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Those "Sweet" Sweetgum Balls

The same problem confronts me every spring just before the mowing season begins: sweetgum balls, thousands, maybe even millions of them, strewn all over the yard.

Why are they such a problem? Have you ever had to mow over them? It sounds like a machine gun firing as they are blasted out of the discharge of the mower. And that just distributes them somewhere else on the lawn. Worse, they often get lodged between the blade drive belts and the deck pulleys, causing the deck to twist.


I've tried getting them up with a pull-behind lawn sweeper. That gets up some of them, but others get stuck in the sweeper and jam it, necessitating my climbing off the mower to unjam the sweeper. Also, if the ground is the least bit soft, the mower tires mash many of them into the ground just far and securely enough that the sweeper can't dislodge them.


So we've been reduced first to raking them into huge piles and then onto large tarpaulins and dragging them to the fencerow at the back of our property and dumping them, praying that they will decay quickly. But as I age, that process is becoming more onerous, time consuming, and physically taxing with each passing year.


I've seriously considered hauling out the chainsaw, but the tree now is too big for my puny little electric saw. Anyway, the tree's height puts it well beyond my level of expertise. A 14-foot-tall unproductive peach tree I could handle; an approximately 60- to 70-foot-tall sweetgum tree is a different matter entirely.


Adding to the problem of the seasonal sweetgum ball dilemma is the danger posed to our and the neighbor's property. If that tree, located as it is between our house and that of our neighbor, ever fell, it would demolish whatever it hit. That might be one of our decks or even one of the houses. Either way would produce massive damage or injury to anyone inside the victim structure. (One tree already fell on the neighbor's chain-link fence, and I not only had to cut up and haul away the tree but also pay to repair the fence. I can't afford to repair a house!)


I've thought of dynamite, but that would produce too much collateral damage. So I guess I'll just have to hire someone to cut that old tree down for me. Until then, I'll pull out the rake and tarp and a good supply of energy drink and rake away!


I try to convince myself that there must be a lesson in this for me somewhere. Maybe even a writing project. Anyway, it must be done, so I'd better get started.

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