calendars, but it’s a mirage. Calamities come into our lives often very suddenly and unexpectedly in this fallen world. There’s also the inevitable decline of our health and energy as we age. How grateful I am for my Rock, my strong Foundation, Jesus Christ. Many believers have endured far greater challenges than my troubles, where it was all they could do just to “hang on” and trust in God (when it is actually He Who hangs on to us – John 10:29).

I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:1-3

Above: Some neighbors wrap plastic bands around their oak trees in an effort to prevent Gypsy Moth caterpillars from climbing the trunks.

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.