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Tales of the Tundra

December 22nd, 2017

Laying the Smackdown on Mother Nature

I am still not used to living here in the frigid north.

Since moving to the Ocala area, I have encountered a number of strange phenomena I didn’t have to deal with in Miami. Here’s an example: up here, leaves fall off the trees.

Yes, some trees in South Florida lose their leaves. But most don’t, and generally, the ones that do, drop their leaves in the spring. Up here, almost every tree is a live oak, and they drop their leaves continuously throughout the cool months. I think. We also have real trees such as maples, and they shed, too.

Once the leaves fall, they’re on the lawn, and then what do you do with them?

My strategy of ignoring them and figuring they would evaporate has worked out poorly. Live oak leaves are like heavy postage stamps that never rot. They glue themselves to everything around them, forming a crappy mat of death that kills grass.

The lawn is in considerably worse shape than it was when I arrived.

I looked around for answers. One dude on a forum told me to run my mower over the leaves and mulch them. I tried it. Most of the leaves ignored the mower and held onto the ground like baby poo holds onto a new couch. The rest blew out the side and landed a few feet away, where they continued killing the grass.

I found out my mower isn’t set up for mulching. As I understand it, a mulching mower doesn’t shoot leaves out. It has a plugged leaf port or whatever it’s called. The leaves and clippings are confined under the deck for as long as possible, permitting the mower to chew it up.

I didn’t know much about mulching, but I knew one thing: I was not going to rake. That was unthinkable.

I found out John Deere makes a mulching kit. For $270, they will sell you $100 worth of parts to screw onto your mower. It’s a plug for the leaf exit, plus some sheet metal to help confine things. They also throw in 3 mulching blades, which, I guess, are blades that mulch better.

I ordered the kit, and I also ordered 3 Gator mulching blades from another company. These blades have little flap sort of things cut into their trailing edges. I think they’re supposed to create more leaf-sucking turbulence.

Now I have to take the deck off the mower, turn it over, and install all this stuff. I get to roll 345 pounds of metal over, by myself. Fun.

I already know the leaves won’t come off the ground just because I have a mulching kit. That would be out of character for them. I decided I needed something else, to loosen the leaves up before mowing. I checked a bunch of options, and I bought an acreage rake. If you’ve ever seen a hay rake, you’ve seen a large version of an acreage rake. It has a bunch of pinwheel-looking things on it, and they move debris into a neat row behind your garden tractor. Presumably this will make the mulching kit happy.

I don’t know if this will work, but it’s cheaper than the next-best option, which is covering the whole yard with pine bark.

The mulching kit is here, and I’m preparing to install it. No word on the arrival of the rake yet.

I also discovered that some of my plants were not freezeproof. We had a light freeze, and my much-hated ixora bush partially withered. I also lost most of a weird flowering thing at the base of a tree. The weeds all did fine, naturally.

I asked my friend Amanda what was going on, and she said people up here–this is not something I’m making up–run out in their yards before freezes and put sheets over their delicate little snowflake plants. Seriously. Grown people, wrapping plants in sheets.

Here’s how I see it: the freeze helped me identify weak plants I need to kill. I’m not going to run around the yard wrapping things in sheets. If a plant dies, it was never intended to be here.

I think I understand what happened. The previous owners came from Virginia. They saw Ocala as a place where they might be able to grow cool tropical plants. I came from Miami. I see it as a place where I can grow cool temperate-zone plants. They probably wanted mangoes and coconuts. I never want to see those things again. I hate Miami worse than hemorrhoids. I want chestnuts, blackberries, apples, peaches, penguins, and polar bears.

Yesterday I took my neat lithium-ion hedge trimmer and ripped out about half of the frostbitten ixora. Eventually I’ll take the tractor’s front end loader and tear it out of the ground while cackling helplessly. Ixoras remind me of Miami, and besides, they’re ugly.

I plan to plant manly plants that laugh, audibly, at cold fronts.

Another new scourge: moles. They’re real. I thought they only existed in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Seriously, there is an animal that swims in dirt.

I noticed that my yard was getting mushy, but I didn’t know why. I had a dim impression that it might be huge colonies of earthworms. Then I saw that patches of grass were dying. Moles were tunneling under the grass, cutting the roots.

I researched moles and learned that most methods of getting rid of them are totally worthless.

You can buy little spikes with solar-powered noisemakers in them. They’re supposed to annoy the moles. In reality, the moles either don’t care, or they only care for a short time. Then they come back.

You can also buy live traps. When your moles are caught, you can pick them up and pitch them into the next yard, which, hopefully, they will like better than yours. The problem here is that moles have very little fat and don’t store energy well. A mole can starve in a few hours. That means live traps are really less-humane death traps. Instead of killing your mole cleanly, you leave it to die slowly, in agony. So if you use “humane” traps, you have to run outside around the clock to check them.

