New family member and other stuff

Yellow

A couple of weeks ago, I was gifted the mower pictured above by a co-worker who had just upgraded to one of those fancy, zero-turning-radius, riding mowers. My old mower runs just fine, but two of the welds on the bag have broken, causing me mind-splitting frustration. Also, this new one has a 6HP motor whereas the old one was only 5HP. Also, the new one was free, free, free, so, end of discussion. Click the pic to see more details.

I used it for the first time yesterday, and even with a criminally dull blade, the YardKing gobbled the whole of my property with no complaints whatsoever. Last night, I took the blade out to my parents’ house and sharpened it up on the Duke’s grinder. Hopefully this is the start of a long, productive relationship. Now I just need something to drown out the gentle weeping noises coming from the old mower. How about a couple more yard pics …

Last year’s lawn:

The almighty poop fork, presiding over its minions:

Due to several confusing circumstances, some within and some beyond my control, I spent the second half of yesterday not wearing any underwear. This seems to happen three of four times a year, and every time it does, I’m left struggling to find a reason why I wear any underwear to begin with. Any thoughts?

Cluttercide!

So, Paul2k, Benyenyen and I trekked far into the woods on Saturday, burned a bunch of stuff, ate a phallic meat dinner, and made fun of each other for about twelve hours straight. The Geester’s uncle has a bunch land outside of Ellijay and he was nice enough to let use use it, so we were miles from the next closest human–the way camping should be. No white-hot bits of metal touched anyone’s skin, which is good I guess. I took a bunch of pictures and I will post them as soon as … don’t hold your breath.

I started feeling a little anxious on the drive home yesterday morning. Right now is that time of year when everyone gets manic. The weather gets nice and all of a sudden everyone’s expectations go through the roof. During the winter, when it’s all cold a dreary, it perfectly acceptable to spend the entire weekend in a bourbon haze, watching TV show collections on DVD, and listening to the sound of your own arteries hardening. But as soon as the temperature ticks above 65°F, people on dog walks start pausing in front of your house to point and comment to each other on the various 16-inch high weed clusters and wild flowers growing all over what is supposed to be lawn. And that’s just the part of the house they can see form the outside.

What I’m saying is, Tall Brown and the land it sits on were in disarray and it was starting to stress me out. Plus, even though we didn’t get totally shellacked in the woods, we did manage to stay awake until almost three in the morning and then get up at 7:30am, so I was considerably foggy and uncomfortable.

I got home and allowed my hardwired, nice-weather mania to propel me through the rest of the day. I was filthy enough from camping that, before working in the yard, I took a shower. It felt great. Next, it was off to the Big Orange Debt Factory for some supplies.

(Quick side story: In December ’04, one of the flourescent ballasts in my man hole went bad and I replaced it. Read about it here. Since the new ballast was identical to the old ballast, I put the old, broken ballast in the new ballast box and set it aside to be returned. I even taped the receipt to the front of the box so I would know where it is. I feel no shame whatsoever returning stuff to the Depot. Eff those rich jerks. Well, I just got around to returning the old ballast yesterday. The clerk looked at the 15-month-old, dusty, yellowed receipt and then asked me, “Are you fucking serious,” with her eyeballs. My eyeballs replied, “What, is there a problem?” I got store credit. Score!)

I wanted to begin resurrecting the lawn, which meant I needed to get the composter in shape to start processing this year’s clippings. With my store credit, I acquired some weed ‘n feed, and a large poop fork, which will be officially intriduced to the internet at a later date. With the poop fork, I moved the whole of last year’s compost into a large pile next to the composter. I don’t maintain the compost properly, and it smelled positively horrifying last year. The couple of times I stirred it, it released hot, menacing fumes not unlike boiling cattle diarrhea and swampy, rotting flesh. As such, I was dreading the transfer. Thankfully, the winter seems to have chilled everything out and I now have a cubic yard of crumbly, black composty goodness with no odor whatsoever. Gardening tip: if you don’t have a poop fork with which to maneuver your compost, you are living in the frigging dark ages.

