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I live in Arizona.
Some twenty summers ago, while taking out my trash, I noticed it was particularly hot on the west side of my property. Not just AZ midsummer hot, but more like Death-Valley-on-the-summer-solstice-would-cook-an-egg hot. I keep the trash can there, behind the RV gate. The surrounding concrete pad, stucco (my house and my neighbor’s some ten feet away) and block wall have nearly all day to absorb, consolidate, and radiate solar energy. I put up a thermometer. It immediately pegged its limit, past 130 degrees, and stayed there 24-7.
My solution? I planted three Sisso trees on the property line in the narrow space between the RV pad and the block wall. The trees were mere sticks, a genus imported from India and suitable for AZ weather, semi-deciduous. Green and beautiful all year! They didn’t mention that they were neither evergreen nor truly deciduous; that is, they shed leaves all the time. Not a problem for the first ten years when they were small. But now that the trees are taller than my massive two-story structure, I have to clean up around them three or four times a year, nasty business as these leaves decompose quickly.
I’m now on my third or fourth leaf vacuum and it’s struggling, about ready for replacement.
And I learned, about a decade ago, that you can’t suck up Sisso leaves without wearing a respiratory mask. If you don’t wear a mask you get what is called “farmer’s lung.” Farmer’s lung is no fun. It comes with a fever, swollen glands, and a deep cough that won’t stop. It can last for weeks. And in Arizona, in the worst situations, it can lead to Valley Fever, a dangerous fungal infection of the lung, a pest that persists in our cement-like soil. I learned this all the hard way. The first time, I was sick for a month.
So now, I always wear a mask during Sisso detritus clean-up, a task I once again recently tackled. Since the N-95 masks at my local home improvement store were sold out, I used a Covid mask, a good one, double thickness, good coverage, from old Navy, the most popular mask we have in my house.
And guess what? Yes, I became sick, farmer’s lung again, wheezing, swollen glands, general malaise, persistent hacking cough, fever. The main malady only lasted a few days, but then, it was a rather minor clean-up, took only a couple of hours. The big clean-up happens in late fall, just after Thanksgiving, when all the other truly deciduous trees lose their leaves.
Make of it what you will, but the mask was pretty much useless. Two weeks have now passed and I’m still hacking. I thought the mask would help, but it didn’t.
I can report, however, that the Sisso trees worked. That old thermometer next to my trash bin rarely registers higher than 100 degrees now, even on the hottest days in July. Perhaps I stumbled on something?Published in