Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How (Not) To Cut The Grass

Our backyard has a sordid tale to tell. It's only been in existence for two years (since the previous owners landscaped) and we've owned it for less than a year; yet, there is drama.

When we first closed on the house, I insisted, nay demanded that B go directly to the store and buy a hose to water the lawn. To my credit, it was July 27 and we were about to leave the house until the end of August. Fare the well, Zoysia! It was nice knowing you before your heat stroke!

So in lieu of giving our grass a heat stroke, I gave one to B, who stood in that yard, watering away (with only a hose, mind you), front and back, for over an hour. He got soaked, of course, in the process, both from high-noon sweat and generally hose debauchery, then had to ride in his damp clothes all the way to Atlanta. Luckily, my clothes were damp too, because as soon as he wound up the hose, locked up the house, and picked me up, it started to pour.

The yard fared well. In fact, I'm not sure we mowed it until November of 2011, which has to be some sort of record or lunacy, one (perhaps a record of lunacy?). After that, we started listening out to see when our neighbors were mowing and watering, that is until we decided to just turn on HBO and forget that we had anything depending on us for survival.

In January, we adopted Colby, our lovable, much-documented golden boy who turned out to be part collie and part Derby winner in that he loved to run very fast and in well-defined circles.

Of course, it was winter. Our dormant grass didn't alert us to the fact that all the adorable running (prompted by our heartfelt chasing), was quite literally wearing thin on our grass. By spring, you could see Colby's favorite running route, and the exact spot along the stone wall in which I can pull on his rope toy with him without bending over. While the rest of the yard is, well, yard, these areas are... white. Or brown. Or yellow, depending on how scorched or depleted of grass seed they now truly are.

Our April showers extended into May this year, bringing lots of growth, particularly in our rose bushes (yea!), but not so much in our yard. We still haven't mowed the front yard... ever? And it's about thumbtack height, which suits me fine. The backyard, however, surprised us. While we were watching and watering that beloved path, the rest of the lawn sprung up overnight to approximately dachshund height. How do I know? Our neighbors have three, but it was hard to know that when they were wandering in the heights of our now sea grass-like backyard.

B's been working crazy hours doing all sorts of fun things including, of course, word, but also volunteering with youth baseball, playing church softball, and playing basketball with his firm. Needless to say, he's well worked out and home after dark but, since doggie school is over, I'm home earlier.

Monday, I decided to weed, partly because our playscape area needed it and partly because Colby ate so many weeds that he threw them up Monday morning before I left for work (I'll let you guess which was the stronger catalyst). So I sprayed and weeded and planted something and still had hours of daylight left. I thought to myself, "I bet I can mow this lawn."

This thought will both make my mother proud and horrified. Proud because she has maintained our huge yard for decades, mowing it, tending to it, and generally loving it from the seat on her riding lawn mower. It will terrify her because the one time she asked me to mow it, I drove the riding lawn mower into a tree. I'll let you guess whether that was due to poor driving or strategy; I will say that I was never asked to mow the lawn again. And also that I failed my driver's test on the first try (something B only found out about this year and might consider grounds for future divorce proceedings).

Our backyard is a sweet little oasis. It has a large deck, a curved driveway leading to the garage, and a decent expanse of yard filled with grass, trees, roses, bushes, and the aforementioned playscape. It is also elevated. Step One: Prop 2X4s onto the stone wall.

I rolled the lawn mower out of the basement and prayed it was the right one. We have two hand-me-down mowers, but I assumed that the one lying pitifully on its side was the one currently benched.

I roll it to the 2X4s, and after two tries (mowers are heavy! walls are high!), I get it up on the grass. Pride fills my heart until I look at the settings on the mower. There is a sliding lever which features two pictures: a tortoise and a hare. Does one make the mower go faster? It's not self-propelled. Call B. "Doesn't matter which you choose; that's broken." Fair enough. "Is it set to the right blade height?" I ask. B replies, "It should be just right for the back yard. Also, if you can put those lines in diagonally like we talked about, that would be awesome." Silence. "Don't get used to this," I replied.
After priming the little bulb 10 times (and not calling my father-in-law... yet), I start to pull the start cord thing which, thankfully, does work, but not until I'm out of breath. The lawn mower whirrs to a start and I carve, quite literally, a path through the waving wheat that is our backyard. Don't believe me? Look:
Hello, path!

The difference is so drastic that I immediately let go of the throttle and let the engine grind to a halt. Reaching down, I try to tell if I've scalped the yard, but, in reality, it's still really long, like several inches long, it's just that this part of it hasn't seen the light of day since... ever.

I placate myself by saying that I can't leave it like this, it all has to match, so I may as well keep going. Several yank-starts later, I am in business, cutting the grass by dragging the mower back and forth (apparently not a traditional means of cutting, which typically involved moving forward at all times) as I attempt to make the parallel lines.

Even though the mower isn't self-propelled, I feel like it's in a hurry, so I go quickly, doing the backyard (minus the random mohawk-like tufts and the edges) in about fifteen minutes, which is when the mower decides to die, because apparently it needs more gas. Pushy thing, that mower.

I'm so darned pleased with myself by this point that I take a picture, making sure to display my (almost) perfect diagonal lines and even those little happy tufts in between them. We're buying an edger today; can you guess why?

Hello, lines!

Of course, the irony of all this is that the part in the middle that's bright green, the part that doesn't look scorched? That's Colby's path. The foreground and background are his other favorite parts of the yard, for reasons I'll leave unspoken, so we may need to do a little more watering work there. If you look closely, you can see back there by the last tree a particularly green area, the part I missed before the mower died. Take a look in case you thought I was exaggerating about the height of the yard.

The good news is that I didn't run into any trees this time; the bad news is that our trees are babies, so if I do run into them, I'll likely run over them, which probably wouldn't be good for the mower or the trees.

Stay tuned for adventures in edging...


K said...

Now I want you to picture this whole scenario with an electric mower, which adds the cord element, and (in my mind, at least) the risk that I will run over the plugged-in, electrical cord with the sharp metal blades as I try to maneuver the mower, in the process electrocuting myself and possibly setting the yard on fire. (overactive imagination? possibly...but metal blades in touch with live wires can't be good, right?!) This - along with all the other things you mentioned - is why after my one experience mowing our yard, I promptly called my husband (on a work trip) and told him if he ever left town without mowing the lawn again, I was buying a goat. Do you think Colby would like a goat friend? Something to consider!

A said...

Colby would LOVE a goat friend! And, in our neighborhood, it is not illegal, which is apparently all that matters in Alabama until "someone messes it up for everyone," which is something I learned at the International Biscuit Festival this weekend. Some days I don't believe my life.