Following the manure maneuver, I tackled the man hole. The winter has caused much mess and disorganization in the man hole, and, in a frantic attempt to assuage some of the depression it is causing me, I spent the bulk of yesterday afternoon kicking the garage square in the neck. The Geester has expressed intrest in using half of the man hole to store one of our vehicles (hers) when not being driven. Interesting concept. I capitalized on this opportunity to put some marriage capital into savings, so, in addition to a unapologetic ethnic cleansing of all the clutter, making room for the Maxima was one of the planned outcomes. I cranked up a mix tape that B, Heglund made for me in 1996 and went absolutely barking mad. Breaking glass, hurting feelings, hasty reorganization, gnashing teeth, moderate blood loss, clouds of smoke, cultural generalizations, using the leaf blower indoors, and lots of recycling ensued. There’s a small mountain range headed to goodwill next Saturday, and a two story tower of cardboard at the curb for recycling today. The Maxima can fit into the garage, and I have finally … FINALLY finished processing all of the boxes of stuff that we moved into the garage when we bought the house two and half years ago.

I slept very well last night.

The Archer

My quiver of entertaining arrows is stuffed full and I hope to begin shooting them into the hay bale of your web browser post haste. There has been a bathroom redecoration completed, a Georgia/Florida game endured, a Chili Cookoff lost, a lawn aerator rented, a Boubon-aged Imperial Stout bottled, and the components of a Mash Tun purchased. (My mash tun will be 60 quarts as opposed to Jonny’s 100-qt setup, and my manifold will be CPVC rather than brass. Other than that, same design.)

I’ll first recap the items for which I don’t have accompanying photos. Saturday was the 4th annual chili cookoff, and the only one I haven’t won since the first cookoff in 2002, which I didn’t enter). I harbor no animosity, though, as ChristPuncher clearly did not deserve to win. Martron took it with his Lucky 7, the same chili that probably would have taken the title in 2003 had Marty decided to show up on time. Andy was second with his Fifty Seven Dollar Chili, wowing everyone with his bold use of pepperoni, olives, and red wine. ChristPuncher took the Hellfire & Damnation ribbon for spiciest, but that was part of the problem — CP was wicked hella spicy. Also, I formulated the recipe with Andouille sausage, but when I made the competition batch, I FORGOT THAT PART and I used plain old ground pork instead. I’m not saying the sausage or the spice would have made a lick of difference, I’m saying I got what I deserved for being a colossal dumbass. The best part of the cookoff? Now that everyone has a couple years under their belts, the collective entries are getting really, really good. There wasn’t a single entry this year of which I wouldn’t want to scarf an entire bowl.

I am sore today. As I alluded in the Sodomy Creek interview a few weeks ago, my lawn has looked like inexcusable garbage since somewhere around the end of June. It started as an infestation of weeds, which I combatted with a second treatment of weed and feed, which turned out to be a big mistake as the extra fertilizer fried half of my yard. then it rained every day for 2 months. Then the August sun came out and it didn’t rain for like 6 weeks straight. Aside from begrudgingly running the mower over it when it reached embarassing heights, my lawn has been dead to me (and literally, mostly) for far longer than I care to talk about. BUT, little things I do now can make a difference for next year. I did have the foresight apply straight up weed killer twice over the past couple months and it seems to have worked pretty well. Currently, there are a ton of dead weeds and a sparse coverage of actual turf that has actually gotten healthier as the fall weather has stabilized.

Yesterday was the latest chapter. I went up to the Orange GOP Warehouse and rented a lawn aerator. I’ve used one of these once before. I was in high school and The Duke tacked some extra cheddar onto my allowance in return for chasing the aerator around the yard for an afternoon. I remember thinking at the time, “Holy shit, this sucks.” It’s funny how the mind lets things slip through the cracks. (For the unwashed heathen: Overseeding should be done in the early spring and the early fall. Mowing the existing grass as short as possible and either loosining the topsoil or aerating will ensure good seed to soil contact and minimize losing seeds to wind/rain/birds. Honestly, I probably should have done this 3-4 weeks ago. I would have, except cram it.) At the Home Depot Tool Rental counter, there was an Eastern European fellow who was in line after me. I don’t know if he wanted to ensure his place in line by staying with us, or if this was some bizarre custom in his home country, but he followed the clerk and me around for the duration of my transaction. As I was closing my tailgate, he finally offered up some thickly-accented insight.

