We planned a "staycation" recently to be able to focus on a slew of domestic chores that we could no longer avoid. Anytime I get into the domestic chores it always includes disposing of stuff. To avoid being labeled hoarders, we knew we had to free ourselves of a bunch of stuff. I started in my half of the walk-in closet. I got a big old garbage bag and started folding unused or no longer wanted clothing and tossing it in. Jackets are my clothing weakness. I probably have six motorcycle jackets, but did I donate even one of them? No. I designated a couple of jackets for everyday wear to the pile and went on from there. My fiancee? She just recently donated a bunch of clothing, so she was OK. While I was sorting out my side of the closet, she headed for the great outdoors and began hacking away at a rhododendron that we inherited with the property.
In May, the rhododendron blossoms with brilliant deep pink flowers that are almost Day-Glo in their color saturation. At about the same time we always notice that this bush also emits a fragrance, not unlike that of a rotting skunk hit by a passing car and left to biodegrade naturally. Regardless of the odor, I rather like the rhododendron bush. My fiancee? Not so much. By the time I got outside she had hacked off more than 60 percent of the tangle of twisted branches that had proliferated over the years. "Are you trying to kill it?" I asked. She hesitated just long enough before saying "no, not really" that I doubted her intentions. By the volume of what she had already cut, another ten minutes and it would be gone. She had that gleam in her eye that tells me she is on a mission, so we had a brief discussion and mutually agreed that it had been cut enough, and if it died, neither of us were going to spend any time mourning it. Two pickup truck loads full of it were taken to recycling. Yeah, it had gotten way out of control over the years.
I purchased my home from neighbors. I had been told that the rhododendron had been locally propagated by a rhododendron breeding enthusiast. Just as we were loading up the truck with the bush's remains, my neighbor was coming down our hill and she stopped, rolled down the window and asked if we were getting rid of the plant. "No, just trimming it back" I replied. She went on to remind me of the bush's rarity and I offered cuttings or sections with roots. True to my word, I gathered some of the rooted bits that my fiancee had virtually ripped from the soil and put them in a bucket of water, then delivered it to our neighbor's house. Mission accomplished.
Further outdoor work included putting down weed mat and mulching along our stone wall. I had purchased the mulch well over a year ago from D&E Mulch in Guilford. To our delight, it had retained its color all that time and now looks great against the wall. We went around digging out weeds, pucker brush, and junk trees, and then I mowed the lawn with my seventeen-year-old lawn tractor that doesn't owe me a thing. In the end, we both felt pretty good about our landscaping work.
In an effort to reduce more clutter, we finally dealt with the refrigerator that died on us last fall. It was blocking any kind of organizational progress lying on its side in the barn. We aired up the hand truck wheels and hauled it into another shelter after I took the bottom apart and cleaned nine years worth of cat hair out of the vents. With any luck, that was the problem with it and we'll post it on Craigslist and say goodbye to it. Otherwise, it's off to recycling ... again.
On another day, I mounted some clever hooks onto a wall storage system to store motorcycle helmets, and we finally finished the master bedroom drapes that have been hanging unhemmed for the past nine years. What a relief getting that out of the way. Needless to say, all of our efforts resulted in aching muscles, sore lower backs, and plenty of bumps and bruises. Knowing that we had checked off eighty percent of the to-do list was extremely gratifying. That final twenty percent is going to have to wait until we heal up, but we really made a big dent in the list.
Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.