Mulch, Machines, And Mayhem

wheelbarrow-and-mulchIt’s about 76 degrees and a few wispy clouds, maybe a little humid for mulch labor, but what the heck. I mentioned mulch slinging as maybe being a job for me this weekend and my friend and colleague, Dr. George Dawson, left some cryptic messages about it on my post yesterday. George is looking out for my health and I have a tender back, so I took his advice. Also, I’m getting prepared for retirement and need to plan for my activities.

Shopping for heavy equipment is not a trivial project. They don’t sell anything in the colors I like at Lowe’s Home Improvement. But there are plenty of home construction sites and lawn care company crews in my neighborhood and you just never can tell when workers are going to run off and leave the keys in them. You have to be alert.little-tractor

Not many people know I’m multi-talented when it comes to yard work. You can save a ton of money if you use common sense and know how to hot-wire. Before I could tackle the mulching chore, I could detect the need for the fall aeration and soil conditioning which, as anybody with a modicum of outdoor gardening and theft experience is aware, requires incorporation of a late-stage compost material into your turf to stimulate root growth and restore balance to your soil.

Now you can do that with a simple hand tool like the one shown, although the repetitive motion of this sort of labor can lead to an exacerbation of bursitis. This can also disturb the earthworms who are the natural tillers of the soil and who don’t take kindly to being cut in half.


You could argue that the motorized version of the aerator is no more merciful to worms than the hand aerator but so what?

It’s usually unnecessary to hot-wire a motorized aerator; the workers generally always leave them running when they knock off for lunch. The technique for scooping the soil plugs with a shovel is a skill I perfected while working as an undercover agent with the United States Lawn Rescue and Relocation Program in Honolulu. It didn’t pay well.


You can also adjust the aerator so the unit shoots the plugs out just like a tommy gun. It’s a convenient method for discouraging woodchucks from eating the plants in your garden.

Moving mulch, as George points out, is a physically demanding job and you want to ensure that you have the right tool for the job. There is a sort of “Goldilocks” principle at work here. Some tools are too big.



And some are too small.


Getting the machine home can be challenging and you might have to use a little imagination. In general there is nothing miraculous about it. One method is to calmly inform the construction worker that the machine you’re interested in seems to have been mentioned in a recent newscast as part of a factory recall due to a tendency for the motor to explode without warning if the operator presses the footfeed while wearing workboots of any kind. Adding that a buddy of yours is recovering just fine in the the hospital after just such an accident and is already pretty handy with all 4 limb prostheses  often does the trick.

Occasionally someone will get a little suspicious if he catches you swinging into the cab after this ploy. This is not ordinarily any trouble if you can start the engine and get the rig moving quickly enough to swerve in the path of anyone moving in your direction. If it’s a front end loader, tipping the pursuers into the shovel, executing a couple of 360 degree spins, and tipping the occupants out with sufficient momentum can cause a temporary motion sickness incapacitating enough to allow you to get out to the highway.

Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get this exactly right the first time. It takes practice which you can get right on penitentiary grounds; some kind of construction is always going on. Chances are good you’ll be in long enough to conduct this maneuver with sufficient dexterity by the time you’re paroled.

There are a few hazards to watch out for when you get the rig on to the street. The machine usually has a governor on it so the top speed often is pretty slow. It may be too slow to avoid deer and other small creatures like Volkswagens. But remember, you’re much bigger and likely to prevail in a collision.

You won’t be able to elude police cruisers but if your machine is big enough you can push them into the ditch. This could save you valuable time, allowing you to get to a burger joint for lunch before heading home to get the mulch work done.


If the authorities catch up to you, just tell them you’re retired and that your psychiatrist told you to be sure and do something which gives you a sense of meaning and purpose as well as joy.

Nope; no need to thank me. Doing good deeds like this is its own reward.