May Day: Let the Chores Begin

Saturday was spent recuperating from the demands of another work week in my usual fashion:  in the manner of a cultured and intelligent philosopher king.  Specifically, I was camped out on the couch in front of the television soaking in about seven hours of NHL hockey.

Dedicating myself to torpor and sloth meant for the most part eschewing the pleasures of the great outdoors;  it also meant eschewing (temporarily) the coincident burdens of the surrounding environment, such as the requirement to cut the grass.  Careful readers will recall that cutting the lawn – an inconvenient recurring nuisance for some – has, in the past been more of a life-threatening spirit quest for me.

The Juniorvania Blue Jays 7698
Sunday's Taskmaster

But (news flash) Sunday dawned, and after a morning cup of tea, there was a jay in the tree outside the window sounding a call to action.  Against the aforementioned backdrop of timorous langour then, I ventured out into the Wide World and saddled up for 2009’s Maiden voyage aboard the JMV Eradicator.  I am pleased to report that Mission 1-09 successfully and safely achieved its primary objective, the ensmallinating of the grasses.  All systems were operative aboard the Mowing Vehicle, with one exception:  the People’s Engineers will be receiving a request to review the Eradicator’s musical delivery systems.  In order to avoid angry legal entanglement with the kind folks at the John Deere Company of Moline Illinois, I hasten to point out that these systems were added on an “after-market” basis.  In particular, the system consists of the operator wearing an iPod and earbuds.  Actually, the system consists of the operator wearing and iPod and ATTEMPTING to wear earbuds because – as every iPod user knows, iPod earbuds do not under any circumstances remain inserted in one’s ears.

A Snake in the Grass 7702
Is that Dick Cheney?

Spotted and photographed on the scouting perambulations prior to climbing aboard the Eradicator:  the charming little fellow pictured at left. This specimen was located using Top Secret and patent pending Juniorvanian Reptilian location technology:  an unsuspecting and somewhat foolhardy individual with a pair of Crocs carelessly slipped onto his bare feet is dispatched into the surrounding flora armed with a camera and tasked with obtaining a photograph of a bird – perhaps a nearby blue jay.  In this way, the collector is encouraged (by way of diversion) to keep his head up and his line of accordingly elevated and most decidedly NOT fixed upon the ground.  The large holes in the aforementioned footwear will automatically, if somewhat alarmingly, assist in locating the desired reptile.  Potential side effects may include the emission of a somewhat embarrassing and decidedly little girl-like yelp as contact is literally made between our startled naturalist and the disgruntled fauna.

Sunday also featured a lovely visit from my folks;  my Dad brought a can of paint he had hanging around the house for my grandfather’s old porch rocker, now adorning our front deck.  The name of the particular tint:  “Cleveland Brown.”  The marketing department at CIL must be one crazy hilarious place to work;  what a bunch of slapstick knuckleheads they must be.

At the end of a long Sunday of yardwork, I found myself stiff and aching.  Nevertheless, the grass was green, the sky was blue, and I was tickled pink to be spending time outdoors again.  Hey, CIL guys – how ’bout giving us a few knee-slapping monikers to represent those colours?

We’re Ready Now, Santa!

Did you know that Santa has some helper elves in Florida?  And did you know that Santa’s sun-worshipping assistants are in charge of ensuring that all power yard equipment is properly prepared to celebrate the Yuletide festivities?

It’s true.

On Saturday the 13th, Spouse and I hosted the office Christmas party.  What preceded the party, of course, was a massive clean-up/decorating binge to get the entire nation of Juniorvania ship-shape and ready for its most extensive influx of visitors in recorded history.  Some consternation briefly ensued while Spouse and I debated the most appropriate means of providing a suitable repository for the cold refreshing BEvERageS accompanying our guests to the party.  I am no engineer, but if I do say so myself, I think I resolved that little dilemma with some flair (not to mention ten bags of ice and a couple of strands of lights) in the following manner:

XMAS Tractor IMG_5327

Trailer of bounty IMG_5335

Somehow, word of this festive little piece of power equipment seems to have made it to Santa’s southern associates. Apparently, St. Nick himself was impressed by the tractor’s display of holiday verve, but saddened to learn that the little implement lacked one crucial piece of Christmas gear; he put his Floridian designates on the case and voilà, the tractor is ready to receive Santa’s bounty on the Big Night.

