Caution: This is Not a How-To Manual
(You have to figure that out for yourself)
We don’t want to brag or anything, but with all the tropical storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes, lightning strikes and hurricanes that have passed over us in thirty-odd years, we have become pretty good at Tidying Tree Trash. Here are some of our secrets.
First Secret. We assess the mess. Where do we start? What tools do we need? What kinds of piles should we make? Where do we put the trash after we collect it? In short, we make a Specially Tailored Uberaction Plan In Detail.
This probably sounds pretty nerdy to you, but trust me, if you do this carefully, with the forethought and insight that are required, it will now be time for lunch and maybe a little nap before you have to get out and do any actual work.
Second Secret. Rakes are surprisingly efficient at tidying. If you want to be even more efficient, you can do the ambidextrous thing, that is switching sides as you rake to extend shoulder power. This will greatly amplify your raking prowess. Commendable! But do you really want to be the Super Man of Tree Trash?
No no no no! You should instead aim to be the Elmer Fudd of Tree Trash. This will keep shoulders, neck, arms and back happy. You do this by promising the kids in your family some big bucks for the raking job. If you don’t have kids of your own, bribe the neighbors’ kids. (Good luck getting any of them to work.) If you can’t get anyone to substitute-rake, at least send them to the drug store for a vat of linament and a case of aspirin.
Third Secret. We particularly focus on Tree Trash that people might trip on, especially litter on driveways and paths. We don’t want to deal with legal action from maimed mailmen. Tree Trash that is visibly poking out of shrubs in garden beds is also removed promptly, for purely aesthetic purposes, unless Hallowe’en is approaching.
We also avoid bushwacking in chigger-tick territory for obvious reasons. A year or so later, when we finally get around to gardening there, we’ll have some happy diversions. “Well, will you look at this. I wonder when this came down?”
Fourth Secret. As seniors we take our time. Not like those young people who are speedy speedy speedy at getting things done. Curious, since they have so much time ahead of them, while we in our sunset years ramble about like we have all the time in the world.
Fifth Secret. We hydrate. In case you have been asleep lately, that means taking a drink of something or other now and then. This can be tricky these days. If you are alert to recent health reports, you probably know that caffeine, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes, artificial flavors, assorted artificial colors with assorted numbers, micro-plastics, and other unpronouncable ingredients should be avoided, which eliminates pretty much any palatable drink.
Of course, water is always a possibility, but if it isn’t coming from some Shangri-la thousands of miles away — or worse yet — you don’t know where your water comes from, well . . .
So, the best bet is probably a good IPA or a vodka sour as the alcohol will sterilize your system and fuzz your tidy-tree-trash brain for the rest of the day.
Sixth Secret. A word about picking up sticks, and pine cones which can be major components of Tree Trash. Some people use a grabber and a pail, but that involves dexterity and equipment with moving parts. Others prefer the Pine-Cone Stagger, a series of lunges, squats and knee bends that mimic medieval back torture.
Whatever you do, if you need to bend over, be sure your posterior does not face the road. People like to cruise the neighborhood after a hurricane and gawk. You do not want perfect strangers to be discussing the size of your derriere over a beer.
Seventh Secret. We maintain strict denial at all times. We deny that we may be doing the same thing two or three weeks from now. We deny that we will most assuredly have to repeat the operation in late fall. We deny that there will be winter storms. Any wavering of denial requires immediate and extreme psycho-therapy. We will have to quit for the day.
Eighth Secret. We maintain strict focus at all times. No distractions. If we have forgotten to weed the garden during the past month, now is not the time to concern ourselves with the minor diversion of a weed-free garden. Unless, of course, the weeds are so robust we can’t separate them from Tree Trash. In which case, we ignore the entire mess.
Ninth Secret. We refer to our Specially Tailored Uberaction Plan In Detail at all times. It may be that we can make Tree Trash invisible by simply throwing it behind shrubs. (Care should be taken to choose shrubs that are not destined for the plant cemetery but are robust and full enough to hide a mound of trash.)
This is reminiscent of sweeping dirt under rugs, but it is far more eco-friendly. In ten years the whole mess will be part of the soil.
Tenth Secret. Finally, a word about costuming. It is important to wear proper attire while Tidying Tree Trash, which, as we mentioned above, can involve lunges, knee bends, stretches and bend-overs. Here I am not referring to sturdy gloves, sturdy shoes, a sun hat, and safety glasses.
Far more important is the general appearance you present to the busy community of neighbors, gawkers, workmen, and real estate agents who may be enjoying a stroll or idling through. Women—and men—should do their utmost to look chic when working in a front yard.
Color-coordinated outfits, smart work-out clothes and dazzling new running shoes, bought for the occasion, should impart a sense of glamour, like those old movies where housewives wore high heels to do the dishes. Onlookers will be left with the impression that you are in total control of your garden at all times and are just doing this for fun.
It appears that this pile of Tree Trash violates our Top Ten. It does not. The spot happens to be home to a lively mix of mosquitos, chiggers, ticks and spiders. When told about the exceptional fauna here, visitors do a quick-steppin’ jig to get away with nary a look around.
*Top Ten was inspired by Hurricane Dorian’s run through northeast North Carolina as a weak Category 1 that, fortunately, did no major damage to our communities.