“Beeg yaard?”

“No, not really.”

“Heh heh heh. You veel have guhd slip tonight!”

He was pretty much dead on. My yard is now riddled with thousands of little holes, and blanketed with ~15 pounds of grass seed, but my back and shoulders are wrecked and I wore all the hide off my left thumb just steering the damn thing.

After that debacle, I bottled the Imperial Stout that I originally talked about here. I didn’t take any pictures, because The Geester and I were running late for dinner at her parents’ house. Suffice it to say, it’s probably the best beer I’ve ever made and it has gotten me all kinds of stoked to brew much more often. Two weeks: all-grain.

Foreshadowing

The rain is starting to take a toll on my mental condition. It’s not some sort of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Not only do I not mind overcast weather, I prefer it to the blazing southern sun. The problem with Atlanta’s weather this summer is that we keep getting tossed from blazing upper-nineties heat to these ridiculous thunderstorms over … and over … and over … and over. Going through my house and resetting all the clocks has become an almost daily task, which, now that I think about it, IS TOTALLY UNREASONABLE. In addition, my lawn is rotting because it hasn’t had a chance to dry out since May, and the tropical weather has the weeds and malicious junk plants growing a foot a day.

Living in Portland, the rain never bothered me. Six straight months of drizzle is an indigenous part of the geography and the culture and I found it endearing. Here, every single afternoon, the sky opens up and we get 1-2 inches of flood waters in a span of about 30 minutes. The water finally beat my yard this weekend, which I’ll explain in a second, but first there’s some good news.

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Stupid, natural face

Since I’m sure you’re all chomping at the bit for an update, I’ll toss you a few scraps about my lawn. The turf has mostly recovered from the close call last month, but a large weed contingent has taken full advantage of the grass’ weakened condition. And after my chemical misstep, I’ve become too chicken-shit to use any weed killer. You’re welcome, weeds. Everything is still nice and green, but there a several more species of plant life out there than I’d like to see. The worst offenders, by far, are the offensive offspring of several large Mimosa trees that just happen to be growing in the detentnion pond by the driveway. They are my new nemeses. Not only are they puking up thousands of little leafy weeds all over my yard, but their trunks and roots are destroying the concrete infrastructure that enables a detention pond to work properly. Naturally, they are flourishing in an incredibly awkward location. I could *probably* get to them with the chainsaw, and I could *probably* cut them down while standing in the knee-deep water without killing myself, but then I would have to dice them up while also standing in the creek and somehow haul them out. While not, by any means, an impossible project, it is one I’m going to try to coax the City of Smyrna into performing since, in addition to removing the trees, the detention pond itself is in need of some pretty serious repairs.

As I stood there staring at the broken-ass drainage system and the junk trees polluting my yard, I grew very tired and frustrated.

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Summer Break

Yes, posting has been light of late. It’s the June-July-August norm in school and in business, so why not blogging as well? Is this not yet a substantial enough medium, subject to the crests and troughs of any entity existing in modern society? Don’t answer that. Blogging about blogging is like hosting a shower for yourself — people will feign interest because it’s rude not to, but really it’s just boring and desperate. Discuss.

Last Friday, Tim and Angela brought the fruit of their loins over and we had an evening ripe with pleasantries and whimsy. Angela and Gia played Scrabble while Tim and I sat on the couch and whined about how old we feel and about how all new music is unbearable. All of it. Yes it is. We also talked about how appealing it sounds to buy a farm outside of Athens and live the simple life. Mmmmm … rural.

Despite Saturday being rainy and crappy, there was enough of a dry period right when we woke up for me to run outside and mow my stupid dead grass. For some reason I was convinced that mowing it would bring the scorched areas back to life. Obviously I was deleriously optimistic, but I’m still glad I mowed when I did, because I wouldn’t have had another chance.

