Fall is the best time of year in Maine, but it’s also when my huge, 100-year-old oak trees decide to make my life miserable by first dropping billions of acorns on my lawn, and then, when I’ve barely recovered from that assault, shedding another few billion leaves.

The aggravation … the hard work … the blistered hands … the aching back … the same stupid song playing over and over in my head as I rake and rake and rake, and then I rake some more.

By November, I’m cursing these damn trees, which gave us such lovely shade during the hot summer and provided the squirrels a high-wire stage for their endlessly entertaining aerial acrobatics. On Thanksgiving, I’m not giving thanks for these towering turncoats. I want to cut them down, burn them to the ground, grind them into sawdust. I shake my fist angrily at them and scream Peter O’Toole’s battle cry from “Lawrence of Arabia” – “No prisoners!”

That was, until I discovered the greatest yard tool ever invented: The Nut Weasel (more accurately, the Garden Weasel Nut Gatherer). This simple device of long handle and wire cage looks and operates like a toddler’s push-popper toy, which, if you ever had children, you wanted to destroy the minute the kid’s head hit the pillow. Picking up acorns, the tool even mimics that toy’s headache-inducing pop-pop-popping sound. But this toy – err, tool – is a marvel of invention, a stroke of engineering genius, second only to Thomas Edison’s incandescent lightbulb or TV pitchman Ron Popeil’s labor-saving Veg-O-Matic.

I love my Nut Weasel, popping sounds and all. In just a few minutes of rolling it madly around my yard, I can pick up enough annoying acorns to fill a small trash barrel, just about the limit of what I can carry (drag, really) to the woods to dump onto a growing Katahdin-sized pile of my oak trees’ efforts to overpopulate the world with their diabolical spawn.

But here’s the rub. Once I’ve conquered the acorn challenge, the oaks’ insidious leaves begin to fall like fat confetti from a ticker-tape parade, and I know there will be no escape from additional hours of backbreaking work. “Mother Nature, why have you made so damn many oak leaves? Father Time, why have you stolen these hours?”

A “googol” is a 1 followed by 100 zeros, so I figure my oak trees produce roughly 10 gazillion googols of leaves. My old mangled rake is a piss-poor tool for herding dry, obstinate oak leaves into nice, neat piles. Instead, with the help of autumn winds, the leaves seek out every nook and cranny of my yard, sticking in my rubble stone wall, piling up in every available corner, and rising in thickening sheets on my lawn. When I attempt to reduce their ever-increasing masses, inevitably, an unwelcome gust of wind sends them happily scattering every which way. You can almost hear them laughing.

A leaf blower would be helpful, but I need a more creative solution. Yes, I have it – a flamethrower.