Pine Needle Cleanup


Pine Needle Cleanup

 The pine needles have to be raked and the weeds in the yard cut every year at this time to protect the homes from fire. The pine needles also have to be swept from the roof. This is especially important as I have a wood-burning stove.

The first two years I owned the cabin, I had local companies do it. One year it was $160, and the next $240. Last year I decided I could do it myself. I bought work gloves, a rake and a weed eater, deciding on the electric one as I am afraid of fire and gas. I don’t even own a barbeque grill.

I forgot about the roof last year. Good thing I didn’t use the wood-burning stove. I went to work. It took much energy to rake up the needles. I put them directly into my large trash bin. That got filled up after twenty minutes. I found large black garbage bags in my storage shed and started to fill them. After I had done the driveway side of the house and part of the front yard, I was sweaty and pooped.

The next day a teenage boy knocked on my door. He asked if I would pay him to rake the pine needles. I told him I was only willing to pay five dollars an hour. He agreed and said his younger brother would help. I told him where the rake, garbage bags, and weed eater were and went down to Scottsdale for an appointment. When I got back a few days later, the job was very well one. There were nine bags of needles, stuffed full, in my front yard. I gladly paid them sixty dollars. I felt badly that their grandfather spent his time supervising and teaching them how to do it. They made more money doing other yards.

The local dump, about four miles away, has a “free cleanup day” and I decided to take advantage of it to get rid of the pine needles. It was hard work shoving the bulging bags into the back seat and trunk of my Honda Civic. Once I got to the dump I had to empty the bags as they only were accepting the needles. I made four trips. My car was disgustingly dirty. I went into Flagstaff and paid fifteen dollars for a car wash. Still it turned out to be economically a good move.

This year I asked the grandfather if the boys were returning. Unfortunately for me the boys were involved in summer activities and wouldn’t be up until July. Since the fire danger was extreme, I knew I would have to do it myself. I got the rake and gathered up the needles close to the garbage bin. It was filled quickly and I quit for the day.

One morning I saw my neighbor on his roof, sweeping pine needles. I looked at my roof and saw huge piles of pine needles. He offered to let me use his long ladder so I could climb up on mine. I agreed and promptly did something else.

I went down to the Valley for two days. On the ride up to Munds Park, I listened to the book Sara’s Quilt. It’s about a widowed woman who runs her ranch in the Arizona territory in 1906. She manages her hands, shoots when necessary, rounds up cattle, washes, cleans, and cooks. I was inspired by her pluck and determination in spite of a drought and the need to drill a new well.

Upon my return to Munds Park, I found that my neighbor had finished his pine needle cleanup. I could tell he was anxious to put his ladder away. I changed my clothes, got on my work gloves and located two brooms. He hauled the ladder to my roof and held it as I ascended. Once I was up there, he told me to holler loudly when I wanted to come down. I had my cell phone with me, so I got his cell number and told him I’d call when ready to descend.

I was a little nervous with heights, but I felt fine. The only problem was the slant of the roof. I am not known for my agility. Truth is I’m clumsy. I surveyed the job. There were individual pine needles as well as large piles of needles on each side of the roof. The piles were easier to deal with. Some of the individual pine needles did not want to be swept away. It was difficult to keep my balance while sweeping but I thought of Sara and how physically hard she worked and resolved to do this chore myself.

The first time I stumbled my heart raced. I was able to right myself. It happened a few more times but I never got close to falling off the roof. One of my brooms did fall off. It was kind of fun to sweep the gigantic piles of needles off the roof. I broke the handle of the remaining broom during a too enthusiastic thrust. Sweat trickled down my face and the mucous in my nose loosened so I was blowing it to beat the band.

Luckily my neighbor came out to check on me after an hour. He handed the other broom up so I didn’t have to sweep bending over. I told him I’d be finished in another twenty minutes, which I was. I called him and he held the ladder as I scampered down, feeling quite proud of myself. I peeled off my clothes, reclined on my bed, drank lots of water, and cooled down before I took a shower.

I raked up pine needles this morning, enough to fill my garbage bin. I’ve filled three bags already. One I put in my neighbor’s trash bin. The others will have to wait for next week’s collection. Since the exercise classes at the country club were cancelled until the end of June, I guess I work off calories raking pine needles and stuffing them in bags.

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