The Spring Push

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I hurt today. My hands ache, my fingers stiff and swollen, rings tight, refusing to be removed.

Judging by how my arms feel, someone stole my biceps, replacing them with lead bars. While they were at it, I think they slipped some coil springs under my shoulder blades, drawing them tighter than a drum head.

Maybe that explains the string of Christmas lights strung along my belt line, threatening to blaze whenever I stoop to tie my shoelaces – or sneeze. And did I mention sunburn? No? Yeah, that, too.

It’s been a heavy three weeks, but that’s nothing new for this time of year. Spring weather is in full swing, sun and rain pumping energy into every green growing thing in sight, and plenty more out of sight. You can almost see the grass growing, and you can definitely watch thunderheads stacking up on sultry afternoons. When you see that, you know if you don’t get the lawn mown before they break loose, you’re probably going to need to rent a hay-bine by the time the grass dries out.

As warm as it is, and it’s been plenty warm enough, summer’s heat hasn’t gotten here yet. It won’t be long in coming, and that’s where all my aches and pains come from. Jessie and I have been driving hard to get the yard into shape for the summer.

We’ve been busy cutting new flowerbed edges and re-cutting old ones, pulling weeds before they can explode into jungle (we hope), and hustling compost and mulch over everything that doesn’t see a lawn mower, all in an effort to minimize the amount of necessary maintenance through July and High August into September’s cool-down into fall.

Believe it or not, it does work. Sure, a few (okay, more than a few) weeds get away from us and do their level best to take over the borders, but for the most part, we can spot and pull them on an individual basis through the summer.

Well, except for the poke berry and crown vetch. And Scotch thistle. They need an attack plan and a shovel, and sometimes gloves. Although I have been known to pull Scotch thistle barehanded on occasion… No sense, no feeling, they say.

Still, after five loads of plant bedding compost from the Landfill’s green waste operation, and a third of a load of mulch from the Township’s operation, we were finally finished mulching the borders, all the flowerbeds, and the new burning bush “hedge.” The Landfill material is superior in every way, but the Township’s is free to residents — and I misjudged how much we’d need to finish, an oversight we didn’t discover until after closing time at the Landfill. Yes, I should have listened to Jessie, I admit it — in writing, no less.

Then there was the old cold frame we removed, the two fig trees we planted where the cold frame had been, the espalier pear trees we pruned, the tomato trellis we installed, — It’s no wonder we hurt.

And I got off light. Jessie did the lion’s share of the work, digging, weeding, cutting, hauling, and mulching every day of those three weeks that it didn’t rain, and a few when it did. She always had help, from me, from the boys, from her mom; but every day she was the constant.

I’d join as soon as I got home from work, sure, but she’d already put in an easy six to eight hours by that point. And we’d keep going, together.

We hurt today. But that’s okay. We’re done for the spring. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of accomplishment, the pride in surveying a freshly tailored yard, the joy of knowing the weekly yard work can now be done in an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Bring on the backyard fire get-togethers and lazy afternoons on the swing, iced teas and ciders.

But first, bring on the ibuprofen and ice packs. And ignore those weeds in the back bed. For now.

Photos property of Andrew Weidman.