NUTTIN HONEY

ImageThere’s a moment, in late spring, when the blossoms are falling off the trees and the light green leaves have burst forth from every branch. This is the longest point in time when you can enjoy the benefits of the cool shade that the leaves provide without thinking about raking. The variety of greens enhances the borrowed landscape of the lake that stretches beyond their branches. This is the moment when all of the benefits of the trees outweigh any downside.

Then sometime in late July a familiar “plink” hits the wood deck floor. Initially, you pretend you didn’t hear a thing. Occasionally someone will look up from his or her book and say something like,

“Did you hear that?”

“What?”

“Oh, nothing. My mistake.”

You return to your day. What else can you do? What chance do you have?

The oak trees are by far the worst offenders. It happens maybe once in a day, then several times a day until by the second week in August you have to make sure you’re positioned under a deck umbrella for protection. The first rounds of falling acorns are usually small and green and they fall from the sky like large raindrops. Then the squirrels begin their seasonal pillaging. They break open the nuts with reckless abandon and toss the shells overboard. Additionally there’s a barrage of sharp edged beechnut seeds that litter our path. Gone are the lazy summer days when you might step out on the deck in bare feet. You can’t even wear flip-flops: thick-soled shoes only, please! There is no safe place.Image

The first year we moved in I was driving around the lake and something dropped from the sky and smashed a hole in my windshield.

“I thought it was a bullet!” I exclaimed to Rob.

He examined the extensive damage. “It looks like a rock hit you.”

“Then a rock fell from the sky!”

“It was a black walnut,” our son explained.

I shook my head. “This was green.”

“Did it look like a small tennis ball?”

I nodded.

“That’s a young black walnut,” he said, raising his hands up as if it was difficult to talk nuts with such amateurs.

The large encased nuts became a sport to my daughter and me. We drew an imaginary line down the one-way street and kicked the nuts back and forth to motivate us to run faster until the outer green shell broke apart or the nut rolled out of range into a patch of poison ivy. Once the black walnut season was over it was difficult to prod my daughter out for exercise. Nuts can have that affect on people.

It isn’t like you have any real control over trees, aside from cutting them down and that feels cowardly. It just seems that each nut is a potential tree and we already have enough.

On a last note, I found this great website, Acorns: The Inside Story, which writes about all the wonderful things you can do with acorns including eating them—go figure.

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SATAN ZERO, US ONE

ImageThirteen years ago this week we moved into our lake house. About three years into ownership I decided the house had been a huge mistake. The complaints were long and varied: it was small, there was no place inside for the children to entertain friends, my daughter’s bedroom was on the first floor facing the street, there was no garage, and the yard…well let’s just say we had nicknamed it Satan’s lawn.

That early lawn was actually a combination of crabgrass and plantains posing as grass. The front lawn sits three feet above the front entrance and is held back by an ugly cement block retaining wall. The backyard drops down one hundred and fifty feet to the dock. The lawn mower had to be lifted by two people section by section to keep the weeds at bay. So when we heaved the mower to the lower yard it tended to stay there. Mowers that are left out in the rain don’t last very long.

         “Help me move the mower.”

         “Ask my father.”

          “His back hurts.”

           “So does mine.”

I am not mechanically inclined. My husband thinks he is, which is interesting since we break lawnmowers with reckless abandon.  He explains it this way.

            “Just because someone is mechanically inclined doesn’t mean they understand all machines. I never studied small engines.”

            “Oh.”

We have owned (no exaggeration) nine lawnmowers. We average about one a year. This year we had two repaired. Having two mowers has cut down on the hauling. After thirteen years there are only two small sections of yard remaining that ever get mowed, yet we need two mowers.

Another big lawn issue is tree maintenance. Several years ago a two hundred year old maple tree silently pulled from the ground and landed in the lake, smashing the docks and rowboat in the process. Nobody heard or saw it fall except a neighbor who came over to inspect the damage.

“Oh, that was what I heard last night,” she said, as we stared fifty feet out into the water searching for the end of the tree.

Numerous tree men were called in to bid on the job.

            “That’s a doozy, alright.”

            “How much?”

            “Well seeing that it’s in the water… and the street is two hundred feet up, I’d say…seven thousand.”

            Next.

            “Have you ever thought about moving?”

The man we hired only charged two thousand dollars and brilliantly used a winch that he ran through other trees, pulling the fallen tree out of the lake by a truck up on the street. Then of course we had to hire two men to chop up the tree into fireplace size logs. We could have a fire every day for a decade and still have wood left over.

One of the early draws of the lake house was that we were planning to throw a lot of parties. I don’t know why we thought this since we never threw many parties before buying the house. For our daughter’s high school graduation she wanted a big party. We invited seventy-five people and needed the use of the whole yard, but the whole yard wasn’t available. A month before the graduation party I sat on the steps in the middle yard and cried.

            “How are were ever going to fix this?” I sobbed, pointing at the remains of a giant, rotten railroad tie sandbox. (That I had to have, eleven years prior.)

            “Don’t worry mama,” my son said. “I’ll fix it.”

            I stared blankly at this twenty-one year old who had feigned illness to get out of any and all yard work for his entire life. “You? How?”

            He shrugged. “This is nothing.”

One month and hundreds of dollars in plants and supplies afterward (which included a power saw with a burned out motor) we had a Japanese garden complete with a floating wooden walkway that he built from discarded lumber. Two summers later, I still can’t believe he pulled that off. It proved to me that miracles can happen.ImageImage

            In the years of ownership and with the help of various handy men we have also built tiered garden beds, erected three different types of fences, connected the upper and lower decks with a staircase, installed an interlocking brick walkway and patio, dug a flagstone walkway, erected a stone wall, designed and built a solitary reading deck, rebuilt the dock three times, installed two fountains and an outdoor shower, transplanted dozens of perennials in the hope that one day, the yard would be care free or at the very least easy to maintain. The other hope was that our marriage would last. With every winter season I never know what disaster lurks for the following spring. I don’t know why we stayed but I have only recently stopped wanting to sell it.

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