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Big Chuck

July 16, 2012

Yardwork isn't as easy as one might assume

I now have a yard.

Let me explain.

For many years I have owned a succession of houses with little or no yards. They were lovely, big old homes, but completely devoid of any green space. Well, that changed recently when we bought a new house, and guess what it came with? That's right, a huge backyard.

Now to get to work on it.

I have grand plans for my yard. I am certain it will end up being my magnum opus. Or not. I dusted off my old, rarely used mower and gave the yard its first trimming. So far, so good.

The yard is hemmed in by a large fence. I bought a weed eater. I thought this would be great fun. I pictured myself swinging it with great aplomb, lopping off the errant weed here and there, giving my personal opus its final, well, "magnumosity."

But this chore turned out to be problematic. It was erratic. I constantly had to stop and pull out more cutting twine. The cord kept pulling out of the outdoor outlet. Twigs and sticks were flying everywhere. It was not a success.

I then moved on to a more-specific form of landscaping. Topiary design.

The front yard of my house features several large, lush bushes. I thought this would be my supreme palette.

I had visions of creating topiary images so stunning that I would certainly win the "Yard of the Month" award in my new neighborhood. I did not own a hedge trimmer, so I went and bought one. It is a monstrosity that evokes a jagged, horned sea monster. I planned my landscaping objectives carefully. Yes, this would be a yard to behold!

I approached the largest bush in the yard, one taller than me, and turned on my artist's tool. The hedge trimmer was so powerful that the first time I turned it on I was literally pulled in behind it. I struggled mightily to extricate myself from the demon shrub, hoping that none of my new neighbors drove by the house and saw my size-13 sneakers sticking out from the green bramble.

I decided that my topiary theme would be animals. A deer, a rabbit, a unicorn and a cat. Four bushes. Four works of art.

I gained control of the hedge trimmer and went to work. Switching, cutting, carving, trimming and molding my way through a wonderful afternoon of unbridled exuberance.

I felt the ghostly presence of that great trinity of legendary landscape masters, Olmsted, Vaux and Downing urging me on at every cut and snip. I even chuckled to myself as I remembered the movie "Edward Scissorhands," and soon I began to morph into somewhat of a Johnny Depp-like character (albeit with real hands).

Bush debris was flying through the air as I whipped the power cord around as easily as Will Rogers handled a lariat. The muscular drone of the hedge trimmer signaled to my neighbors near and far that "a man was on a mission." It was exhausting, but by God, I was doing "yardwork!"

I turned the monster hedge trimmer off, and the mid-afternoon air went silent. I smugly walked into the center of the street to view my masterpiece. Yes, it was time for the big reveal. I whirled around.

"Um, where is the deer?" I said silently to myself. Is it that one? No, that's the cat. I think. And why does the rabbit look like a deflated football? And where is the horn on the unicorn? In fact, where is the unicorn? The bushes on my front lawn looked as if a drunken tornado had danced through the area. Nothing made sense.

All that work and what to show for it? Just a mishmash of twisted branches, a wet T-shirt, a floppy sneaker and a sore knee. I was sad. No "Yard of the Month" award for me. Oh, well. As they say in Cleveland, "there is always next year."

Whenever I call my mother in Sidney and ask her what she has been doing, she says, "Oh, I have been out doing some yardwork." She has said that every day for over a half-century. My mother-in-law, Phyllis Newell, possesses the greenest thumb of any human being I have ever met. She loves doing her "yardwork" and has turned her Hartwick homestead property into a botanical masterpiece worthy of any Thomas Kinkade painting.

Yard work. Actually, I think it is a bit overrated.

I'll catch you in two ...

"Big Chuck" D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at His columns can be found at

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