Daffodils …. in February?

Drive by our house today and you’ll see this guy.

I noticed him blooming in our front yard when I took our big dog Rodney out for a jaunt around the neighborhood.

Thought about trying to talk him into waiting until at least March, but it seems a bit late for that.




Since I mentioned my beard

Because I suspect you’re dying to know why I trimmed my beard after I mentioned giving it a buzz cut yesterday, take note of the weather at my house – it was 76 degrees this afternoon.

It’s early in the year, but with temperatures this warm, trimming my beard simply seemed like the right thing to do. I now look more like my social media profile pictures than I have in months.  

When I say I trimmed my beard, I mean most of it. I left my mustache and chin alone, but the rest of the hair on my face is now so short as to be negligible.

I should probably suck it up and shave, but here’s the thing – spring may SEEM to be taking hold, but trusting the weather this time of year would be like trusting our big dog Rodney not to bark maniacally when it’s time for a walk.

Better safe than sorry.

A little stubble for the time being seems like the right idea. After all, there are still several more weeks of winter on the calendar.

By the way, don’t tell my wife I wrote about my beard. She already thinks I’m too obsessed with it.

This will just confirm her suspicions.

Bearing up under summer humidity

Is it too much to ask that the weather this summer remain bearable?

With Monday marking the official start of the season, all we can do is ask the question, then wait and see.

Thursday’s strong storms and tornado scare notwithstanding, the weather lately has been fabulous. And yes, I’ve actually stayed awake long enough to notice the blue skies and pleasant temperatures of the past few weeks.

The weather has been so nice, I’ve even considered completely abandoning my usual afternoon nap in favor of venturing outside to get some work done around the house. My wife, however, remains disappointed. I’m still in the planning stages.

Even so, from the vantage point of my favorite chair (where I do all my best planning), this spring has been a gloriously long one.

It has spoiled me.

I’m grateful for it, but it can’t last.

Spring is about to turn the baton over to summer and with it any hope that conditions will remain within my comfort zone, that we’ll somehow be spared the heat and humidity of a typical West Virginia summer.

Between the two, humidity is the deal-breaker for me.

Not long ago, I would have said that I “hate” humidity and not thought much about it. But I’m making an effort not to use that word anymore. It’s often tossed around too casually without any thought to what it really means to hate something.

So I’d rather say that humidity “irritates” me in the same way that our big dog Rodney’s incessant barking “irritates” me when he thinks he’s about to be taken for a walk.

“Annoyed” would be another good word to describe the dim view I take of humidity. It also  “peeves” and “rankles” me.

And while humidity might make me “short-tempered,” it also “drains” what little energy I have in reserve and makes me “wilt,” “sag” and “droop.”

You get the picture. I’m not so much dreading the summertime heat as I am the HUMIDITY.

But it’s not just the distressing prospect of losing good nap weather that concerns me, it’s also the fashion choices that some men make to stay comfortable in the face of the sweaty season.

First, there are shorts. I’m not necessarily opposed to shorts. You’ll find plenty of them in my closet, including cargo shorts and simple cotton shorts with elastic waistbands that expand as I do.

I even still have an infamous pair of colorful madras plaid shorts that I bought years ago. I prefer to think of them as statement shorts, but my wife would delight in simply burning them.

My madras shorts prove I’m not above being a little ridiculous in my fashion choices, but I draw the line at pairing them with black socks and penny loafers.

While I’m on the subject of shoes, my personal preference is to keep my gnarly toes covered out of respect for delicate sensibilities.

Flip-flops and open-toe sandals leave nothing to the imagination, and so I reject them as proper men’s footwear despite their utility in hot, humid weather.

Rest assured that my toes will remain hidden from public view no matter how oppressive it gets this summer.

Think of it as my way of helping to make the season more bearable.

Sunshine, spring flowers and broken-down lawnmowers

Temperatures may have been on the cool side in my neighborhood this week, but at least the sun has been shining – and I’m not just talking about the one our planet revolves around.

I’m also referring to the one I revolve around.

My wife has been home from her annual spring beach trip for a couple of weeks – meaning the clouds have parted at our house. So much so, you might notice a marked improvement in this weekend’s column.

The last time I filed, it was without her imprimatur. She usually dots my I’s, crosses my T’s and otherwise sees to it that the drivel I scribble makes sense. But she was too busy living it up with her beach posse to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself (her?).

