The moles are working overtime these days. It is spring, the temporal realm of the mole, and they have–apparently–declared this the year to finally decimate the Ottinger Homestead once and for all.
Sound Familiar? Well, sure it does…
I went out yesterday, to stomp down the run that I shaved off the day before when trying to get the lawn mower to mow for more than 90 seconds without throwing a belt so I could save the lawn from my autumnal leaf-removal negligence and redeem myself and my misdeeds, and found that run to be a bit larger than I first imagined.
Hmm… there’s a lot to unpack there...
So last year, as I was making the final rounds with the rider, more to blow leaves off the yard than to actually MOW, I threw the belt, and threw in the towel. I drove that crippled F510 into the shed and parked her. Whatever. Let the leaves rot and slime and suffocate the grasslings of 2020. I was in no mood to fight with a mower, nor to take care of the responsibilities of our yard in any other way. Time to call it winter, and reap the consequences later.
Important Note: I Don’t Rake. Ever. The old bod can’t do it. More than 30 seconds of holding a rake and I’ll be paying for it for a month. Maybe two. I also don’t run the leaf blower. Same story. Don’t judge; I’m fragile.
And there we were, two days ago, officially later. Looking out over my domain at the flat sheen of snow-stamped leaves, and with a little help from springtime fits of energy and desire for beauty, I dared to mount that John Deere to see if she might fire up after the long winter and the usual lack of small-engine winterization. Low and behold? She cranked over like a champ. Didn’t skip a beat. I backed her out from between the kindling buckets and the rototiller and the 50-gallon soup can full of garbage, and dismounted the beast to assess that thrown belt.
The 50-Gallon Soup Can? Yes, truly:
Didn’t seem like anything too heinous under that non-existent hood, so I released and… unreleased… the tensioner, and set that blown belt back in service. Cranked over the mower once again. Engaged the blades. And they turned.
What a day. These are the days of our lives. Leaves and dirt billowed all through the shed like a tornado in the Dust Bowl. Victory. I killed the blades and let the clouds settle around me, then headed out for a victory lap. Upon descent into the yard proper, I threw the blade switch once again, and cheered myself on as the first square yard of lawn was blown clear of leaf litter. Gorgeous. Saving the day! Saving the lawn! I am the master!
Thirty feet later, the belt blew.
I returned the purring machine to the shed and took another peek. Replaced the belt. Headed back to the lawn. Engaged the blades. Made one round about the home, and once again tossed the belt like an ill-fitting bra.
Those who have had the treat of catching up with me lately–voices through the quarantine–might be familiar with the literal tossing of a gaggle of ill-fitting bras recently. For those not in the loop, the essential information here is that my entire under-wardrobe hit its collective expiration date at the exact same time, in wildly unbelievable ways, apparently the first non-human population to fall to COVID-19. Suffice it to say that my first act of social distancing and overuse of hand sanitizer was a series of trips to Walmart and their fitting rooms with approximately seventeen thousand bra candidates. Can you imagine a worse time to find yourself having to throw out every one of your useless bras and go BRA SHOPPING? I cannot.
We did this dance for an hour, the mower and I. We experimented with slight modifications in the tensioner spring hookup apparatus. We called the air compressor into action to rid the deck of last year’s filth and general detritus; anything that might be angering that secondary drive belt or its accompanying pulleys. We fiddled with random levers and cranks. We set off, John Deere and I, six times, completing five circuits of the lawn closest to the house, and one out on the periphery, a whole ‘nother story having to do with the proper leaf-blowing methodology and the avoidance of leaf-litter pile-over. And then we gave up, the 510 and I.
Each time, I knew the inevitable was about to occur, for it was preceded by a distinct eau de burning rubber et kevlar, as the defiant belt wrenched its skinny tail free of the confines of the proper drive belt path. Over and over again.
Each time I grunted and hissed just a little. And each time I recalculated how often I’d have to pull that spring back if I wanted to rid the entire acreage of patted flat leaves that day. The calculations were ominous, and given the amount of daylight left ahead of me and my own waning tolerance for the acrid fumes emanating from that dastardly belt, I eventually conceded defeat and parked the problem child stage center in the shed.
But not before that one outer-flightpath run, wherein I unwittingly shaved off the tops of the season’s first mole-paths, cleverly disguised as wind-mussed leaves amongst their still-ground-adhered neighbors.
It was the puff of dirt that got my attention. The Estate is muddy, to be sure, and one wouldn’t think the dirt dry enough to produce the telltale mole-run explosion of dirt out the discharger, but one would not be accurately factoring in the near-immediate dehydration of otherwise healthy, loamy soil, when it and its entangled root systems are launched aggressively skyward by the tiny little noses of the tiny little bleeping (#@!) moles.
So, before the blades stopped spinning that final time, there was a definite puff. I grunted and hissed just a little bit more. This puff may have also played a role in the decision to cut the losses of the day and abandon the mower to its own devices.
Which brings us back to yesterday, the day following the puff, the grunt, the hiss, and the ensuing abandonment…
When I went out to stomp down what was left of that run.
Not really so that I could mow–or, being honest, blow leaves–because apparently we’re not doing that right now. And really, by morning the buggers would return to reassert their domain anyhow. But more to re-level the playing field, so that the next day’s run would be apparent, and the optimal placement of the mole-traps would be revealed in the freshest iteration of lawn-tearing tracks.
And that’s when I noticed that that mole run comprised approximately 60% of the surface area of our back yard.
I was out there for a while. The mole-run shuffle. My hips got sore.
And of course, by the end of the afternoon it was raining, by evening snowing, and today the sun has been working on those inches of snow to clear off the newly flattened again leaf mulch that is still out there killing my lawn. With the moles.
On a lighter note, and because my children have been studying the Law of Attraction, and I can’t in good conscious leave you with only the doom and gloom prospects of my ravaged lawn, you will be thrilled to note that the life-and-limb-risking Bra Shopping in the Time of COVID was wildly successful. The inner radius is happy.
What’s next and the Quarantine To-Do List? Call this guy:
If he’s no longer in business, I’ll try this guy’s method:
If you need me, I’ll be running a gas line,