Now that the weather's starting to get nice again, I'm starting to notice a pattern over the years, and it's not one that I care for.
The flowers are pushing up from the thawing ground, and soon temperatures in the 80s will push forth green on every stem and surface. Perhaps before the buds are really visible, I'm sure to get a knock on my door from some kid who wants to mow my lawn. If I agree, there will be more offers to help with manual labor. Trimming and removing shrubs, planting shrubs, washing the house and the cars, raking leaves, shoveling snow . . .
So what's the problem? Kids just multiply, and with them come problems. If you let a couple linger in your yard, pretty soon they're joined by friends, all of them playing music, smoking when you're not looking and flicking the butts in your bushes, sweating and swearing and generally clogging up the works.
I know that not everybody in New Paltz has a problem with teen infestation, but we sure do. At first we thought it was a holdover from when the house was rented to college kids, but we soon realized that this was different - college kids don't offer to work, for one thing. I spoke with the folks at the New Paltz Youth Program, Prevention Connections, and Family of New Paltz, but all I've gotten is a sad shake of the head and a shoulder shrug. I was pretty desperate when I finally contacted the DEC, but that's where I finally found some help.
According to Mark Christiansenhausen, coordinator of suburban primate ecology, most teens in this area started out living with a family in New Paltz, and may still return to that nesting area for feeding. Mostly they're migratory and avoid adults, but my house is a special case. Apparently the choice of paints, combined with the old beams just under the soffits, creates an odor that's very similar to that of fried chicken, pizza, soda, and cupcakes. Until the degassing of the paint is complete (probably another ten years because of the lead content), kids are just going to keep turning up in our yard and make excuses to hang around. The fact that the yard slopes towards the house doesn't help matters, either.
However, Christiansenhausen did offer a ray of hope, funded by Federal dollars. This coming Tuesday he and a team of DEC ecologists are coming to the house and hanging an effigy teen on the roof. It's hoped that the smell of rotting kid corpse will make the bizarre combination which creates junk-food smells a fair bit less attractive. By winter, when the effigy will be completely dessicated, all we'll have to do is fumigate the garage and we might be rid of this strange pest problem once and for all.