Wednesday, August 06, 2014

In Which I Face My Fears

Although our new house has many wonderful advantages, it has two main drawbacks. One, of course, is the size of the mortgage payment.

The other one is the yard.

We have always lived in places with very small yards, and back when the big kids were babes in arms whom I could not safely leave unsupervised while I turned on a slathering beast of a gasoline-powered mower (something I never got the hang of), I got a little push mower which never needed the gas refilled nor had difficulty starting. It made a pleasant soft clattering noise and didn't smell at all and I could use it in perfect safety with infants playing close by. Indeed, as soon as they grew tall enough to hold up the handle, they could take a turn with it themselves.

Then we moved here. At some point a predecessor in title had looked at the lovely indigenous forest, which still stands in large swatches throughout the neighborhood, full of fir and cedar and huckleberry and salal and fern, all self-maintaining and some of it quite tasty, and decided they would rather see the sky occasionally.

So we have nearly an acre of mangy grass, dandelions, plantain and a few more sinister and prickly weeds. There's a small yard up front that is pretty much pure grass and easy to maintain. But the back is a steep and gravelly hill which takes better to weeds than grass. And there is an awful lot of it. One look at the size of it and I passed my beloved little push mower on to Wondergirl, who had just moved into a development with tiny, grassy yards.

That left us the problem of mowing. It was intended that we would eventually get one of Grandpa's lawn tractors, but of course that took time and arrangement and meanwhile the grass and weeds grew as grass does in the springtime and DOB sneezed as he does when the grass grows in the springtime. The neighbor took pity on us and mowed it once and some people from church did it another time, and B5 started to mow once after we got Grandpa's mower delivered, but then it broke down and took some time to get it fixed. And then DOB's father was out and he mowed it while they were here.

Eventually, though, the mower was fixed and no one else was around there really wasn't any good reason why I, myself, should not do the mowing instead of begging it done elsewhere. Except that I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to run the thing. Not that I had never done it before--Grandpa taught both Toolboy and I to run the tractor as soon as our legs were long enough. But that was a long time ago, and I have a natural antipathy to machinery as strong as Toolboy's natural affinity for it. (It's not a gender expectations thing; I was just as terrified of Grandma's sewing machine.)

I debated calling up someone for instructions, but it was embarrassing and I am terrible at following instructions anyway. I turned to Google instead and found a page entitled, "How To Start a Riding Lawn Mower." Those instructions didn't make sense, but I printed them out and took them with me to the mower. I was unable to identify any of the parts I was supposed to do things to except the brake and the key, but I put my foot on the brake and turned the key several times and much to my wonder, the thing started.

Indeed, it was very excited to start and began tearing around the yard at an alarming speed, belching fumes. After a while I began to get the hang of it, and then I noticed that it wasn't actually cutting anything. More experiments with everything that could be prodded in one direction or another and I found the lever that turned on the blade. I was actually mowing! And after a while I discovered where to move something else so that I could move at a reasonable pace. Indeed, the only thing I never did figure out was how to work the parking brake, but that was only a problem once when I ran out of gas on the uphill slope. And it didn't make it all the way to the pond, so no harm done.

Thus I tamed the mighty beast and conquered the lawn and felt very proud of myself. I'd still much rather have woods, but unfortunately letting it return to woods on its own would mean putting up with twenty years of blackberries and scotch broom first.


Darren said...

Marvelous story! I used to thoroughly enjoy using our riding mower when I was a teenager.

Wendy said...

Sounds so fun! Our oldest 3 are running the riding mower at my parents, but when I was a kid it was all gas powered push mower...

Just a thought - what if you planted your back yard with trees and shrubs? Maybe not the whole thing, but you could put in a line of plants you wanted to see and let everything beyond go back to forest.

Queen of Carrots said...

Eventually I want to do that. Probably some orchard. And some garden. But it all takes time and money (and in my experience it's best to go slow and get to know the land first before investing in plants). So it's a long-range plan and in the meanwhile the blackberries must be kept at bay.