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Uh-Oh, Josh & Machinery, Not a Good Sign

Machines and I seldom get along together.

With great trepidation, I bought a new lawnmower last night, my third one since I’ve lived here.

I shouldn’t have had to buy it at all, but my next-door neighbor, who’d agreed to mow my lawn for $20 per, suddenly decided not to do it, and be passive-aggressive about not doing it.

Instead of picking up his 20 bucks each time he was done, he let things ride until one day his wife asked for 60 when I thought I owed him 40. I paid her the 60 but told her I thought he’d only mowed twice.

Didn’t hear a word back and my grass got long. So I bought a new mower, a better one than before, self-propelled and all, in case my problem with the previous mowers was that I wasn’t spending enough for a quality machine. This one promised to start “first time, every time.”

It came in a huge box. A young man at the store helped me load it into my back seat, but wasn’t around to help me unload it at home. Still, I got it out of the car and looked inside. It was all put together, so that was a relief.

I followed the directions. I can usually make something workable if I’ve got very specific directions; shelving, mini-blinds, anything that comes in pieces to assemble. But the directions had better assume I don’t know a thing.

I am no mechanic, and I’m retarded when it comes to building or fixing things. I’ve learned over the years not to even try unless I’ve got step by step instructions. Most of the time I don’t feel bad about this, unless I’m supposed to fix something. But I am programmed to believe that “men can do anything mechanical” (my next door neighbor can), so I really dread these kinds of tasks. I feel ashamed at my lack of ability and knowledge. My father didn’t teach us kids and I had a terrible time in 7th grade shop class. It took me all semester to make a ping-pong paddle while my male classmates were building room additions.

Fortunately I met the course requirement because we only had to build one thing. I think my paddle lasted about a week and a half before its rubber surface started peeling off, but by then I didn’t care. I passed.

These same classmates thought I was the smartest kid in the county until they saw me in shop class.

So: I got my lawnmower ready for the big test: Handle chest high. Oil in the reservoir, fuel in the tank, cord threaded through the slot; depress the bar next to the handle, push the “engine engage” lever till it clicks, then pull.

The bitch started right up! So I mowed my yard. And despite my panic over spending $260 on a lawnmower, it will only take 13 mows to pay for itself. Plus I’ve now got my neighbor out of my hair.

I’d forgotten how much better my yard looks when I mow it instead of paying someone else to do it. Or maybe my perception is altered because I did the work myself. I know this, it helps to have the mower push itself. I wasn’t nearly as tired afterward as I used to get with my cheap mowers.

I also have a better idea of what’s going on with my yard when I’m paying close attention to it. I need to trim more low-hanging branches off my trees; the cherry trees in front make life especially miserable when you’re mowing. Maybe that’s why Tony didn’t want the job, though I suspect he feels insulted that I questioned him. Still, he ought to have been a man about it and simply said, “No, it really was three times, Josh.” Okay.

He bult a privacy fence this year, and boy, am I glad about that; I don’t have to look at his ugly back yard anymore, or have any contact with him now.

But the biggest thing is, I solved my own problem. I got the job done. I am not a total wimp after all.

Meanwhile, my dillweed planted next to the house is looking gorgeous. Last year when I planted it I didn’t harvest any, and then it was gone; I didn’t realize it would come back again this year. So I think I’ll bake a couple of chicken breasts tomorrow so I can make chicken salad for sandwiches.

Josh’s Chicken Dill Salad

cubed cooked chicken or turkey
chopped sweet pickle
chopped onion
poultry seasoning

You can use it as a sandwich or a salad; spoon it into a custard cup and invert it on a lettuce leaf.

Will fresh dillweed make a taste difference? We shall see.

This year I will also try making a cold cherry soup.

James Beard’s Cherry Soup

2 pounds tart red cherries, pitted
2 C water
2-inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1/4 t salt
2 C red wine, port or sherry
sugar to taste
2 egg yolks, well beaten

Cook cherries in water with cinnamon, salt and cloves until cherries are very soft. Remove cinnamon and cloves; put cherries in a blender with some of the liquid and puree. Return to saucepan, add wine and sugar. Mix a little soup with the egg yolks, then stir back into the cherries. Reheat, stirring, until slightly thickened. Chill well in refrigerator. Serve cold with fresh cherry garnish.

(You could also add sour cream or whipped cream as garnish, dusted with a little ground cinnamon. If you like your soup sweet, add the sour, and vice versa.)

Serve on the veranda and pronounce yourself the master of all you survey.++

My cherries are ripening already.