Autumn leaves and chores

These autumn days in New England warn us about winter’s imminence with crisp, cool mornings and tease us with moderately warm days. I find myself constantly monitoring the outdoor thermometer and the weather app on my iPhone so that I can make the most of any warm spurts that become more fleeting as November creeps closer.

In August, I noticed that the decks near the front and side entrances were looking shabby. The existing stain had weathered, and the wood grain was visible in some places. While the front entrance was quick to prep with an orbital sander, the side entrance required a pressure washer to remove the algae and grime. The facing surfaces are now coated in what Cabot calls “Cape Code Gray”, and the vertical surfaces, such as the balusters and kick boards on the stairs, have been rejuvenated with classic white. As I labored in old paint-spattered clothes that I wear only for this type of work, my son sat happily on our garden tractor which I parked in the middle of the driveway where we could see each other at all times. He pretended to steer the tractor through the fields of his imagination. Occasionally he’d sip apple juice from a baby bottle and then return it to the cup holder on the right side of the seat.

I can check a couple items off my to-do list, but there’s still lots more to do. In September, we had our back deck rebuilt. We upgraded to a composite product for the facing surfaces, and pressure-treated lumber for the rest. The pressure-treated wood has opened up to welcome its first coat of stain. Also, any day now, we should be receiving two cords of partially seasoned wood. It needs to be stacked and covered with tarps promptly so that it doesn’t fall prey to the drenching rains we often see in October. As part of this annual ritual, we rotate the wood that remains from last season so that we burn it first. Then there’s the storing of the wood scraps that are too small to be stacked. By lining the driveway with tarps and having our firewood supplier drop the load right in the middle, we can funnel the scraps of wood into containers so that it’s readily available as kindling. After the scraps have been removed from the driveway, then…well…it’s time to deal with the leaves. We’ll use our gas-powered blower, and force the leaves right into the woods where they’ll return to the earth as compost. Although trees in rural areas blanket the ground with an impressive palette of color, cleanup is a breeze and we don’t have to fumble with heaps of dried-up foliage. This is a special benefit that we enjoy as rural folk.

After the outside chores are done, I clean the hardwood floors, and put a fresh coat of polish down to protect them from the dry air that our wood burning fireplace insert blows through our living area. And by the time the floors are polished, it’ll be time to make space in our living room for our Christmas tree and all the presents that Santa will bring. Because my son is into sandbox trucks right now, like the behemoth and seemingly indestructible Bruder trucks,¬†these gifts are sure to take up lots of space.

As I ponder the work on my to-do list, it seems daunting considering that I manage it with a toddler in tow. But the rewards on a cool evening are divine. I light a Yankee Candle, like the Apple Pumpkin scent that now graces the kitchen, brew a fresh cup of coffee from our Keurig, and fix my son a bottle of chocolate milk. Then I’m ready to curl up on the couch with him and watch Mighty Machines or play trains as we wait for Daddy to come home and join us for dinner. It’s such a perfect end to an autumn day.

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