Saturday night was a bachelor party of sorts for an old drumline buddy who prefers to remain nameless on the intarweb as his public school students are purportedly very Google-savvy. The whole thing got started at about 2pm and went until 3am or so. Kegs were slain. Cheese was thrown. Pizza delivery people were over-tipped. I think there was a guitar. Neighbors complained. The Geester poured me into the car at 2:30am or so. You can see what my phone captured at flickr. I mean, really … who does keg stands anymore?

Today after work, The Geester, the bother-in-law, and I are hopping into ye olde Maxima and burning rubber to Rosemary Beach in Baja Georgia for four solid days of ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY NOTHING. My brain is going to atrophy, and my skin is going to turn bright pink. I am going to sit motionless in the sand and let the accumulated pressure of being a suburban commando hiss out of my body like poisonous gas from underneath my fingernails and toenails. I may or may not have access to a computer. I’m not really concerned about it. If anything cool happens, I’ll get a shot of it with my phone and send it to flickr. So, for the rest of the week, keep your eyes on the flickr badge at the top right of this page where new photos appear through equal parts magic and RSS.

See all you bitches on Monday.

P.S. – For those of you who haven’t noticed, I have Rosie O’Donnell in my list of flickr contacts. Good times.

There is such a thing as too much fertilizer, I guess

Although I’m exposing myself to massive amounts of shame and ridicule, I thought I’d come right out and say it anyway:

I think I killed my lawn.

Well, killed is a total exaggeration, but all is definitely not well on Turf de Tony. The weather this year has been nothing short of perfect for growing grass. The warm, Georgia sun mixed with long, soaking rainstorms has the plant life literally vibrating with growth. When I say plant life, I mean all of it, including botanical unmentionables and ne’er desirables. Weeds. In the spring, like clockwork, I threw down a bag of weed ‘n feed. That stuff works like magic. The grass turned a rich, deep green color, and the majority of leafy interlopers turned yellow and died. The problem with weed ‘n feed is that it only kills the weeds that are already growing, and then it washes away. In this tropical-like weather new weeds pop up overnight. I last applied weed ‘n feed about 2 and a half months ago. Since then the weeds have made the reemergence known. So last weekend, I casually applied another bag of weed and/or feed. Did it kill the weeds? Kind of.

BUT IT IS ALSO KILLING MY GRASS!! It’s not out of control yet, bet there are several small patches that have totally died. I don’t understand. Does long fescue not like the sweet combination of food and poison during the summer? Needless to say, I’m pretty depressed about the whole thing. I would be remiss to say I have done nothing to deserve this awful twist of fate. When I first noticed the brown patches, I didn’t panic. Rather, I simply hung my head in shame knowing full well that this is what happens to cocky assholes who stick their brag into the braghole.

The one bit of solace is that the hops I planted last weekend have already poked through the soil. I can’t wait until they start kicking out flowers. I’ll finally stop buying beer as I can just sit in my yard (Ed. note – I originally typed the word “yard” as “year.” Jen pointed it out, so I changed it. According to Amber, who will soon be famous as the author of the best-selling book “Blogiquette: Don’t Fuck Up”, correcting the typo is “lame!” What a horrible predicament I find myself in.) eat hops and slug grain alcohol.

Gay tearing down studs

Over the weekend, we were blessed by a visit from Dawn Dontfuckaroundsky, our next door neighbor from Portland. You can see where she and her husband earned their last name at the end of this entry. She updated us on the old neighborhood. Apparently it’s getting nicer. It was also nice to hear that the people who bought our house are totally lame. I mean, I wish the Dontfuckaroundskys had some neighbors they enjoyed, but it’s always great to hear, “These new people suck … we miss you guys.”

On Friday we ate Mellow Mushroom and hung out at the house. I had 47 glasses of bourbon and then I … well, that’s it, really. I was really drunk. So I went to bed.

