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Time to crank up the power tools

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"He can't come to the phone right now. He's grading the driveway."

I never should have opened that e-mail.

Ever since my wife got me one of those gonzo walk-behind mowers advertised on late-night television, I've been "clearing brush." I'm now fairly confident in fourth gear, not so good at sharp turns or finessing around ferns. This giant mower is just daring me to drop into fifth gear and strafe the garden. Moving through the underbrush, I feel like that guy in Network, waving like a maniac and yelling, "Clear a path! Clear a path!"

The e-mail was offering, for sale one week only, 20 percent off on a snowplow/grader attachment. ("Move snow like a pro!" "Tackle winter's fury!" and "Save your back, push away winter's worst weather.")

I let the offer sit; snow wasn't really in the forecast but ... it still sounded like such fun!

Didn't the Weather Channel say something about a long-term prediction of icy drifts in December?

My daughter's comment at the breakfast table a few days later was the tipping point.

"Have you guys noticed how much the car is scraping on the driveway?"

And it was true. The recent rains had transformed part of our long gravel driveway into a moonscape. Something had to be done.

The huge, heavy box of implements arrived within a week. A bright orange decal graced the serious 90-pound black blade. The cautionary instructions read, "Takes only five minutes to install. Two adults needed." I could barely slide the box to the side of the garage.

The shed by the garden holds all my toys. There's a never-ending list of outdoor projects that keep me in touch with my inner farmer. As the seasons roll through, different mowers, tillers and blowers roll down the ramp into the flow. Turn, turn, turn.

The grader takes it to another level. Now, I'm really ready for something.

I love the crisp, cool, quiet clearness of our Piedmont fall Saturday mornings at dawn. The field beyond is cloudy in a frosty mist. Three deer sprint across the old roadway. Walking back down the driveway with the morning paper, I'm thinking, "Should I get another cup of coffee, or just head straight for the shed?"

The grader awaits the call.

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