after much delay, it was finally happening. my mother called me around 8:20, said todd and his crew were already there preparing to cut down the dead elm tree. "there" turned out to be our neighbor's backyard, since there was hardly any tree work on our side. i quickly got dressed and raced down to belmont.

it rained in the middle of the night so the landscape was a little wet. i wrapped a plastic bag over my bike seat so i wouldn't have to sit in a puddle. i'm not often riding around so early on a weekend morning, but when i do, i'm often amused by the walks of shame i see. there was a girl with colorful leggings skulking home. i spotted another young woman in denim shorts, shrouded in an oversized hoodie that her boyfriend had the courtesy to offer her before unceremoniously kicking her out the door.

when i got there they'd already taken down a stretch of fencing and removed one of the dead branches. todd, whom i haven't seen in several years, looked the same. he said i looked similar as well, with the exception of my long shaggy hair (a reminder to get it cut soon). john and doug were there too, with the addition of a heavily-tattooed 4th crew member. our neighbors weren't home - or actually the parents weren't home, but the kids were there with a sitter. i felt bad for the other neighbors that the tree cutting was happening on a saturday morning. besides the noise of chainsaws, there would be also be a loud woodchipper. worse, with the exception of todd, these guys were a little rough and tumble, yelling at the chickens, smoking, spitting, and i even saw one of them urinating in public.

i went back inside the house to let todd and his crew work in peace, but we watched the proceedings from our dining room window with binoculars. my mother made some wonton soup for lunch.

it took about 2 hours for them to chop down the tree. normally todd climbs the trees but he hurt his back exercising so the tattoo guy was the designated climber. given its location, the tree was pretty easy to fell, but the tangle of wisteria vines created unexpected results when branches came down still swinging. although i told them they could, i was still dismayed when they needlessly chopped down a bunch of bamboos that served as a screen so we could get some privacy from the upper floors of our backyard neighbor's house. my father gave todd a $800 check, they put back the fence, and then they left.

with the tree gone and a good section of wisteria and bamboo, suddenly there was this large clearing of empty space on the southern side of the yard. all i could think of was how much sun exposure there was and maybe we could start another garden at this new spot.

the rampant wisteria had snapped one of the fence posts a few years ago. my father was hoping the tree crew would put in one of the new posts (he'd bought a few days ago) when they put back the fence but they didn't do it. so my father and i ended up taking apart the fence and putting in the new post ourselves. it wasn't that hard, but requires 2 people. we even adjusted the alignment since the broken post had buckled the fence and took away half a foot from our property.

was there a nest up in the dead elm tree? the thought did cross my mind, but the only nest i've ever seen up there was an old squirrel drey made from dead leaves. however, after the tree was gone, we saw a baby cardinal hopping around nearby, with 2 frantic parent birds. the baby was old enough that it could fly short distances, but the parents still hovered nearby. hopefully they'll be okay, and weren't displaced when the tree was taken down.

in the early afternoon i contacted jimmy in brookline, who was moving and getting rid of some kombucha scopy's. my father drove me to coolidge corner. traffic was surprisingly bad, and we decided to take a shortcut up allston street that ended up taking us to closer to boston college instead. we circled back via beacon street.

why my went went to go park the car, i called jimmy outside of zaftig's, waiting for him to come downstairs. so there i was, standing on the sidewalk, with a sudden turn in the weather that made it seem like a hurricane was coming. it started to rain but there wasn't enough room under the awnings, not with all those people outside waiting for an empty table, staring at the me, the guy holding a glass bowl wrapped in a plastic bag. a few minutes later jimmy called back, asking where i was. turns out it wasn't zaftig's, but a different restaurant 3 blocks away.

i quickly walked to the correct location, calling my father to let him know where i was going, but he left his phone at home, so i just had to hope i could hurry and get back without him beginning to get worried that i'd been gone too long.

jimmy met me outside his apartment. he had sleepy eyes and a relaxed manner, and i wasn't surprised when he said he was from the west coast (came to boston to get his MBA). he took me upstairs into his apartment to show me his kombucha setup. his place was a little messy since he's in the process of moving out. on his kitchen table he had 2 glass jars (gallon size), one was empty, the other was filled with a stack of scoby's. on a dish he had 2 additional scoby's submerged in some liquid. there were also a few bottles of kombucha, which looked like grapefruit juice. there seemed to be something illicit about it, even though it was quite the contrary. i couldn't help to think there were fetuses floating in the jar, and that this was some sort of back alley hospital.

jimmy got his original scoby through amazon. he made sure he got a wet mother instead of a dehydrated one. he'd been a fan of kombucha for a while ("i like it stronger," he told me), and after seeing a demonstration of how its made at a health food fair, he decided to give it a try. his kombucha making efforts have been so successful that among his friends he's known as the kombucha guy and he hooks them up with drinks all the time.

jimmy was willing to give me not only a scoby and some starter juice, but one of his glass jars as well (so i didn't need to bring a glass bowl after all). "i can't take them with me, so i'll end up throwing them out anyway," he said. he ended up giving me 2 scoby's, since they were already attached. i poured the content from the dish into the jar. he gave me a bottle of kombucha juice which he bottled in these elegant glass containers. he was surprised when i told him i'd tried kombucha before. he quickly went into his fridge to grab a cold bottle and poured me a shot glass.

kombucha tastes like watered down vinegar with some sugar. it reminded me a lot of grapefruit juice, a mixture of tartiness with sweetness. i was expecting it to be darker, but jimmy made his from green tea, hence the lighter color. it's kind of shocking when you first try it, not expecting how sour it'd be. with jimmy standing there waiting to see my reaction, i faked it the best i could. "it's interesting," i said.

i almost forgot to pay him before i left ($5). i think he would've given it all away for free, but i told him through e-mail i'd offer him something. a few other places around town were selling scoby's for $10, and not including starter juice or glass jar. i definitely got a bargain. while walking me back out, he gave me more advice. 7 days to ferment, then an additional 3 days fermenting out of the jar (without scoby) to get some carbonation (and to add any additional flavors, grape juice works well, turns it into almost grape soda), before putting it in the fridge.

i hurried back to the place where i was originally supposed to meet my father, passed the gauntlet of high school kids offering $5 carwashes. i'd been gone for almost 20 minutes. he was waiting for me on the sidewalk.

back in belmont i started brewing some tea, 8 bags of black tea (which is called "red tea" in chinese). i wanted to brew it in the jar, but my father said to do it in a pyrex bowl for safety.

i also need some sugar, which i had to drive out to the nearby shaws supermarket to get. i'm not sure how they can still in business given how overpriced they are. even a bag of generic sugar cost $3.48 (at market basket i could get the same for just $2).

i was fine with just one batch of kombucha, but since we had 2 scoby's, my father suggested we do 2 in case one of them fails. my mother and sister were out shopping and i asked them if they could find any gallon glass jars, which they didn't. my father and i ended up driving to the cafe to pick up a 2 gallon glass jar that belonged to my grandfather (he used it to make wine steeped in chinese medicine).

to speed the cooling time, we mixed a gallon of spring water we had on hand with the concentrated brew of warm black tea and sugar. so into each jar was essentially: about a gallon of black tea (8 bags), 1 cup of dissolved sugar, 2 cups of kombucha juice, and one scoby. we covered up the jars with paper towels and some rubberbands. now we wait for the new scoby colony to form on the surface.

while there was still daylight, i managed to get home in between patches of rain showers. the only time i did get wet was actually riding underneath trees, where large drops of water shook off from the leaves. i took a bath upon getting back, armed with the latest issue of entertainment weekly and rolling stone.