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It takes a village to heat my house.

This month, Mr. G opened our gas bill and just about soiled his pants. We owed a record-breaking $215 for hot water and heat for the month of December. Everyone at our house had been so busy with holiday crap and working extra hours that no one had had time to stoke the fire, not even The Baked Chef, our personal chef/Cinderella of the Cellar, who was out of state on business for much of the time.

Luckily, a dead elm tree two doors down came to the rescue. Our Friendly Neighbor we shall call Mr. Cardigan (not because he wears them, but because he's so darn nice he reminds me of Mr. Rogers... if Mr. Rogers were a retired salesman and 'Nam vet who spends his days hunting and league bowling) thought the dead tree was in his yard and planned to cut it down so it didn't fall on its own, which would almost guarantee the destruction of the whole street's power lines and the house down the hill.

But OH NO, HERE COMES STUPID RETIRED PEOPLE DRAMA! Turns out the tree was actually within the boundaries of Mr. Cardigan's neighbor's property, and Mr. Cardigan's neighbor, Mr. Crotchety, didn't want to pay a few hundred bucks to cut it down. He wanted to let it fall on its own so the city and insurance companies would have to pick up the tens-of-thousands-of-dollars tab after it fell, potentially killing his neighbors out back, but who really cares about them, right? We are not our neighbors' keepers!

So, Mr. Cardigan cut a deal with Mr. Crotchety and with us. Mr. Crotchety would let Mr. Cardigan pay for the tree felling, and Mr. Cardigan would even have them fell the tree in his own yard so his lawn would sustain all the damage. Mr. Cardigan would save a few hundred dollars by having us take care of the wood and brush removal. We would benefit from the firewood. Nice deal, Mr. Cardigan!

So down went the tree, into Mr. Cardigan's yard.

My husband Mr. G, The Baked Chef, girlfriend LadyFace, and LadyFace's dad all had some extra time on their hands last week, so they pitched in to chainsaw the trunk into pieces, move the brush onto our property, and haul and stack the wood for burning.

They used sleds to pull the heavy pieces.

Mr. Crotchety came outside and bitched about there being sticks in his yard. Sticks! Uggghh! Mr. G and Chef assured him that they would clean them up as quickly as possible. By the time I came home from work that day, the cleanup was almost all done! I couldn't believe it. The dead elm tree was HUGE and completely solid.

We warmed up inside with a roaring fire so hot that it just about melted the clothes in my closet upstairs. Our house (about 1700 square feet) stayed at 70 degrees for a couple days without using the furnace. Meanwhile, Chef baked a double batch of his famous naan bread in the woodstove.

The next day, while Mr. G and I were at work, The Baked Chef went out to finish clearing the brush and cut up the last of the large branches. He used Mr. G's chainsaw to break down the largest pieces. Again, Mr. Crotchety came out and asked if Ace could quit that racket so he and his wife could go to bed. It was 5:30 p.m.

In our neighborhood, people do shit like rider-mow their lawns, snow blow, leaf blow, or saw metal (???) in every season possible, until 10:00 p.m. But Ace politely turned off the chainsaw and quietly cleared up the remaining brush.

Mr. G is out there right now, in the middle of the Sabbath Day, using his chainsaw to cut down the biggest trunk fragments in Mr. Cardigan's yard. I wonder how polite Mr. G will be if Mr. Crotchety comes outside. Ha!

A similar thing happened in my parents' neighborhood. My parents' neighbors refused to cut down a very large dead tree in their yard, which was poised to annihilate a little old lady's house, because they knew that if it fell naturally, they wouldn't have to pay for it. A storm hit. The tree fell over. By some miracle, it tangled in another tree and hung precariously over the little old lady's house instead of smashing it. Because of the dangerous position of the tree, it cost the city taxpayers many thousands of dollars to remove it with heavy duty equipment. But the homeowners were pleased as punch that they saved a few hundred. "See?" they told my mom. "We didn't have to pay a thing!" I imagine them sticking their tongues out. And the little old lady next door? She came out on her porch while the workmen were removing the tree and saving her house, shaking her fist and bitching that sticks had fallen in her driveway.

Sticks! Uuuughhh!!

Okay, time to be thankful for many things today. I am thankful for a kind neighbor like Mr. Cardigan, who hooked us into a deal for some firewood and also saved our neighborhood from a potential danger using his own money. I am thankful that Mr. Crotchety was not SO crotchety that he disallowed the tree removal out of sheer spite. I am thankful that no one in my neighborhood or my parents' got hurt by falling trees. I am thankful that we have a huge supply of firewood to keep our house toasty this winter. And I am thankful that my personal happiness and sense of well being is not dependent upon there not being sticks on my lawn or driveway.

Sticks! UUuuggghhh!!!

Fiddlesticks to that. There are much worse problems to worry about, and there are plenty of joys in life greater than a stick-free property line. Like being alive, and having a comfortable home and good friends and fire-baked bread and a beautiful, sunny winter day for cutting wood and building a cozy fire. And being able to pay the gas bill.

Amen, alleluia!


  1. Could you imagine if Mr. Crotchety was a reader of your blog!

  2. This story is FUCKING awesome. Even more so because it's true. I probably would have punched Mr Crotchety.

    He MAY have called the police on me that day--hypothetically, of course. Then my husband would have to make a few phone calls and Mr. Crotchety wouldn't bother anyone on the block anymore.

    That's how I roll.

  3. Dude. If I were so famous that the crotchety old neighbor who probably doesn't even use the internetz read my blog... That would be awesome. I'd be like the Perez Hilton of the township.

  4. Damn... people drive me nuts when stuff like that happens. I'm fortunate that I've had neighbors that I've either been able to reason with, or intimidate, into being cooperative. After being as sweet as you guys were to Mr. Crotchety, I think I would have held him down so Portuguese could have punched him.

  5. Oh my. Thank you for all your sympathetic outrage, but I cannot condone elder abuse.

    Even of the crotchety. Mean nicknames, yes.

    It's funny, because Ace is not exactly the kind of person to take BS kindly. Like... he's not an ideal target for a mugger, if you know what I mean. A bruised fist and a few weeks in jail are a small price to pay for... well, anyway, he has great respect for elders and doesn't like to get other people (like me and Mr. G) in trouble for things. We appreciate that.

    Anyway, it's hard to stay mad at someone you perceive to have a dull and meaningless life. We just roast our s'mores and fantasize about enacting our revenge in the form of long, loud, smoky barbecues come springtime. With barking dogs. And maybe a car parked on the front lawn for good measure.


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