Yeah. That’s totally going to happen. I wouldn’t get up every 3 hours for chemotherapy.

Why do all these worthless mole products exist? I think the answer is women. Moles are very cute, and women don’t like killing cute things. I think they get out their rolling pins when their husbands get in the car to go to Tractor Supply, and they beat them until they promise not to buy real traps.

I don’t distinguish between cute pests and ugly ones. If they were wrecking my grass, I’d set traps for baby ducks. It’s sad and all that, but life is what it is. I’m planning to kill all of my squirrels, even though they’re cute. My dad is against it. He has been throwing orange peels in the yard to feed them.

Yes, orange peels. It didn’t make any sense to me either. Don’t make me digress.

When my dad was a kid, his neighbors used to pay him to drown kittens. He has really changed, and of course, he changed when it would inconvenience me.

I got a scissor trap. It pinches moles nearly in half. Great invention, but it’s hard to use here, because you have to be able to see your mole tunnels clearly in able to set it. It’s hard to tell where my tunnels begin and end. I went for another option: carbon monoxide. You can buy an adaptor that connects and exhaust pipe to a garden hose. They probably shouldn’t sell these to depressed female college students. Anyway, you pipe gas into your mole tunnels, and the moles quietly expire and rot, out of sight. And you can tell your wife, truthfully, that Mr. and Mrs. Mole went beddy-bye and woke up in happy land.

If you really want your moles gone fast, there is a propane-based tool that blows them out of the ground. Some Youtube genius built one. This guy is amazing. He composed a tune for background music. He played all the instruments. Then he killed a tremendous number of moles on video, and he timed the explosions to match the beat. You have to see it. I’ll embed it here.

Is that great, or what? The obvious downside is that the weapon does far more damage to your yard than moles. I think the real purpose has little to do with yard maintenance and everything to do with revenge.

You can also shoot flammable gas into mole tunnels with an ordinary torch and light them. It’s a molocaust. A molepocalypse. Armolegeddon.

I bought a car exhaust adaptor, and I plan to get a special short hose and get to work. No suffering for the moles, and my yard should recover in less than ten years.

I’m wondering if water would drive them out. I could fill the tunnels while standing by with a .22. But I already have the gas thing.

When I moved here, I did not realize I would have to kill almost everything I saw. I would love to get along with all the bugs and bunnies and duckies, but it looks like I’ll be spending a good deal of my time killing, killing, killing. Live oak trees. Mosquitoes. Squirrels. Moles. Wimpy shrubs. Poison ivy. If you come to visit me, you should probably wear an orange vest and carry some form of ID. I am more dangerous than Happy Fun Ball with PMS.

5 Responses to “Tales of the Tundra”

  1. Tondelayo B Says:

    “Should Happy Fun Ball begin to glow and vibrate, please discontinue use of Happy Fun Ball.”

  2. Mike Says:

    I worked at a motorcycle dealership in the 70″s while attending night classes. The education received working there has been much more beneficial over time than any classroom gleanings. They had a huge rat problem. The building was on a concrete slab and the rodents had burrowed underneath making their own hardened bunkers. We (part time teenage employees) decided to gas them with a poorly tuned 2 stroke motorcycle and some garden hose. After getting the rig set up and pumping for a few minutes we found out just how many back door escape hatches they had. Our plan was to murder them as they crawled out half dead from the fumes but they had other plans. Didn’t see a one! A few minutes later the boss comes out back saying that a horde of rats had emerged from the front of the showroom running across the highway out front and the building may be on fire. He didn’t fire us because he was a good person and I think he secretly came to work every day just for the entertainment he knew we would provide.
    Have fun murdering moles. May your efforts produce better results than mine!

  3. Ruth H Says:

    When we lived out in the wilderness we had gophers, the bane of my existence. I put water hoses into two widely separated mounds and hopefully drowned them. At least they stayed away for a while.

    Here we are being overrun by moles. It is not good for elderly ladies to sink into a mole run. I am thinking of getting some mothballs to put in the runs. People told us it got rid of gophers. Nope, just sent them away for a vacation. The mole runs are all but above ground so maybe the mothballs will work on them.

    As for the live oak leaves… pitiful. I hate to tell you this, but yes they do drop leaves all year long, then in the spring they drop ALL their leaves and put on fresh new green ones, and flower tassels. That is so as soon as you get those old leaves raked up you can begin raking up the tassels.

    Harvey took away a lot of the canopies of our trees and they are starting fresh on fewer branches so we shouldn’t have as many leaves this spring. I would rather have them than Harvey in our neighborhood.

    Have a Merry Christmas, and don’t worry so much about those leaves, they are God’s way of making new soil.

  4. Joe Says:

    Merry Christmas

  5. lauraw Says:

    Killing baby ducks I understand, but why are you gonna kill all the squirrels?