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July 18, 1999
a year ago
two years ago

The Back Acre

A really busy day today, I think, in part to make up for yesterday. It was also because I haven't really had much exercise in a week and decided I really needed it. Given these minimum requirements, John and I discussed what we wanted to do with the day while we sat and ate scones I'd made. I still think that the mix actually turns out better with milk rather than water, so I may have to do that next time. It was pretty yummy anyway with raisins instead of plain.

Immediately after breakfast we went out on a walk with Fezzik. Given that the only place we could walk him without a leash was the abandoned railroad track, we went in that direction. The minute we left the regular backyard, though, we ran into a bit of a problem. The weeds in the back acre had gotten about waist high and they were just thick. We had to push our way through them and Fezzik didn't like not seeing where he was going so would just stop right in front of me and I'd have to push at him and John would have to call him before he took any steps forward. That was a real pain, and the weeds were just completely chock full of bugs so I was getting jumped on by a lot of different little things and many of the wild plants had stickers that, by the time we got through it all was making my legs break out in an itchy rash. Ugh.

The tracks were as clear as usual, though, and so we walked down them towards town. Fezzik trotted on ahead of us, moving easily and happily along the wooden tracks, and John and I talked through the weeds and figured out that the only real way we were going to deal with them was by cutting as much of them down as possible with the lawn mower. Since, as Mark had put it, I was the John Deere poster girl, I'd be doing all that.

We walked and walked and walked and the sunshine got clearer and clearer and it got hotter and hotter and I could feel the sweat just running down my back. Before we got to the trestle bridge we turned back towards the house and back uphill. Fezzik didn't mind the turn around, and his tongue was starting to hang out a bit from all the heat and his black fur soaking up all the sunshine. We plodded back uphill and at the point where we broke onto the track, Fezzik plunged off it, and it took both John and I yelling at him to get him back on. He looked a little puzzled, but then followed us down the track, onto the road and then back to the front gate of the house. I didn't want to go weed wading again. Too painful the first time.

By the time we got back to the house, Fezzik's tongue was really hanging out. Some little girl once told me, confidently, that all dogs' tongues get much bigger when it's hot out. Fezzik's was hanging way out and he was panting like mad, so I took him over to his wading pool and he immediately stepped in and splashed about, wading about. I went to the back porch to water my herbs and settle things and Fezzik can dripping over, asking to go inside. I really didn't want him in the house, yet, so I brought him back around to the front porch and I sat down there. Fezzik watched me, laid down for a moment, and then got up and wandered over to the wading pool, carefully, slowly sat down in it and then gave a soft groan of approval as he lowered himself into the pool to lie down in the water.

Smart dog.

He could still see over the edge of the pool, and he watched me, bright eyed and panting while I just sat there and watched him. It was really funny. It was almost like watching a seal watching me, all wet and alert and black and shiny. He was really funny looking, but really happy in the coolness of the water and gradually, slowly, his breathing calmed down, slowed down to something less than quick, hard gasps for air and coolness over his tongue. When he was all cooled off, I walked away and he just stayed there. Smart dog.

It was so hot, already. I went in and made green tea and gensing and honey tea, and then iced it thoroughly, drank a glass of that while watching some woman and her family make a custard pie and then I took my courage in my hands and went out to the John Deere. Turned out that one tire was flat, seems that there's a small puncture somewhere and when it's left for days it goes flat, so John came out and blew it up again with a pump and then I was off into the jungles of the back acre.

We have the only back acre in the neighborhood that was green. Everyone else had planted grass and the grass was dying or dead, and our native growth was just going nuts on what water it could get and it was all green and lush and filled with trapped moisture and bugs that lived on the moisture that the plants managed to grab from the passing thunderstorms. I tried mowing the sandy bits, and there were really tall weeds there that just bent over when I ran over them. The blades got all the leaves off but the bare main stalk would just spring up after I was done, and the growth looked nearly as thick when I stopped as when I'd started. That was scary. That on top of the fact that the tires kept losing traction on the sand. The dirt part of the backlot was a good deal easier, though, as the scrubby stuff that had grown there, sometimes to heights well above the front of the lawn tractor, didn't have a main stalk, so I could just mow and compost cut all of the bushiness.

It was, however, really dense. And it took patience and timing and learning how to speed up to get over hillocks of weathered dirt and when to slow down when the vegetation was so thick the blades started to clog. My hands really hated the vibration from the steering wheel and my legs were getting more scratches and bugs were jumping on me from everywhere. All the insect wildlife was going just nuts as I cut and cut and cut things down. It was nearly like taking down a habitat, except that there's plenty of the same native bush around, and while I was cutting a lot of stuff down, there was still a whole lot of stuff that the mower left on a first pass, that was often a good six to eight inches high after it recovered from the blades. It was really rough in the full-out heat and about a quarter way through the back lot, I stopped for a break and drank more iced tea, breathed the clear air inside the house for a bit, and then went back out again.

My next break was when the mower ran out of gas at the very far end of the field, about halfway through. I trundled back to the house through the cut field, which was much easier than the morning field; and then I drank down another pint of iced tea, and realized that the dust that was covering me was a very different color than the dirt that I was rolling over. The dust that covered me and the lawn tractor was bright yellow, the earth was definitely browner than that, which meant that I was mostly covered in pollen. From the weeds. Dear God, I'm so glad I'm not allergic to the local pollens, yet. John found the gas container and I carried it back out with me, filled up the tank and then drove the tank back to the gate, and then started in on the cutting again. It was very nice to see more that was cut than was uncut by that point, and eventually John chased me down in the field to tell me that it was about 3:30 and if I wanted to see Wild, Wild West it was going to be on at 4:20 and that if I wanted a shower before going to see the movie, I really needed to do it now.

So I did. Left the mower on the normal lawn with John, who hosed it down, cleaned out the air filter, changed the oil, cleaned off the blades, and put it back in the shed in about the time it took for me to get clean. He's really amazing. The moment I walked into the house, though, the phone rang and it was Jonah, wanting to know if we wanted to come over for dinner and movies. John said sure, and I had heard enough negative press about Wild, Wild West that I had no qualms giving it up for home-made matza balls in chicken soup. But, after my shower, I was so starved, without a lunch, that I toasted a leftover crab cake and ate that while waiting for John to finish with his shower. It was still delicious. I really hope I can recreate that.

So we went over to Jonah and Stacy's and it was really, really fun. Ice tea, soup, sandwiches, green bean cassarole, and two kinds of dessert with Tank Girl and The Blues Brothers. Simple, fun and I didn't have to socialize too much to enjoy everything a lot. Really cool.

We got back home around 10, and John went right to sleep. My nose suddenly decided to run after a whole day of breathing huge amounts of pollen dust and so I sat and wrote in my paper journal while blowing my nose to clear it. Sleep, afterwards, was kinda fitful even after the full day as it was still a bit hot and John was snoring a lot.

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