She’s back home now, so it’s probably safe to keep reading. Periods, commas, apostrophes and other punctuation marks should be where they are most useful, and verbs are more likely to agree with nouns. If not, it’s probably because I changed something after she stamped her approval.

In any case, it’s almost as if the sun has been celebrating my wife’s return. It’s been brilliant this week, a happy circumstance that agrees with the bulbs she planted in front of our house last fall. They are soaking up the spring rays. The yellow daffodils and red and lavender tulips are striking against the deep green of spring grass.

At least, that’s what I tell myself about our yard, that there is grass growing in it. The reality is different.

The truth is, aside from dandelions, I’m not exactly sure what has taken root. But something is growing, which is why I broke out my sputtering old lawn mower for the first time last week.

Unlike some of our neighbors who have upgraded to riding mowers, mine is more like what my dad used. It’s a basic gas-powered, push mower that I bought at the home improvement store too many years ago to count.

As I pulled it into the light of day from a dark corner of our garage, I found myself considering my options if it didn’t start. After all, it sputtered badly the last time I used it. It has seen better days.

As it turns out, I didn’t need to cross my fingers or even say a quick prayer. Apparently, the time off it had over the past several months did it some good. The old clunker started up right on cue. While it didn’t necessarily roar to life, it worked well enough to dispel any notion of replacing it, at least for the time being.

It’s no secret that I’d rather maintain my busy nap schedule than tend to yard work. But I have to admit – there is something to be said for cutting grass (weeds) for the first time each spring.

I haven’t figured out why that is. Maybe it’s simply the appeal of a lawnmower’s horsepower at your fingertips, even if the mower is more like a jalopy than a muscle car.

Or maybe not.

I’ll let you know just as soon as I get better at punctuation.

The Hogwarts School of Lawn Care

If only I would follow my own advice, I might have more time to devote to navel gazing this summer.

But I didn’t and now I fear I’m setting myself up for a busier than usual season of yard work.

That potential was brought home to me this week while I was taking a neighbor dog back down to his house after a play date with our big dog Rodney. One of the neighbors was out spreading grass seed.

At least, I think it was seed. It could have been some sort of fertilizer.

I didn’t ask what he was putting down in his yard, but it doesn’t really matter. The end result will probably be the same.

The dog and I stopped in the middle of the street and watched as my neighbor strode back and forth sending whatever he had in his hand-held spreader flying in every direction.

When he noticed me watching, I cracked a smile and suggested he would regret it.

“Don’t do it,” I joked. “You’re just creating work for yourself.”

The neighbor I harassed is a relative newcomer to our corner of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. In fact, we hadn’t even been properly introduced.

We took the opportunity that day. And, lucky for me he was a good sport about being heckled. After shaking hands, we chatted for a few minutes before going our separate ways.

I thought he’d go back to work encouraging grass to grow, but when I passed back by his house after returning the neighbor dog to his rightful home, he was no longer in his yard wielding his spreader.

He was nowhere to be seen.

I like to think I caused him to think twice about sprucing up his lawn – that he decided to slack off and do what I usually do when faced with yard work – kick back and hope that it will magically take care of itself.

Unfortunately, the Hogwarts approach to lawn care doesn’t work. Magic does not replace the investment in time and money. If it did, I would have the best, most luxurious lawn around. Instead, my wife is left to wonder about what’s actually growing in front of our house.

That’s not to say that I haven’t tried to sow grass.

Despite what I insisted a couple of weeks ago –  about waiting for the official start of spring – I actually got the jump on the season this year.

The Friday before the spring equinox, I raked my yard as the experts suggest to help new seed germinate. Then I retrieved my own spreader from the garage..

I’ve even remembered to turn on the sprinkler a few times since then to ensure my efforts are properly watered.

I’ve clearly ignored my own advice.

But I fully expect to regret the enthusiasm of spring – probably right around the time I have to pull out the rickety old lawn mower that’s been sitting idle in our garage all winter.


Spring isn’t here yet, so just quit it

Someone in my neighborhood is a little too excited about the arrival of spring.

I’m not sure who it is, but I know this: they must be stopped. Because when one neighbor gets a jump on yard work, the rest of us will have to fall in line or risk being talked about as scofflaws.

