Monday 15 August 2016

Our Yard is Strangely Light

We had to say good-bye to an old but dangerous friend a few days ago.

Our friend was a tree that was carefully saved from the chain saw when our house was built twenty-eight years ago. Located just beside our driveway, it gave us shade and beauty for all those years. It sheltered birds and the occasional squirrel and it dropped leaves for our kids to play in. It was a perfect leaning post when I had to rest my back while gardening.

But the last half-dozen years, it gave us a few frights as well. In fall and winter storms it occasionally dropped a branch. I must give it credit for never hitting our vehicles that were parked right under it. It was an extremely considerate tree.

However, the last limb to come down almost took down our neighbour's power line.

They had a few other trees on their lot that they wanted to get rid of, so we discussed the future of our tree, too, and we all agreed that it was time for it to go. Best to do it before the windy season that will start in September.

I refused to watch as it was cut down. I hate to lose a good tree. Or even a bad one. But especially one that watched over us for so many years.

After the deed was done, and all the wood removed, the only thing left was sawdust. Our driveway is big enough to hold six vehicles comfortably, and the sawdust was spread surprisingly uniformly over the entire thing.

I stood in our garage and considered the tools available to me to move that sawdust off the drive. There was the shop vac, but it's noisy, and has a short cord, and that would require finding a heavy duty extension cord, which would have taken all the time available to me for sawdust removal. There was the water hose, but that seemed like a terrible waste of water. I could have used a leaf blower except we don't own such a thing. A hair dryer seemed like a bad idea also. Not that we keep a hair dryer in our garage, but I can think outside the box as well as the next person.

That left the broom. It's the former kitchen broom, now relegated to the garage and it looks like this:

Screenshot from Canadian Tire website. Actual broom in our garage did not wish to have its photo taken. I can respect that.
As anyone who has ever used one of these will know, those bristles are soft and flexible. Great for a kitchen floor, or even a concrete floor; however, they are all but useless on a rough surface.

As I swept, I had a long time to think. Seventy-five minutes, if you should happen to be wondering.

For awhile, I mourned our tree. Then I began to sweat, and wish it were not quite so humid. Then I began to wish I had followed my heart about twenty-five years ago and bought the push broom I had been coveting, but never did because my longing was exceeded by my frugality. And I cheered myself up - as my carpal tunnel inflicted hand went numb from holding the broom - by reminding myself that since I cannot currently go walking for exercise, sweeping was a decent substitute and allowed me to shuffle around getting an upper-body workout while doing no serious damage to my lower half.

Then, after mining that silver lining to its limit, an image popped into my mind from a movie where the main character had to scrub a very large floor with only a toothbrush. And, lo, I felt his pain, and also felt sorry for myself.

In case you ever need to sweep sawdust off your asphalt driveway with a dinky broom, I have some tips for you.

- Think of raking leaves. It will take about as much time to clear the sawdust as it would to clear the same area of leaves with one of those horrible leaf rakes that impales leaves and won't let them go until you pick them off individually by hand. Yes, I rake very slowly. Bonus: you don't end up with twenty bags of leaves. I had only three shovelfuls of sawdust at the end.

- Think of shovelling snow. It will seem positively enjoyable by comparison because you don't have to keep bending over and lifting heavy loads of snow and throwing them awkwardly to one side on a bank that's towering over your head. At least that's my usual experience with shovelling snow because (a) we often get quite a lot of snow, and (b) I'm not very tall, and oh yeah (c) I'm not very strong either.

- A light touch is more effective. The harder I pushed down on that broom, trying to dislodge the sawdust from the pitted surface of the driveway, the less movement there was of said sawdust. But when I barely touched the broom to the asphalt with each arc, it caught the particles better and the breeze generated by the swish actually blew the really fine stuff in the direction I wanted it to go. Is this physics? Is this gravity? Is this putting you to sleep?

- Buy a push broom.

I finished sweeping just as the humid day turned into a rainy one.  It was good timing, in more ways than one. If I had been able to linger outside, I'm afraid I would have shed some tears, in spite of being glad to have the monotonous cleanup done.

Thanks, my big old friendly tree, for giving us the best years of your life, and I hope you have one last hurrah as you warm someone's home this winter, just when they need you.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.


Jono said...

Farewell old friend. I often miss trees, but fortunately I have hundreds in which to find solace.

dinthebeast said...

Trees can be hard to let go of, but they can eventually get weak and dangerous around human-built structures and such. I worked as a ground man for a tree service for a short while, and they usually use leaf blowers for sawdust, but also brooms and shovels. I did notice that rather than removing much of the sawdust, chips, and leaves, they used to blow them into the flower beds and other places it was hard to see...

-Doug in Oakland

Joanne Noragon said...

We had to take down a huge cotton wood that I shouldn't have given yard room when it was a sapling, twenty odd years ago. It paid me back being aggressive about owning our septic. I won.

Elephant's Child said...

It is heart-breaking to lose a tree. I feel for you. And it.
It sounds as if your hip is still giving you grief as well. I am so sorry.

jenny_o said...

True. I think I minded losing this one because of its location and size.

jenny_o said...

Haha - we don't have enough flowers to hide the sawdust!

jenny_o said...

Ungrateful wretch, eh? And it doesn't surprise me that you won :)

jenny_o said...

It had to be done, but I didn't have to like it being done :)

The hip is worse, if that's possible. We are between doctors but our new one is supposed to be starting soon. I'll be glad to have a real doctor advise me instead of Dr. Me ...

Elephant's Child said...

I well remember when getting my knickers on caused tears of pain. I hope (so much) that you get some relief. Quickly.

jenny_o said...

I appreciate your kind wishes, EC. I hope your bursitis is staying away now, too.

Geo. said...

Over the years, we've had to remove several tall trees near this crazy old farmhouse. Used to do it myself, buck and stack the wood then heat the house with it after a year's seasoning. Now I hire it done, but still feel ambivalent about it. Insurance companies won't keep us if we're overhung with trees, but we still keep the wood and set its warmth free in winter.

jenny_o said...

Part of that old circle of life, eh? And, yes, it will likely be next winter, not this one, when our tree will be burned. Or even twenty years down the road. Believe it or not, we still have a sizeable stack of firewood in our garage that we got long ago for the wood-burning stove that we only use when the power goes out for more than a few hours.

Steve Reed said...

It's a shame to have to take down a tree, but as Doug said above, when they weaken it has to be done. Maybe you can plant some new ones in its place, and get the next generation going?

jenny_o said...

That's a very good idea. In a different spot, though! (driveway, power lines)

Chicken said...

RIP tree. Well one.

jenny_o said...

It's been a couple of weeks now, and it's still strange to drive up the street and see the big empty spot.