Please Santa Put Oil in My Sock IMG_5530

Leading by Trailing

Oh, I really have been a bad blogger, and a bad Internet friend.  Looking at the two previous posts, it occurs to me that I’ve posted exactly once in something like 45 days.  That’s not good.  No, that just won’t do.

You know the excuse is coming.  I will try to make it brief.  If you’re not interested in it, please skip to the next paragraph.  Still here?  I’m touched!  I’m feeling the love, sensing your concern for my well-being, dedication and industry.  See, here’s the thing:  Spouse and I had this two-part charity event to run on the 18th and 20th of September.  That took up a lot of our time in late August and early September.  The following week, we took three days off so that we could mount a five-day home improvement blitz and attack some of the jungle vegetation that seemed to have taken rather serious root in the southern portion of Juniorvania (i.e. behind the house).  When we got back to work late that next week, there were of course a bazillion things that needed catching up on – stuff we hadn’t been able to get done in the weeks before our event and stuff that had come up while we were away for three blessed days of vacation.  It behooved us to make sure that the paymaster remained inclined to fill our purses on a biweekly basis, so vocational concerns had to predominate for a time.  There followed (in rapid, almost dizzying succession) a weekend trip to this event at Wit’s End,  a week-long jury trial a trip to Sudbury for Thanksgiving, a trip to the vet (not theVet, but “the vet”) for Popeye (he has a tumor, but he’s fine), and (interspersed among all of the foregoing) a number of evenings spent watching the various political debates related to election campaigns both here in Canada and south of the border.   On top of all of that, David Foster Wallace had to go and fucking kill himself¹ and so I felt I had to spend every moment of free time that I had reading – or re-reading, in some cases – his essays.  As for this writing this blog, I felt like I had lots to say, but not enough time to sit down and organize my thoughts properly – so I avoided posting anything because I felt I didn’t have time to be comprehensive.   Now I have so much to tell that I’d have to write for a week straight just to get it all in.  Sigh.  Hoist by my own petard once again.

I’ll get to all that stuff – the eventing at Wit’s End, the backyard blitz, our trip to Sudbury, even the charity event – but tonight, the spirit moves me to tell you of something even more awesome.   Why is it so awesomely awesome?  It’s tractor-related, which is the best kind of awesome, because it involves gasoline, a motor, and sharp whirling blades.  Feast your eyes on this:

John Deere X300 and 10P utility cart

As you can see, the People’s Lawn Tractor has formed an attachment to the 10p utility cart ($229, unassembled)! Spouse and I went out and picked one up the other day.  Spouse and I have this week off, and we have been once again, IMG_4783instead of “vacating” as one might properly understand those on vacation to do,  been throwing ourselves into physical labour by way of attempting to improve our surrounding environment.  This week’s target was the eastern side of the house, an area that could only be described as “not badly overgrown” by way of comparison to the front of the house;  with respect to all other areas, it is – or was – in fact positively primeval.  I mention this because we quickly found that “improving” meant “cutting shit down”, the major down side of which is that the shit which has been cut must then be disposed of in some fashion².  Now, disposal of surplus vegetation has, in the past, been accomplished principally through use of a fortuitous combination of the instrumentality of the People’s wheelbarrow and the generous capacity of a steep (and deep) ravine near our western borders.  The said disposal has also principally been accomplished by my father-in-law Harold, who spent pretty much three solid days humping the said wheelbarrow back and forth between the backyard and the aforementioned ravine, disposing of various pieces of trees, all of which had been declared redundant, expendable and anti-social.   When confronted with the need to replicate Harold’s detritus transportation exploits, Spouse and I immediately had an insight and determined that motorized assistance was required at once.