Spring doesn’t officially start until next weekend, but already at least one of our neighbors has been landscaping. I emerged from our house the other evening to the woodsy smell of mulch hanging in the air.

I’m not necessarily opposed to mulch. In fact, I welcome its aroma just as much as I delight in the first daffodils that bloomed at our house this week.

The daffodils are adding welcome color following the gray of winter. Our Bradford Pear trees will soon be brilliant as well. And I’m looking forward to saying hello to the tulips my wife planted last fall.

We think they are tulips, anyway. Neither one of us can remember exactly what she planted. We’ll find out when they come up to seek a little sunshine.

That’s the thing about nature. It doesn’t operate on a formal calendar like humans do.

I don’t expect whatever-it-is my wife planted to adhere to specific dates any more than I expect daffodils or Bradford Pear trees to observe the official start of spring.

They operate on their own time and in their own way.

But humans mark the passage of time with calendars for a reason.

I for one find them particularly useful, mostly because they keep me out of trouble. I have an appointment calendar on my smartphone to remind me of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. 

And, not only does it keep track of my schedule, it keeps me straight on wife’s schedule and our kids’ as well.

Without it, I would have misplaced my family a long time ago.

Calendars are important, so why have one if you’re not going to follow it?

The calendar says it is still winter, but the mulch I caught on the breeze this week has me thinking seriously about doing some spring chores around our house more than a week earlier than I think I should.

And that has led me to draw up urgent battle plans for our yard. It would be nice to have some grass growing among the weeds that have overrun it as if they were an invading army.

One day I will succeed in making our yard great again. Unfortunately, my track record is less than stellar.

The mulchy smell in the air around my house isn’t the only thing that has me fretting about spring chores a week early.

Daylight Saving Time is returning this weekend.

Much of the nation is set to lose an hour, but I refuse to lose anymore sleep than I have to over the yard battles that lie ahead.

At least, I won’t until next weekend when my calendar officially tells me spring has sprung.

A little shovel diplomacy between neighbors

Although temperatures are expected to be more springlike this weekend, I’m not ready to put up the snow shovel just yet.

There are still too many reminders of winter around my neighborhood, the biggest being the piles of snow that have yet to melt from last month’s massive storm.

To be sure, the snow from that storm is steadily disappearing, but the dregs are being stubborn, especially where the snow was piled up along driveways and sidewalks.

And even though the mountains the plows created at street corners are greatly diminished, they are being even more stubborn.

They were once piled as high as the stop sign across the street from my house and had slopes the neighborhood kids would have skied down if we had allowed them. Now that they are more like mounds instead of mountains, they are much less tempting to the budding winter sports enthusiasts among us.

One of those plow-created mounds is in our yard, near one of our Bradford Pear trees. The snow around it has melted, making it look like an iceberg floating in the green sea of what passes for grass at our house.

A responsible neighbor would mark it with a warning sign. If one of those things can take down the Titanic, just think what it could do to a car if it somehow ran off course and skidded into my yard.

Before the sun came out this week, there were other signs that winter is not ready to relent.

There was last weekend’s cold snap that put Valentine’s Day into the deep freeze. But before you blame me for the frigid holiday, take this into account: I remembered. It must have been some other hapless husband who forgot the flowers and chocolates and made the rest of us shiver through the holiday as if it were giving us all the cold shoulder.

Following the Valentine’s Day freeze, the snow that fell early Monday morning made the commute to my job in Washington, D.C. more interesting than usual. I was more than an hour late, slowed down by snow-covered interstates.

I don’t usually work Monday mornings. I had been scheduled to fill-in for a colleague. Despite the difficult driving, though, I was actually thankful for the change. Otherwise, I would have been driving home after my regular shift through the middle of Tuesday morning’s more dangerous ice storm.

As it was, instead of taking my usual siesta after the kids go to school and my wife leaves for work, I was rested enough to scrape our driveway.

And I know this will be hard to believe, but I was feeling more energetic than usual. Rather than putting my shovel up after finishing our driveway, I went to help a neighbor down the street.

Don’t be impressed. I waited until he was almost done.

My neighbor still thinks I’m a nice guy, though.

If a little extracurricular shoveling is all it takes to score points with neighbors now and again, I think I’ll keep my shovel handy.