All that drenching rain came pouring out of the skies — and it wasn’t the first time in the past couple of weeks, either. What had remained of grass in the front of the house  was just dried or almost dried mud. When these rains came, it washed the mud down from the upper lawn and turned the sidewalk into a mess of oozy brown mud.

Many leaves will fall!

It’s pretty awful out there. Drying out as we speak, but what to do?

Between two old and broken backs and arthritis crawling into every part of two skeletons, it’s hard to figure how we will get it cleaned up. It’s not like the dogs … who think layers of dirt are just fine, thank you … are likely to help. Right now, the yard is exactly the way they like it. There are fallen branches and twigs everywhere plus all the leaves that fell after last fall’s cleanup.

Our leaves are a three-stage process. During the early Autumn days, the maple leaves fall first. As soon as the color fades, they come down like rain into giant leafy drifts. Owen usually cleans them up. He has a machine to do that and it helps.

The storm of yesterday

The next wave of falling leaves consist of half the oaks, as well as the sassafras, any remaining maples, and the few other deciduous trees such as the Catalpa. Owen gets them, too, or most of them. There are always a few which are missed.

Finally, there are the leaves we don’t collect because they hang on the limbs until winter. Some don’t fall until the following spring. The last, late oak leaves don’t drop until late November or December. No one cleans them up because there is usually snow on the ground by then. There are — I don’t think this is much of an exaggeration — millions of leaves every autumn. Anyone who wanted to live in a woods and thought it would be romantic was right — except that living in a woods gets complicated and often messy.

You can’t leave the sodden leaves rotting against your house because it’s unhealthy for the house. It keeps your foundation damp. Damp foundations are unhappy foundations.

The bed of leaves remaining in what we humorously call “the garden” goes to insulate flowers (and weeds) from the bitter cold. We certainly had a bitterly cold winter. January was one of the coldest months on record. It was so cold, we didn’t get nearly as much snow as usual because when it’s that cold, the air is too dry to make snow.

But then, we moved abruptly — in a matter of hours — from well below freezing into the extremely springlike, mild temperatures. All of February was punctuated by a couple of warm days followed by a couple of bitter days. A bit of snow, a bit more snow, more melting … and deluges of rain.

Window outward

It’s a mess around here and I feel I should shut up about it because however much of a mess we have got, a lot of other people have a lot worse with which to contend. We didn’t lose any trees. Our roof is intact. No cars or people were crushed. We have some small branches and a million twigs everywhere, but no larger life-threatening limbs fell. Something of a minor miracle considering what might well have occurred.

These are the times when being old is a significant deficit. If we had even a little more money — we got whacked last year by the door replacement (Thanks Bob, for the help or we’d never have made it!), the exploded hot water heater (third times the charm?) and adding a stair climber to the steps from the front door to the living room. But to use the climber requires a viable walkway from driveway to door … and right now, we don’t have one. Fortunately, I can still lumber my way up the extra steps from the basement. I notice that Garry is beginning to have trouble with the steps too, these days.

The long driveway when the leaves are (mostly) gone

The great truth is we are not getting younger. Garry is in good shape for a man turning 76, but he is turning 76. He was never handy around the house. That is a kind way of saying that he has never had either interest or aptitude for house stuff. For years, Owen took care of it, but Owen moved out and doesn’t have nearly enough time to take care of it … and Owen himself is eligible for AARP. How time flies!

Withe the failure of our government to support older people both in health care and generally in keeping them from falling below the poverty line, hiring others to do the work isn’t really in the cards. We got a 2% raise in Social Security last year — less than $5 per month per check and of course retirement funds never go up, so whatever you got last year, any inflation means you are that percentage poorer. It is fortunate we don’t eat a lot.

Meanwhile,  I’d like about two weeks of a strong young handy-person to help straighten up the mess. I thought I had one, but he seems to have vanished. It’s possible poverty forced him to look for a better deal elsewhere.

Yellow before red

In the midst of the deluge and hurricane winds of yesterday, the builder came by to look at the problems we are having. We have a window that has sagged and is under the vinyl, obviously rotted out. It will need to be replaced. Whether or not it’s just the window that need replacing or the wall around it also need replacing remains to be seen. Regardless, it has to be fixed. There’s no alternative. We cannot easily extract ourselves from this house. We can’t “keep it up” the way it should be and that saddens me … but we can at least make our best effort to keep it from falling down.

It’s not the “what” of the mess with which we deal. It’s the “how” that’s killing us. Now, I have to call my son and find out where the faucet is in the front of the house. I think it’s buried in leaves near the front door. I hope it is!


Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.


  1. Just an idea – maybe you could offer a “free” two-week vacation in the heart of the New England woods in exchange for handyman type work (supplies furnished). There may be a few younger people who would jump at the chance to spend a couple of weeks in such a beautiful setting. and with such wonderful hosts. There may even be some who like working in dirt and mud.

    I’m glad we don’t have a lot of trees, but we do have mud (thanks, Puppy Cody!). I never even thought about an outside faucet until it occurred to me that the fence people are going to need access to water, and I didn’t want them running in and out of my house when I’m not here, so we had to have a faucet installed. I’m ok with that; I guess every house needs an outside faucet.

