UPDATE: 2019 Leaf Campaign

It was an exhausting weekend of working on the leaves, my friends, but I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Prior to this past weekend, I had hauled a total of 27 tarp-loads of leaves to the curb since October 25th. But the leaves continue to drop from our oak tress. I woke up Saturday morning to a layer of leaves coating our backyard (photo above) and got to work. I collected all of the leaves in the backyard into piles using my trusty Husqvarna 350BT Leafblower and then raked the piles onto the tarp. I ended up dragging 9 tarps of leaves from the backyard to the front curb on Saturday. With snow predicted for today, Monday, I needed to continue working on leaves yesterday, Sunday. I climbed up on the roof and blew off the leaves and cleaned out the gutters and then gave the back and front yards another going over and ended up dragging 4 more tarps to the curb.

Overall status? After 2.5 weeks, the halfway-point of the 5-week leaf campaign, I’ve hauled a total of 40 tarps of leaves to the front curb. From past experience, I can expect to haul 10+ more tarps to the curb, but snow may complicate matters.

Sidenote: Every Fall, I remind my lovely wife not to expect much out of me from the last week of October until the first week of December because I will be preoccupied, or rather, CONSUMED, with gathering up all of the leaves in the yard. My wife always objects to this and wonders if I am taking the wrong approach. Every year she suggests that I should wait until the last week of November-first week of December when all of the leaves have come down before I get started. This approach seems much more logical to her rather than going out there twice or three times a week with my leaf blower and gathering the scattered leaves into piles and dragging them to the curb. She believes I am being redundant and wasting time and energy, which could be better spent working on her to-do list. But my wife’s plan has two MAJOR flaws, which I point out to her every year:

  • If I waited until all the leaves fell, I would be hauling 50+ tarp-loads of leaves to the curb in a single week/weekend rather than spacing them out over the five week period. Raking a pile of leaves onto a tarp and then dragging it from the backyard to the front curb is physically exhausting work. Dragging 10 tarp-loads on a single Saturday absolutely wipes me out. I could not imagine trying to deal with 50+ tarp-loads in one week/weekend.
  • As we get into late-November, early-December, snow increasingly becomes a factor. If I waited until all the leaves fell, there’s a very real possibility I would not be able to collect them because of the snow.

This arduous leaf campaign brings to mind many Bible passages regarding work/toil, procrastination, and following a wrong plan that seems wise to some.

 

Spiritual lessons from raking leaves, redux!

Yes, it’s THAT time of year once again! The leaf-raking season is officially underway here in Western New York, so it’s time to dig up this apropos post from November 2017, with a few updates added.

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After a very tumultuous period in our marriage, the Lord miraculously brought my wife and I back together in 2002. We then lived in an apartment for a couple of years and in 2004 we were looking for a new home. We were both in our late-forties at the time. Our two sons were adults and on their own and after having a house and a yard for twenty-two years, I was thinking in terms of a condominium. But my wife and her realtor sister went looking at houses “just for grins” and called me at work one day, saying to come quick and check out the “dream house” they had found. I pulled into the driveway and gulped hard. Argh! The wood-shingled house was on a heavily-wooded lot (13 mature oaks and 3 locust trees) with a long, double-wide driveway. All that meant A LOT of outdoors work ahead for myself at a point when I was contemplating a future living situation with NO outside work. My wife was so enthusiastic about the house and property that I knew I was forever going to be the “big jerk” if I said no. But at age 48, I reasoned that I still had many years of physical energy left in the tank to deal with the house painting and yardwork (and snowblowing) ahead.

Fifteen years later, my wife and I still joke about the day after we moved into the house. Everything was fine on our moving-in day, but when I woke up the next morning and looked out the window, I saw that the oak trees had released many of their leaves en masse overnight and the entire back yard was covered. Oy!  Welcoming an opportunity for a little exercise (gulp!), I got out my trusty rake and went to work. And work. And more work. If you’re familiar with oak trees then you know the leaves are big and as sturdy as shoe leather. As I dripped with sweat after hours of raking, our next door neighbor shouted out with playful sarcasm, “Welcome to the neighborhood!” Argh!

I raked those leaves from the last week of October to the first week of December for the next 12 years. The raking was hard enough, but I also had to transfer the mounds of leaves I had collected onto a tarp and then drag the tarp to the front yard and deposit the leaves along the curb where our towns’ highway department collected them. With our own oak trees plus the neighbors’ oaks that leaned over our property, I ended up collecting and hauling 60+ tarp-loads of leaves (yes, 60!) to the curb every year. Condo anyone? Every year, my wife suggested I buy a heavy-duty, gas-powered leaf blower, but I couldn’t justify spending $300+ dollars when I was getting all of that good exercise! Plus, I was proud that I was able to handle all those leaves with only me and a rake in my hands. All of our pitiful neighbor menfolk either had powerful blowers or a leaf removal service. Ha!!!