Thus did we find ourselves yesterday at the local John Deere dealer flashing plastic and loading a cardboard box loaded with one potential trailer into the Probe.  I spent the early portion of the afternoon assembling the plucky little vehicle;  today, we put it to work.  Over and over again, we loaded the cart with branches (pruned), vines (removed from the entire eastern portion of the house), leaves (they’re frickin’ EVERYWHERE) and (in certain cases) entire shrubs deemed too diseased, too voluminous, or just too damn annoying to remain.  Over the past few days, we have excavated a lot of vegetation;  to give you a hint just how active we’ve been, the current tally concerning capital equipment depreciation reads as follows:

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Over and over again, we drove our little tractor west towards the ravine (now known as “The Gulch”), IMG_4835executed a quick turn and backed the whole apparatus up to the edge.   The 10p cart has a great little mechanism that quickly releases the bed of the cart from its locked position and (if you’ve stacked the contents just right), the dumping action is automatic and strangely exhilarating. If ever anyone needed proof that flying a desk 9-to-5 causes one’s physical dexterity and co-ordination to do a cannonball into the nearest toilet, I would commend to that person the image of the comically inept manner in which both Spouse and I have found ourselves reversing a vehicle that’s pushing a trailer. It goes a little something like this: large circle; slowly forward to straighten everything out just so; driver turns to survey the objective; driver begins a confident, but slow reverse; trailer begins to yaw undesirably; driver confidently makes incorrect and overly drastic steering adjustment; trailer now yaws alarmingly; driver stops and curses, pulls forward again to straighten everything out just so – rinse, lather and repeat.

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My back, shoulders and arms are all aching as it is from the sheer magnitude of the project (and, no doubt, the extreme indolence that has previously been a prominent feature of the exercise program for each related muscle group).  I can’t imagine how I’d feel if we’d been moving all the shite we’ve cut down by hand.   I love my tractor and his new friend, the 10p cart.

Spouse loves the tractor too!

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¹More precisely, I found out about DFW killing himself in this time period.  He actually did the deed on September 12th, 2008, but I was so freaking busy with all the above-mentioned shite, I didn’t even hear about it until nigh on the end of September.

²I am assured that “piling the shit on the lawn and leaving it there” is not an option.  I know, I was surprised too.

Mission: Accomplished. No, Not THAT One.

I am sorry to keep you in suspense about the maiden voyage of the JMV* Eradicator and the fate of its brave pilot. You will understand that this has been an important epoch in Juniorvanian history, a matter of utmost importance to National Security, and that radio silence has, accordingly, been the order of the day.

Now that the critical moments have passed, I don’t think it’s telling tales out of school if I confirm that:

  • our brave pilot has returned from the historic mission;
  • he still has the standard issue compement of phalanges, both upper and lower;
  • the combat vehicle appears largely intact, though its surfaces are now somewhat obscured by a significant mass of dismembered vegetation; and
  • flight specialists and technicians are believed to be reviewing the video footage retrieved from the onboard “pilot cam” system and examining it to gather intelligence for future missions.

It is possible that the public relations officer for the Juniorvanian Ministry of Science, Industry and Exploration may well authorize release to the public of some (no doubt heavily edited) such footage. Interested persons are asked to continue consulting this website for updated information as it becomes available.

In other news, despite the heightened security hereabouts, there was an interstellar tourist in Juniorvania this weekend. Calling himself “Richard”, a fellow from the planet Lummox (previously sighted only in the vicinity of fishing vacation hideaways) alighted on Juniorvanian ground Saturday afternoon. Diplomatic relations were quickly established, with the alien visitor very kindly presenting the traditional offering of greetings (for Lummoxes) of bamboo (five shoots; health!), bratwurst and sauerkraut. High-ranking Juniorvanian officials held an audience with the visiting Richard, and learned much about the employment customs of his people. Evidently, it is customary for Lummoxian companies to hire individuals for the purpose of completing a project to which no resources are devoted and for which all necessary approvals are, accordingly, withheld. In order to expedite the accomplishment of absolutely nothing, it is thought to be beneficial for many people to be fired, downsized, or lose their job as part of an advertising promotion, leaving the project managers with no staff, no direct supervision, no budget, and no authorization to proceed with the task at hand.

