August 27, 2005

Yesterday was the first really pleasant day we've had all summer, clear and balmy, cool enough for Poe and me to take an hour-long walk at 10AM, the longest we've had in a while. Today had a little stretch of heat, but it was dissipated by 4PM, and I just finished cutting the grass in the front yard at 6 with no discomfort.

Part of the ease of the cutting the grass now is that I bought a Black & Decker electric lawnmower at a yardsale a few weeks back. I've always hated gas mowers, and I passed up an electric one early in the summer and regretted it. But the one I bought was actually cheaper, only $40, and it's a mulching mower too. Cleaner, quieter, and leaves almost no mess behind. The ground-up grass stays in the same spot, which is better for the lawn, and the whole thing is better for the environment. I just read somewhere that a gas mower puts out more pollution in one hour than a car does in a year, or some such staggering statistic.

The only trick to an electric mower, of course, is worrying about the extension cord. They make a cordless version, considerably more expensive; if I see one at a yardsale, I'll get it. My first strategy was to start at the far edge and work my way in, but I soon found that was backward. Now I keep the cord coiled and work my way out, one hand on the safety lever that keeps the mower running and the other working the cord when necessary. The traditional square pattern one favours with a gas mower is out of the question; it's more short back and forth strokes, as if it were a vacuum cleaner. But you don't have to worry about leaving unsightly patterns behind, because it doesn't shoot out grass. It's invisible in any direction. My technique is improving; I only had to stop a few times to move the cord; just an occasional whip of the cord hand is usually all it takes. This means, of course, that all the pushing and pulling is done with one hand; but the first surprise I got when I went to put it in my car after I bought it was that it is featherweight compared to even a small gas mower. After a half-hour, all it takes to mow my front yard, my right hand is only a little tingly from the constant vibration, but not strained. The final advantage is that you never have to yank on a starter cord, which is frustrating and probably bad for your rotator cuff. After my hand surgery, I couldn't pull the cord anyway. With the electric mower, you just plug it in and lift the safety lever and it hums on and away. Ah, technology!

August 28, 2005

I had a strange surprise today at Kroger. I went to make my last-minute preparations for the work week. It's very difficult to do anything extra Monday through Wednesday, so I have to get everything in order by Sunday. I went in and a girl said, "Arthur?". Whenever that happens my first guess is it's someone I've worked with, and that is quite a lot of people over the years. But I never play the game of pretending to remember someone, I just apologise and ask who it is. It was, "Shannon." I apologised again, and she said "Slocumb". I was very shocked; I guess it's been a few years since I've seen her. She didn't know I lived in Athens, so she was a little shocked too. She's a sophomore at UGA, in pre-nursing. I told her she should come by the ER.

2005 was a bumper year for mulberries in my yard. Maybe it was the increased rainfall or maybe it's just a cyclical thing, but we had the most and the best-tasting mulberries since I've lived here. I park my car under the largest mulberry tree. The shelter has helped with the rain, since the windows are getting increasingly more leaky as they age. And in berry season every time I go to my car or leave it, I can reach up and get a handful of the sweetest berries. Too much trouble to harvest for any dedicated purpose, but for a quick surprise, a little gift, it is hard to match. The downside is slight, a month of mess as birds and squirrels enjoy the berries over my car even more than I do.

In one of those freaks of fortune, the day I had to take my car in to the garage and leave it overnight, a huge branch of the mulberry broke and fell right where my car is usually parked. It would have been more spooky if the limb had fallen completely, but it just broke halfway and was hanging on. Even if my car had been there, it would have just been tangled up in branches, maybe scratched a little more, but no one would notice that over the huge dent in the side and the headlight held in by Scotch tape.

Today I finally cut the limb down. I quashed my first impulse to do it alone, Emergency Room stories running through my head, and waited till Michael was over. I climbed up the tree with a rope tied to my new bow saw. If I was going to fall out of a tree, at least Michael could call for an ambulance. It was tricky business getting into position and then sawing while holding onto the tree. Michael pulled back on it and it finally snapped. It was then we realised his car was parked right in the path of its potential fall, so he rushed to move his car, but the limb was still leaning against the tree. We pulled it out and it crashed right where his car had been parked. Kind of funny and scary at the same time.

It was a lot bigger and heavier than it looked. My last big chore of the day was cutting it up. Fortunately, yesterday I went looking for an electric chainsaw. I wasn't even sure they made such a creature, and Wal-Mart doesn't sell one. [I found out later they did, but they weren't with the gas chainsaws for some reason.] Home Depot had a very small one for $40. It took me all day to figure out how to put it together. The manual was written by someone with little appreciation for English and I kept falling asleep. But I finally got it all assembled and it worked great. I wouldn't suggest trying to fell a tree with it, but it worked perfectly for the job at hand. It would have taken me at least an hour to cut it by hand, but it only took a few minutes with the chainsaw. The chainsaw was intended for the privet in the back yard. After my first flush of success in my attack on it with saw and loppers, I realised that it would take far too long. Though hard labour may be spiritually ennobling, I really don't need the exercise, and I don't have the time. That's when I decided to get a chainsaw for the biggest specimens, and since I have had so much luck with the electric weedeater and lawnmower, I decided this should be electric, too. And cheap.

October 09, 2005

The following letter has been waiting on it's proofreading and rewrite for over a month. I've been so busy with working on the house, I've let it slip. What spurred me on is the book I'm sending. I just finished it today and I decided it couldn't wait for a special occasion to be shared it is that good. It took me by surprise. I'm not even sure why I bought it at a yardsale, except the cover illustration was charming. You see there's no blurb on the back with any plot or author information. It's probably better that way. It's a story that deserves to be taken as it comes. Life is a series of surprises. That's one of the points of the book. Only today did I look it up on the Internet. Most of the sites discussing it are in French, as is the original version of the novel. But I did find out a few interesting facts. The original title is Lettres d'amour de 0 10: love letters, not secret. It won the French equivalent of the Newbery. And Susie Morgenstern (no relation to S. Morgenstern of The Princess Bride) is not French, but a native of Newark who moved to France with her husband, a French mathematician. She now writes in French, though, is very popular there.

That's as much as I'll say about the novel for now. And I'll catch you up with the my news next time. I almost had my yardsale yesterday, but Tammy flooded Athens, so I postponed. But I'm almost ready.