Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Art and Ardor of Weed Whacking

Weed whacking was never an occupation or adventure I coveted. However, an overgrown backyard became the mother of my re-invention.

Weed WhackingWeed plucking has been my favored technique to rid the yard of dandelions and other noxious weeds. But living next to a natural area and under a bird fly-way has created a forest of weeds exceeding my capabilities as a one-man plucker.

For Father’s Day, I bought a 40-volt, hand-held, assemble-yourself weed whacker. This is a serious power tool for a serious job. Not one of those weed whackers only meant to clip a few random weeds growing next to your fence or under a tree.

Assembling the weed whacker was an ordeal. There is a reason why I didn’t major in mechanical engineering. After a while, I managed to get the various pieces in more or less the right place.

The battery had been in the charger overnight, so everything was ready to go.

My biking glasses came in handy as safety goggles, as I headed to the backyard to face down, almost literally, a villain’s lineup of weeds.

It became clear after the first few passes that even this pseudo-industrial strength weed whacker was outgunned by some of these giant weed stocks. I was forced, on the fly, to develop an alternative strategy. I decided to start from the top and work down.

This strategy worked well, except for the area at the foot of the steps leading down from the deck. This area had to be cleared close to the ground so the dog could actually get into the backyard to access her normal haunts.

Weed whackers have a slim frame, which belies how much they can weigh, especially if they are battery-powered, as mine is. The battery lasts for a full 30 minutes. My forearm lasted less than that.

Before long, my strategy had evolved into how many weekends it would take to whack the weeds down to eye level.

My neighbors have been supportive. They set up a row of lawn chairs to watch my less-than-professional weed-whacking technique. Thankfully, there was no booing.

I offhandedly mentioned my weed-whacking to my son-ion-law, who admonished me by text message to stop immediately and hire someone who knew what he was doing. It was a good point, but I already had invested in this amazing power tool and had dedicated myself to master it, including how to extend the wires that whirred and acted like plastic saws on weeds.

weeds2One reason I bought this particular model was because it doubles as an edger. My first attempts at edging proved fruitless. All I managed to do was snap off the plastic coils without creating that neat little ditch around the front yard grass.

A week between weed whacking outings seems like a necessary rest period. It allows the memory of flying weed debris to fade and my forearm to recover. The battery only takes 60 minutes to recharge.

Next weekend, while others plot their fireworks displays, I will be screwing up my courage to whack some more weeds and withstand the jeers of neighbors. But I am committed to mete out pain to the weeds, even if I can’t always sever their stems. There is something reaffirming about doing combat with weeds, which is like a video game with physical effects.

I have liberated the air conditioner and one entrance to the backyard. There is much territory, another gate and many weeds to go. My weed whacker and I are ready for the challenge. Move over, Indiana Jones.



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