Well, it was hard to admit, but age caught up with me in 2016 and I finally broke down and bought a gas-powered leaf blower (photo below). My boss at work had already done all the research and pointed me in the right direction as far as a good model and dealer. We’ve had 3 of the oaks and all 3 of the locust trees removed over the years because they were either too close to the house or were dying, so between that and the leaf blower, I’m still able to contend with the leaves even at my ripe old age.

“So what?,” you ask? Maybe you’re thinking, ♫”You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mi-ine”♫, as my old friend, Jimmy, used to say? Or how about, “Would you like some cheese and crackers with that whine?”

Well, I do thank the Lord for all those leaves over the years. They got me outside to enjoy the fresh air and provided plenty of exercise. When I finished the leaves every season, I had the satisfaction of completing a difficult job. Now I can praise the Lord for the leaf blower and the great assistance that it provides. By comparison, what used to take eight hours of very strenuous raking now takes about one hour with the leaf blower with minimal physical effort.

The heavy lawn work is full of spiritual lessons as well. We needn’t bear life’s circumstances and burdens alone. Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have God’s Word to guide us and the constant opportunity to commune with the Lord in prayer. We have the church and fellow believers. We also have good books and Bible resources written by faithful scholars and pastors.

There’s times when we’re plowing for the Lord and starting to feel fatigued (like after tarp # 43). But the Lord provides helpful “tools” to see us through. Are you too proud to seek the Lord’s help as you sojourn through this life?

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” – Psalm 30:10

25 Encouraging Bible Verses About Burdens

Postscript: Raking leaves for hours on end also brings to mind another spiritual lesson. Those leaves started as little buds back in the Spring, were full bloom in Summer to catch all the sunshine, and withered and died in the Fall. We were born into this world through corruptible seed, but through Christ we look forward to eternal life!

“Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” – 1 Peter 1:23

 

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Above: Tarp #1 of the 2019 Leaf Campaign about to be dumped curbside on Friday, October 25th. Approximately 60 more tarp-loads to go before the six-week campaign is over.
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We had a bad rain and wind storm in Rochester on Oct.31-Nov.1, which resulted in many oak leaves coming down early and allowing me to get a significant jump on the 2019 Leaf Campaign. Above, tarp #25 is about to be dumped on the growing leaf pile on Saturday, Nov. 2. Only 35 more tarps to go! 

Catkins and clams! What a combo!

If you have a yard to take care of then you know it’s a significant amount of work. Up here in the Northeast Rust Belt, it takes A LOT of work to get the yard back into shape after the ravages of Winter.

This past Saturday, I worked ALL DAY out on the yard. After mowing the front yard, I picked up where I left off previously doing the edging around the bushes and flower garden. I then hooked up a gutter-cleaning wand gizmo I had recently ordered from Amazon to my heavy-duty, high-powered Husqvarna leaf blower. Many of you can remember me whining about all the fallen oak tree leaves that I must clean up every November. Well, in June the gutters become clogged up with the “catkins” that fall from the oaks. Catkins? Catkins (photo left) are those brown, stringy tassels that hang from oaks (technically they’re “spent” male flowers whose purpose is to shed pollen that is carried by the wind to female flowers, which ideally then develop into acorns). When the gutters fill up with catkins (photo middle), as well as my neighbor’s maple tree “helicopter seeds” (i.e., samaras), the gutter downspouts become clogged when it rains and the rainwater subsequently seeps over the gutters down into our basement. Not a pleasant situation, believe me. It’s happened many times in the past. I normally climb up on the roof and blow out the gutters with a handheld blower, but going up on the roof is an increasingly risky proposition for an old guy like myself. My bright idea was to blow the debris out of the gutters while standing on the ground using the leaf blower and wand gizmo rather than climbing up on the roof.

Well, I was able to successfully patch together the wand gizmo to the leaf blower (using some duct tape of course), but it only did a so-so job. The catkins gather together in clumps like mini-tumbleweeds inside the gutters and often become lodged against the gutter brackets. Oh, well. It’s better than nothing. I think I’ll still have to get up on the roof periodically after all.

So, here comes the good part, friends! After finishing all of my outdoor chores, I was whipped and REALLY looking forward to a relaxing evening. My wife had a hankering for some shrimp, so I drove to the Lobster Trap seafood store, which is less than two miles from our house. While I was there, I also picked up a dozen wild-caught, littleneck clams.  🙂  🙂  🙂

There’s few edibles in this world as good as a dozen steamed clams. What? You’ve never prepared them yourself? It’s easy. Add about 1-inch of water to a 3-quart saucepan. Scrub the clams with a dish towel and rinse and add them to the pan. Turn heat to High. When water begins to boil, reduce heat to Medium-Low and cover. The clams should all open up after 5 minutes. Remove the clams from the water (photo right) and serve with melted butter accented with several dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Delish! But wait! There’s still more to this delectable feast. Carefully strain the water and natural clam juices from the pan through a cloth or paper towel into a large ceramic cup. Add a small pat of butter and a dash of Red Hot and reheat in the microwave until the butter is melted. Voila! A delicious cup of clam broth!

That, my friends, was a great finish to a very busy day! Wally, I really wish you were up here to enjoy those clams and clams broth with me! Yes, we can thank the Lord for life’s simple pleasures!