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* “JMV” = “Juniorvanian Mowing Vehicle”

Stout Hearted and Enthusiastic


“With stout hearts, and with enthusiasm for the contest, let us go forward to victory.”

Viscount Montgomery, to his troops on the eve of the D-Day invasion, which was not delayed by rain.

First there was this:

peter fonda

Then there was this:

king-of-the-hill

Now, there is this:

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A lesser man might assume that the fact that his former mower tried to kill him, leading to the costly (but extremely exciting) purchase of a brand spankin’ new authentic JD tractor – combined with the delivery of the said new mower in the middle of what would appear to be the heretofore unknown Juniorvanian monsoon season, making the actual riding or use of said mower hazardous and/or silly – is evidence that there is a spiteful God in the heavens bent on destroying all joy on earth.

Of course we – I – couldn’t entirely pass up the opportunity to climb aboard and live the John Deere experience. Some related observations:

  1. When you drop a few g’s on a garden tractor, and everybody in the room knows you’re paying more than a bit extra for this equipment because of the green and yellow paint job and the nameplate affixed to it, it seems to me that the dealer ought to be required – by law, mind you, not just moral obligation – to provide the purchaser with a logo-emblazoned cap. I’m just sayin’ that I’m going to look like a dork sitting up there on that yellow seat with no cap on. I’m supposed to buy my own damn hat, too?
  2. The folk who were charged with the responsibility of authoring the “Operator’s Manual” for this piece of machinery truly missed their calling, and it’s obvious. Rather than being stuck churning out dry technical user’s manuals, they ought to be in Hollywood crafting the latest teenage horror-thriller, mass-murderer on the loose with some sort of sharp implementIMG_2957 scarefest. Seriously, the first five pages of this manual are essentially a laundry list of the myriad of ways in which you can evidently maim, crush, kill, disfigure, or explode yourself, and the many calamities that might be visited upon either you or your property by way of fire, blunt force trauma, asphyxiation or chemical accident. One of the many warning decals on the side of the thing depicts some poor unfortunate stick man being pelted – simultaneously, mind you – in the face, legs and balls with various missiles propelled at high speed from the mower discharge unit; an ominous warning indeed. Having spent about a half an hour getting through the litany of burns, fractures, amputations and puncture wounds that threaten to afflict an inattentive or careless user of this device, I found myself thinking that a human being would have to be something approaching batshit insane to saddle up on this rolling meat grinder and go for a ride. Incidentally, this is much the same I way that I feel about horses, and I haven’t even seen an operator’s manual for one of those. About the only indignity that you cannot visit upon your body through the use of this tractor is “accidental irradiation”. So listen up, John Deere designers: you need to find a way to work in the potential for improperly shielded plutonium to be exposed, and then you’ll really have something badass. A cynic might even suggest that the conflict in Afghanistan could be quickly won by delivering fertilizer and pallets of garden tractors to the Taliban but holding back on the manuals; within a couple of weeks during the rainy season, the inevitably mounting casualties would force an end to hostilities. Bring the boys back home: mowers for the military!
  3. It has a cruise control. Seriously. For a moment, I found myself regretting that we did not go with the X360 – five position tilt steering is standard on that one. How long are people spending on these things, and how far are they travelling?
  4. Top Juniorvanian mathematicians, engineers and technical advisors are now hard at work devising a plan of attack for the initial attempt at mowing. The plan being contemplated needs to take into account a number of factors, including the complex three-dimensional geometry of the local topography, not to mention the many landscaping features (trees, shubs, gardens) that – for the moment, anyway – are growing happily throughout the target area. Assuming some degree of primacy in this complicated calculus, however, is the urgent need to avoid a continuation of the embarrassingly erratic manner in which the task was previously attempted by a hapless operator employing vastly inferior equipment. The eyes of the world are upon us; what is needed is disciplined, effective and efficient husbandry – cultivated cultivation, if you will. The top-flight, highly talented (not to mention brave) pilot for this most important mission is, accordingly, being trained in a secret facility using the latest high-tech tools and simulators to prepare for combat with the lawn.

Your faithful correspondent will, of course, post an update on the first mowing. Weather permitting.