Digging the Learning Curve: Mowing, by Deirdre Sinnott
Lawn mowing never occurred to me. I wanted a get-away house. With it I got grass. Because we first looked at the house in November 2003 and bought it in January 2004, my first thoughts were about the inside--not the outside. One day in early March, I said to Charles, "Oh my god. Spring is coming." With spring came mowing. My experience with the task went back to my high school years in Clinton, New York. Sitting on two acres, our house required much outdoor maintenance. My father had a riding mower that my sister and I used on the front lawn. Dad had responsibility for the back yard. The front yard was a long hill that dropped off suddenly into a steep embankment before stopping at the quiet street. Since the brakes on the small tractor weren't that great, I pressed furiously on them beginning at the middle of the downward trek, trying to slow the vehicle. With every pass, I imagined flipping over and tumbling down the tiger-lily-covered embankment when I had to make the sharp right turn at the bottom of the hill. After six years of mowing terror, I was released to go to college. My parents sold the big house and moved to a much more reasonable place with a postage-stamp-sized lawn. My life in New York City never involved much grass, so I forgot how demanding the stuff can be. Spring 2004 in the Catskills, I decided that spending over $150 on a gas-powered mower seemed ridiculous. I believed I could get by with a simple electric weed whacker. For the five months I dragged the contraption back and forth over the grass and weeds that made up our driveway and side yards. My arms grew strong from the sweeping motion required. I pulled a long orange cord up and down the slope of our property, cursing constantly. Each time I did the job, I promised myself that I was going to just go out and buy a damn lawnmower. I waited until the sales kicked in and in September I bought myself a sleek, black, gas mower. Since it was already fall, and since I had no out-building to store a gassy combustion engine in, I decided to not use it until spring 2005. All winter it sat in the basement, pristine and untouched, bursting with potential energy. The grass began growing and I began chopping at it with my mower. All went well until the day in July I ran over a sizable stone and bent the blade. The repair job would have cost almost as much as a new machine. Depressed, I went back to my weed whacker. During the summer of 2006, I became a neglectful mower. I let two weeks pass before I forced myself to drag out the hated machine for what was a one hour ordeal. By this time I knew that I wasn't going to get another gas-guzzling engine, and the electric whacker had to go, but I couldn't find any person-powered mowers in my area. During the winter I planned and plotted. I saw the old-fashioned push mowers in the Vermont Country Store catalog and I also knew that Home Depot got them in every spring. In May of this year, I grabbed one. And I love it. The blades whir along quietly. I can see what I'm cutting. I get a 30 minute aerobic workout. I don't use gas. I don't have to worry about storing it away from the furnace. I don't feel guilty. I gave the old mower away to a guy who hoped to slice the blade down and get it working again. I just wished him luck. The neighbors may laugh, but that's fine. Everything is ready for guests to spread themselves out on and enjoy a few moments out of the City on the soft, green, perfectly-cut grass. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * For more on my garden, including two photo galleries of flowers and garden upgrades, visit my brand-new website Digging the Learning Curve.