    Good luck with your cleanup.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The house is no longer suitable for guests who aren’t going to live upstairs with us. Since we stopped using the basement, it is a basement and not ready for prime time. I don’t see us repairing it, either. There’s too much else that needs doing.


        1. Folks could camp in your yard and help you maybe sometime…? I used to go to volunteer workcamps that the Quakers sponsored. Maybe somebody could do something a bit like that only at your place. We had mentioned a high school or something once–good luck with it. We lost electricity for a day plus, and no water since Thursday or so. Oh well. I am shaking the bubbles out of club soda and drinking that!

          Liked by 1 person

              1. Yeah, well. You’d think. But creativity is not really “ripe” in the valley. A lot of the people who run the towns (I don’t even know who they are — it’s like a secret cabal) are stuck in 1955 and they aren’t moving. Ever. And they all seem to be living extremely long lives.


        1. It’s kind of like a rolling, electric, wood chipper, but not quite as enthusiastic. Meant for chopping up leaves, twigs, and any other crud it picks up in a yards. So think “miniature wood chipper on wheels with motor.”


          1. Much better than trying to rake the debris up. Yikes I can’t imagine. Wonderful to have beautiful trees to gander at with lots of land, but omg the work involved as well, which becomes problematic as we age for sure. Still I love the view out your front window. Something my dreams are made of to be sure.


  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I have just reached my dotage and often worry whether I’ll cope as my years advance. It is great to hear of people doing just that and, despite the problems (and there are more than a few) this is a great counterblast to all the ageist stuff that fills the media.


  3. It does look tough. I am finding that kind of physical work on that scale defeats me as I get older. I have downsized now and am feeling much happier for it. I hope you find solutions that work for you and your husband.


    1. I’ve given up on the garden. It blooms, but it’s basically wild. My son mows. Someone comes and sprays for pests and we do the necessities — pumping out the septic system and taking care of the heating unit, but otherwise? We aren’t going to live in a perfectly clean house because NO ONE is able to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like you have taken care of the basics and are fundamentally happy where you are. I hope you can get help to fix the storm damage.


  4. I’m glad you and Garry are safe. I’m a single male making barely above minimum wage, living in a drug infested and poverty stricken city. I ride my bicycle to work everyday, 8 miles per day for five days…Just recently a huge, huge, factory just moved here which does nothing for the welfare of the city. (Unless you are the City Government). It is fully self-automated…which means absolutely no employment opportunities for the residents. (About 300 specialized computer operators, security, and the like) Seems like humanity are just leaves being blown off the trees by the winds of self-automation and an indifferent political agenda.


    1. Boston has a fair amount of work because it’s full of hospitals and colleges and there’s always work there, but outside of the inner circle around Boston, there’s very little work. All the work that was supposed to arrive hasn’t arrived. There are some local shops and “a good job” is checking people out at the supermarket. There’s some work in local medical facilities. We don’t have factories. There are a couple of warehouses for places like Sam’s Club, but they don’t seem to hire anyone. I think it is all automated.

      Automation is the way things are going and no one will be unaffected. It’s going to get increasing difficult. I find it hilarious that we have a president worrying about coal minors. With all the automation, virtually no one will have a job.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. IF it doesn’t rain or snow tomorrow, we’re (me, Garry, Owen) will clean up the mess of rotting leaves along the foundation. If it’s warm enough, I’ve got a hose we can attache and see if we can wash away at least some of the mud. The rest of it is going to wait for decent weather. The problem has been that any day Owen had off has been snowing or raining. For months. Eventually, the weather is sure to improve. I have that on good authority.


      1. Don’t Worry! Donald Trump will make the American weather really great again! He’s going to build a wall on the Canadian border to stop all these blizzards crossing into the US. 🙂

        And he’ll stop the leaves! He may even fix your driveway/path?

        Pigs WILL fly! 😉

        Alternatively all those unemployed people might just come around to your street and offer to clean up all your yards in return for a free meal?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am SOOOOO glad i’m not job hunting these days. It wasn’t easy before, but it’s getting worse. It’s pretty funny, really. Trump is fighting for the right of coal miners — while automation is eliminating thousands of jobs and that’s just the beginning. There aren’t any jobs for all those dispossessed factory workers, either. Even with education, there’s nowhere for them to go.

          You know, if pigs fly, they will be turkeys. Just saying.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Can you imagine all those coal miners and steel workers coding the robots that will be doing their old job?

            Neither can I 😦

            can you guess how many Auto workers are going to be laid off now steel is going to be 25% more expensive (at least!)

            I’m sure The Donald can’t either.

            At least Thanksgiving should be good this year – for those who can afford all the turkey!


              1. Sadly, i was wrong about him being gone in 12 months – very sadly!

                If anything it seems likely he’ll go full term! 😦

                God forbid he gets a second.

                Hopefully all of us will survive until he’s gone…. but it’s not by any means certain. 😦 😦


  5. My mother, 88, lives on her own in a house in a tiny village and although it’s getting more challenging every day, she refuses to move and I live a thousand miles away, so I can appreciate the challenges. I suppose you haven’t thought of moving?


    1. If there was any chance of us selling this house and coming out of it with enough money to live somewhere else, we probably would. Unfortunately, it isn’t likely. We are pretty much stuck here.


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