On Saturday, I distributed 50lbs of weed n’ feed on the old yard carpet. My grass looks like shit this year. The guy two doors up planted some super-grass last year that makes the rest of our yards look like the moon. Seriously, it’s like a cartoon it looks so good. I should probably till the lawn under, plant watermelons in the middle of the yard and put big dirt-bike jumps on either side of the watermelon patch. I also scraped and re-caulked the shower in our master bathroom on Saturday. It’s a stall shower with several big glass panels and seams and creases and areas that, in general, require a shitload of caulking. I’ll go ahead and go on record now that this shower is going to be a big problem someday. The caulk in a couple corners was mildewed (it’s been like that since we moved in), and the mildewed portions had lost most of their adhesion. This means moisture has probably gotten behind the caulk. For those of you who don’t own homes, I’ll now let you in on home ownership rule #1. The following two words govern all aspects of home ownership, home repair, home improvement:

MOISTURE BAD.

When you buy a house, if you can remember MOISTURE BAD, then everything else is basically cosmetic and, ultimately, futile.

Once I had scraped all the old caulk away, I applied copious amounts of bleach to the exposed wounds. I did this with an old OFF! spray bottle I found under the sink. I emptied the last few drops of OFF! into the newer bottle and made sure not to label which was which. I sprayed bleach deep into all the crevases and left it alone to slay bacteria for a half hour. Then I used Gia’s hair dryer and cooked all the surfaces bone dry. I felt like I was really over doing it with they hair dryer, and maybe even burning certain surfaces, but a little scorching, even a lot of scorching, is better than even one drop of water left behind the seal. After about 20 solid minutes of drying, I went ahead and caulked. Everything on the surface looked fine, but if moisture has soaked anywhere past the surface, no stinking 20 minutes of blowdrying is going to dry it out. Hopefully the bleach will take care of the rest.

Naturally, my caulking job looks tits because I rule. But I have resigned myself to not be surprised when we have to tear that bathroom down to the studs and treat it for mold or some other obnoxious problem caused by my own negligence and laziness. I’m not freaking out because someday we’d like to tear that bathroom down to its studs anyway. Insert gay tearing down studs joke here.

We spent yesterday showing Dawn some of the more interesting parts of Atlanta. We started in Smyrna and made our way down Atlanta Road cutting over to Northside on Huff Road by Figo and Bacchanalia. We proceeded down to Tenth and cut across Midtown by the Park. Then I shot down Monroe to Ponce, cut over to Highlands and wound down through the area by Dad’s Garage. Eventually, I hit Boulevard, so I took that past the Cottom Mill Lofts and over through Cabbagetown. We came out on Memorial and went up to Six Feet Under for lunch. Following lunch, we dropped Dawn off at the airport and proceeded to drive out to Woodstock for The Duke’s birthday. The way we drove around yesterday, you’d think gas was less than $2.19 a gallon. I’m so ashamed.

Weepend

While Gia and I were living in Portland, we spent any and all significant periods of free time travelling back to Atlanta to visit with family and friends. During these trips back to the durty durty, we grew accustomed to breakneck social schedules that would make presidential candidates whimper with exhaustion. We would return to Portland from “vacation” much more tired than when we left. One of the great things about living back in Atlanta is that we no longer feel that not-so-subtle pressure to squeeze every drop of potential face time out of every possible minute of the day.

Somehow this weekend’s scheduling got away from us and we were almost crushed by the weight of our own list of engagements. And as of Thursday, it looked like it was going to be a pretty quiet weekend. That’ll teach us to let our guard down.

On Friday, after I ate lunch with the Duke, I went home and tended to the yard. It was NOT a good day for me and machines. First, my iPod earphones piss me off more and more every time I use them. I love the iPod, but those stupid-ass little ear buds can go straight to hail. Maybe they aren’t designed for my ears. Maybe I’m putting them in wrong. Probably the latter. Regardless, they hurt while I’m wearing them and if I smile wrong they both come flying out like some cheek-activated ejector button was pressed. Solution: add another line to the “to buy” list.

