today was the final step in my tax fun: the mailing of the checks AKA the emptying of the bank account. i'd printed everything out last night, and the only thing i had to do was sign my tax statements, pay the IRS, and mail off everything. this is actually the earliest i've ever finished my taxes, and still only just a day before tax day. how anyone can get theirs done early is something i can't even fathom. they must be really on top of their game (not prone to procrastination) or maybe they know they have a refund coming. i can't even remember the last time i didn't have to pay. after i got all my stuff done i went to the cafe around noontime to drop off my aunt's taxes. i don't know what i did in turbotax but i managed to half her tax payment.

i went to belmont to help my father with some tree pruning in their backyard. it was really my idea to begin with, since i noticed last summer that the vegetable garden wasn't doing very well because all the backyard trees have grown too tall from years of neglect and blocking all the sun. we started with a plum tree. i'd read that the best time to prune most trees is right after winter. unfortunately, we probably waited too long, because a lot of trees have already began sprouting their buds. this was very much the case for the plum, which normally flowers pretty early. unfortunately many of the buds were sacrificed when we started pruning, so there won't be a lot of flowers this year.

next we pruned the pussy willow, one of my favorite trees. as a child, i always though it had a magical quality, more animal than plant because of the fuzzy catkins that remind me of rabbit feet. this used to be a very proud tree but decades of neglect have relegated it to a corner of the yard, with a badly damaged trunk and most of the branches overhanging into a neighbor's yard (so they get to see all the pussy willows and we don't). my father removed all the dead branches before deciding we should prune one of the main branches because much of its base had rotted and was in danger of toppling over and smashing the fence and a nearby evergreen. the branch was easily 15 feet tall, and we discussed how we wanted to bring it down. in the end we decided to cut enough of the bottom so we could pull it down with ropes. the broken stump revealed decaying wood and home to carpenter ants. in the aftermath, fuzzy pussy willow catkins littered the ground.

as far as equipment, we had a pruning saw, a long-handled looper, smaller scissor pruning shearers, and finally an electric chainsaw for the bigger branches. we also had a pair of ladders. what about safety equipment? what safety equipment? in hindsight, things got a little dangerous towards the end. the trees we'd pruned thus far were minor in terms of the garden sun exposure project. the real problem was the 25 feet tall maple tree taking a lot of space in the southwestern corner of the yard. when i used to garden there it wasn't a problem because it was still short, but since then, it pretty much blocks the sun from noon into the late afternoon. it's used to be pretty good tree, and my sister and i would climb it when we were little. that was before my father went to work on it, before he had any idea of proper pruning techniques. he chopped off branches haphazardly, leaving damaged stumps that never healed and bled sap that attracted insects and diseases. the tree now looks like a gnarly giant, with areas that looked burnt but they're actually just unhealthy regions of the tree. anyway, we decided to cut some branches, and had our eye one that was 15 feet tall ( it used to be a runaway sucker growing almost vertical). it was essentially a tree on top of a tree, and looking back, maybe it was a bad idea to try and tackle it the way we did. basically my father was balanced on top of the ladder, welding the chainsaw overhead, trying to cut enough of the trunk so i could pull it down with ropes. he was cutting when we heard this crack sound (like a gunshot) and the branch just dropped, hitting the ladder and almost throwing my father off as well (holding a chainsaw no less). we basically stopped pruning after that, and decided to bundle up all the twigs for recycling instead, a less dangerous endeavor.

we let the dog out a few times, but each time my father took her back inside the house because she wouldn't stop stealing/eating twigs, or digging holes, or just being underneath the tree while we're working. the final straw was when she grabbed a spool of twine with her mouth and ran around the backyard in circles, casting a web. the more we chased, the more she ran, until the spool just ran out of twine.

my mother came home in the early evening while we were still working. i ended up having dinner there. up to that point, i just had two slices of pound cake for lunch and didn't have anything to drink. i was so hungry that i ate without putting down my bowl. there wasn't anything to drink in the house so we opened up a bottle of sparkling apple cider. afterwards i helped my sister do her taxes (actually, turbotax helped her, i just brought over the software) before returning to cambridge.

i moved a pair of hot peppers into the grow closet, with two more pairs still waiting in my incubating room/guest bedroom. i'm kind of relieved that they finally germinated, i was worried maybe something went wrong. later in the evening i called up 1-800-contacts (my lenses arrived today). they made a mistake on my order and sent me a box of the wrong prescription. fortunately they have 24/7 customer service and my friendly agent nicki informed me they'd send out a new box along with a prepaid shipping label so i can send back the one i don't need. all online/catalog merchandise return/replacement should be this easy!

finally, here's a peek at what i've been doing with my free time, logging some more hellgate hours. my new character (not that new, i've been playing with this one for almost a month now) is a summoner armed with a hive cannon that shoots out poison and fire and she also has a posse of conjured elemental monsters. i want to finish the game (again) with this character so i can try a new person, maybe an engineer.