Here's the deal. My neighbor has a giant and theoretically gorgeous cottonwood tree in his backyard. Certain cottonwood trees "cotton", meaning they spread what appears to be little balls of seedy, sticky cotton nastiness. If you were to stand in my backyard in late June, it would seem like wintertime, what with the white stuff gently falling from the sky. The sky, in this case, is my neighbor's yard which is several feet above mine.
This process is occurs in late June and lasts up to two weeks. When we bought this house five years ago, there was no cotton and I could no more identify a cottonwood tree than the different varieties of plums without a sign in the supermarket.
Starting the following summer, I discovered the "joy" of cotton wrecking my backyard. This mutant tree from the lower bowels of Hades cottons for a heck of a lot longer than two weeks. I can't use my backyard for about a month because the gook gets all over everything, and it's not easily cleaned. It gets in EVERYTHING. The grass, the garden, the house, the deck, the dog, the barbecue. When I cut the lawn through the white stuff, it flies up in the air and gets in my eyes, thus ticking me off further.
Three years ago, I discovered the cotton was getting into the air conditioning condenser unit and within a year, despite my frantic attempts at cleaning it, the AC died. One year later, I forked over a massive pile of cash to replace the old central air conditioning with a fancy shmancy new unit of total efficiency.
This brings me to yesterday, the hottest day on record - 103 degrees in my little oasis of Northwestern New Jersey. I woke up and thought, jeepers, it's warm in here. After wandering over to the AC vent, I noted with several choice words that the air flowing out was warm as heck. It wasn't the circuit breakers. It wasn't my imagination. The two year old, freaking expensive condenser unit outside wasn't running.
So, I call the guy who installed the unit two years ago. Because it's about to be the hottest day on record and my AC is broken, the guy and his company are on vacation this week. This, I later found out, is entirely common in the world of AC contractors. They go away during July 4th week.
Eventually, I got somebody else to show up. They opened up the unit and found a shopping bag's worth of cotton inside the darn thing.... AGAIN. As I said before, ARGGGHHHH!!!! Naturally, cleaning it out wasn't enough, I had to sweat (figuratively and actually) while the guy tried to figure out why the condenser wouldn't start up again. Perhaps I needed to fork over another paycheck? Please no.
Eventually, he figured it out, and replaced a burned out part (from overheating due to the cotton) that probably cost $1.50 to manufacture, but cost me $350. Between the site visit, the cleaning and the repair, I wrote a check for nearly a thousand bucks. *GRRRRR*
In some states, cottonwood trees are considered "nuisance" trees and you can forcibly have them removed. Not in New Jersey, of course. So, I've ordered a filter to wrap around the condenser unit, which I'll have to clean weekly.
If you are in the hills of Northern New Jersey one night, and you hear an axe chopping wood, followed by maniacal laughter and police sirens, you may have found me.