The next inanimate object to eat my lunch was the nature eraser. I carried it to the end of the driveway, started it up, erased about 3 feet of edge and then, click, one of the trimmer cords ran out. For those of you who have never rewrapped the double cutting cord on a gas-powered trimmer, you have yet to be challenged. Law School? The Olympics? Cancer? Psshht. Trimmer cord. The great motor skills equalizer. After a half hour of wrapping and snagging and wrapping and slipping and wrapping and cussing and kicking air and wrapping and fuming and wrapping, I finished edging with little fanfare. This anticlimax led me straight to the lawnmower. Actually, the mower behaved normally, but it’s normal quirks coupled with my preexisting level of extreme frustration almost caused me to deteriorate into a teary-eyed mess. I’ll try to keep this simple:

One of the welds on the mower bag has broken, so the bag frame is not as solid as it one was. I’ve tried securing it with wire, but it’s not the same. The main symptom of the broken weld is that, when the bag is empty or near empty, it takes very little jostling to cause the bag to fall off. When the bag falls off, two things happen. First, the clippings spill, obviously. Second, for the couple of seconds until I kill the engine, the blade sprays clippings right into my eyeballs at 600mph.

Talk about infuriating. I’m getting mad just thinking about it. The yard desperately needs about 30 lbs of weed ‘n feed, but I knew it was supposed to rain this weekend, so I managed to hold off.

On Friday night we ate dinner with Ben and Alison. Ben grilled meat wrapped in meat and there were potatoes and salad as well. Most importantly, we watched Napoleon Dynamite, which the Geester and I had somehow missed up until then. We both enjoyed it thoroughly and, not surprisingly, have been quoting it incessantly ever since.

On Saturday morning, I loaded up the truck with the last two years’ rotting firewood scraps and took them to the Cobb County Vegetative Waste facility. It felt good to get all that crap out of the yard since most of it had turned into termite farms anyway. Saturday was also my mom’s birthday, so we headed out to their house and proceeded to whoop it up enough that we ended up sleeping there. Nice work.

We returned home Sunday, did some weekly cleaning, and then it was off to Brunch for Jeebus at Gia’s Aunt and Uncle’s house. Following a delicious and festive brunch (thanks, Jeebus!), Pam and Paul came over and we hung out for a couple hours. It was nice because the both of us together hadn’t seen the both of them together since … New Years … I think. We drank wine and ate snacks like some group of adults or something. I didn’t even pee my name on anything. After Pam and Paul left we went to Gia’s parents’ for dinner, from which we returned at 9:45, exhausted. And being exhausted is a horrible feeling to have on Sunday night. Despite going to bed right away, we are both very tired and cranky today. Weep for us. Our lives are so hard. WEEP!

Good Friday? You stupid, redundant jerks.

I know it’s painfully Office Space to say, but what Friday isn’t Good Friday?

Things have been pretty weak around here for the past couple days, and I’d like to crank out some sort of monster blog entry complete with hilarious photographs, informative links, and the kind of inflammatory speech that ranks high enough on Google to attract oodles of new readers. Alas, as Dr. Hibbert says, “And hillbillies would like to be called Sons of the Soil … but it ain’t gonna happen. Buh-hih-hih-hih.”

No, today is a pseudo-semi-fake holiday. The kind where you’re not required to come to work, but expected to nonetheless. It’s one of those holidays where, if a co-worker says, “What are you still doing at work? It’s Good Friday…” and I answer, “Good Friday is a holiday by and for retards …” all of a sudden I’m the asshole. Wait … that’s all holidays.

The Duke called me out of the blue today and was in my neighborhood, so he picked me up and we went to lunch. At Hooters. I had a burger. It was fantastic. The waitress made fun of me for ordering coleslaw instead of fries. She said coleslaw stinks. I suddenly realized that Hooters waitresses are completely impervious to witty comebacks. Even moreso than strippers. Think about it. This is the stuff of social psychology doctoral thesiseses. Write that down. Combine lunch today with trips to Wild Wing and Dave & Busters last night and I’d say that’s a suburban sports bar hat trick. And I didn’t watch a single basketball game. I am an enigma.

Now I’m back and I am one of the only people in my office, or in any office anywhere for that matter, as evidenced by the number of people not answering their phones today. Rather than prancing from cube to cube leaving various nasty surprises for Monday, I’m going home to mow my grass for the first time this year. It’s going to suck. My grass needs love. Don’t pray for that lady in Florida, pray for my lawn. At least my lawn has a chance at recovery.