Yesterday was beautiful. What an understatement! It was one of those days that make you remember why springtime is so great. It also makes you regret that around here, springtime is so short; quickly giving way to the blast-furnace like temperatures of summer. The weather was perfect: after a few days of light rain, the sun came out, the temperature was about 75 degrees and you could look at the grass and almost see it grow. Which kind of stinks when you’re the chief lawnmower guy.

It was one of those days where you go to the park and enjoy the world. Of course, we didn’t do that; we spent the day in hard labor in the back yard.

I will admit that after 20 years of marriage, there are times when I still don’t know exactly what it takes to make Melissa happy but I do know that if we’re involved in working on the house to improve the place, she’s always happy. Yesterday, she was ecstatic.

The kids have wanted for some time now to put in a garden. I’m not sure why since neither Mel nor I have ever had one or even talked about it but there you have it. They want a garden. I figured “why not”? So we took to the backyard with hoe and rake in hand.

It didn’t take long for us to develop a healthy respect for the original settlers of this land who had to hack through several inches of firmly established turf to get started. Then my superior education kicked in and I remembered a friend who happened to have a roto-tiller. A quick phone call secured the use of the tiller and the garden beginnings were quickly established. The groundwork was laid so to speak. In my younger days I would see those commercials on TV for those Troy-Bilt tillers and wonder why. Now I know why. Mr Briggs and Mr Stratton deserve every dollar they have for developing those small gas engines and making my life easier.

The dogs were in dog heaven; we were all out there and we were all digging. They decided to do a little digging themselves but in a much more uncontrolled way. A dog doesn’t ask for anything more than that (except perhaps the occasional dead bird to gnaw on – Dixie took care of that for us.) We had no seeds or plantings but those will come later. The appearance of those few neat rows of soil seemed to make everybody happy. Plus, there’s about 64 square feet that I won’t have to mow. Win-win! The kids have an eclectic collection of plants they want to grow there ranging from watermelons to marigolds to cotton. Whatever. It’s more important that they enjoy childhood than that we have a neat orderly garden. It’s in the back yard anyway.

Then we turned to the trees. We have two young but vigorous oak trees in the back yard. There is every indication that they will eventually make 60 feet and have trunks that are about 24 inches in diameter. They are the picture of health but they are one of those unfortunate variety of oak whose branches almost always point down. As a result, there are low-hanging twigs to poke you in the eye even though the lowest limb is about 13 feet above ground. Plus, the ground underneath is so shaded that nothing grows there. It’s actually dark under there. So I borrowed an extension ladder from a neighbor and took to the tree with my chainsaw in hand.

The eco-warriors of this country would have us all using electric powered appliances rather than pollute the atmosphere with those stinky two-cycle engines but anybody who has ever climbed a tree with a chainsaw will tell you that dragging an electrical cord up there with you is just bad. At times, the cord can weight almost as much as the tool itself. Still, it’s all I had. Oaks are not called “the might oak” for nothing. When the tornadoes come, they are the last trees left standing but that means that they don’t give up their limbs willingly. If you don’t have a chainsaw, you’d better have arms like Charles Atlas.

I removed a prodigious number of branches and the tree hardly looks any different except that now there is a little sunlight under the tree there to illuminate the dirt. And there is now an enormous pile of limbs in the yard. Experience tells me that for every five minutes spent pruning, there is another 20 minutes to be spent bundling up the refuse since in our town, one must gift-wrap the brush for the garbage men before they will take it. (Note to self: buy string on the way home from work) After yesterdays work, I’ll be busy tying it into bundles for the next month. Next weekend is free dump day and it would be very nice to be able to borrow the brother-in-law’s pickup and take it all over there in a couple of easy loads but that’s the weekend of Evan’s birthday paintball bash so I guess I’ll be gift-wrapping it.

Oh for the good old days when you could just douse it with diesel fuel and set a match to it.