i managed to get in touch with alex in tokyo, after he sent me a text message late last night asking if i was still on skype because he hadn't seen me online in a while. the last time i really talked with him was early march, back when the US still lived in a fantasy world where the coronavirus was this exotic disease that only happened in asia. despite it's close proximity to china, i was kind of surprised by japan's low coronavirus cases: about 8000 cases with around 100 deaths. by comparison, just massachusetts alone has 3x more cases and nearly 9x the amount of deaths. he said he only started working from home a week ago, up until then he was still commuting to the office every day. working IT for the olympic games, things became a crisis once the summer games was officially postponed until 2021. now he's not sure whether they'll let his contract expire or give him an extension. yes, they closed the schools in japan and people have been asked to work from home if possible, what the way he described things, it seems very business as usual, though when he went to a mall recently, all the stores were closed (but the restaurants were still opened). i asked him about masks, he said you can't buy them anywhere either, and that he only has one (an ordinary surgical mask) that he reuses by disinfecting in the microwave.

after an avocado-egg-ham bagel sandwich for lunch (i had to use up that remaining half of slightly rotten avocado), i fled my house while kevin was still in his room. the lights were off so i thought maybe he was taking one of his usual naps again, but i left a courtesy note in case he was wondering where i was: "went to go do some gardening. be back tonight."

as customary during this time of year, i stop whenever i can to admire the flowering cherry trees. i've kind of given up on trying to identify the various cherries. if i had the mt.auburn cemetery as a resource i might be able to better distinguish between the different varieties, but since the cemetery is mostly closed to casual visitors, just appreciating the differences will have to do.

belmont department of public works arrived at my parents' place this morning to remove the maple tree stump as well the thick root buckling the sidewalk, preventing them from repaving. earlier i watched from the door-mounted wyze webcam as they grounded the stump into wood pulp, as well as the root. when i arrived in belmont, the stump and root were gone, as well as the sidewalk grass. underneath a folding barricade was the water main shutoff valve my father was telling me about but i didn't believe him. they resprayed it with blue paint to make it more obvious. kind of unbelievable they didn't accidentally grind the valve as well since it was hidden in the soil. the stump grinder was so powerful it even managed to smash up large rocks in the dirt.

what we could've done with a stump grinder for our two backyard stumps! stumps that are currently still there and don't look to be going anywhere, despite our best (back-breaking) attempts at drilling them with holes and filling them with stump remover powder. we even though about burning them out, but they're too close to the fence and too many surrounding plants. we could rent a stump grinder from home depot for $111 for 4 hours, or $159 for the day. that could be a late fall project, once all the plants have gone dormant, if we're seriously about removing those stumps.

my father had been busy putting back the rain barrels that'd been tipped over from the windy storm yesterday, and recaulking the spigots. afterwards i helped him put back the cinder blocks so he can string all the rain barrels together. there's also a single rain barrel in front of the house, but we're not sure if it's feasible to have just one to catch half the rain that falls onto the roof. it would've been great to have the rain barrels set up before the storm yesterday, that way they'd all be filled up by today; but all it takes is one good rainstorm to top off all our rain barrels. i also put back the squirrel buster bird feeder after it was blown to the ground yesterday. i was afraid it'd be damaged, but it was fine. grackles can still get to the seeds if they land with their feet inside the tray, but they're not smart enough to do it consistently, so i just have to learn to live with it.

we finally got a chance to use the new fiskars 28in. power-lever bypass lopper ($25) we got from home depot on sunday. it's actually kind of fun cutting branches when you have the right tool. on a bad pair of lopper the blades might get stuck in the wood or they split apart. on a good pair it'll cut branches like butter. we have an assortment of larger sized manual pruning tools but they've all disappointed. this new fiskars looked to be of a higher quality. i first tried cutting some vertical maple suckers. this particular bypass lopper is capable of cutting 1-3/4" branches, although i only managed to cut prune off just a few branches, as the rest were either too thick or too far away for me to reach. my father suggested we use our electric pruning saw instead at some later date.

we then moved on to the yew hedge next to the garage. we cut it last fall starting in the back, but stopped soon afterwards because our pruning shears was too difficult to use. using the new fiskars, it cut through the yew branches like butter. the only difficulty was that i was standing on top of a ladder, bouncing on the hedge, while my father was down below making sure the ladder didn't slip out from under me. after cutting as much as i could from the back (splits in the branches showed that we must've trimmed this hedge at some point long ago, before it started growing 3-4 ft of new branches), we moved to the front to give the hedge a complete trim. even after removing so much from the top the hedge is still way too tall. we may cut it again at some point.

i think we if had to do it again, we'd spend the extra $7 to get the fiskars bypass lopper with telescoping arms, adjustable from 25 to 37 inches. 28 in. is a good medium range, but can be awkward when i want to cut close or far away. after we finished pruning, i was left with cuts all over my forearms (since i was wearing a t-shirt), i didn't even realize i got so many scratches. i don't mind though, gardening battle scars.