Before I was married, I had a sweet little house and a good-size horse barn that sat in the middle of a few acres of gorgeous, lush Tifton 44 Bermuda grass. There was grass. LOTS of grass. For a little while after I bought the place, my dad would come over with his lawn tractor and mow for me. For my entire life, my dad had done ALL the mowing of every yard our family had ever had. It was his thing, and he took a lot of pride in it, and he was stingy with it. I grew up begging to mow the yard, and was never allowed. It was just always a task that appealed to me, probably in large part because it was forbidden to me. But I watched, for years, soaking it all in.
There came a day, many years ago, when Dad got a fancy new John Deere lawn tractor, and in a display of lawnkeeper's largesse, gifted me with his old one. And I was allowed to USE it. I have to tell you that I loved mowing from the get-go. There's something just so satisfying about it--it's a chore that shows immediate results. I mean, all you have to do to see your progress is look behind you! That's a beautiful thing. And it's not like dishwashing or laundry or vacuuming or dusting, in that no one can come along behind you and mess everything up right after you finish. The grass just grows, at its own pace...maybe it grows rapidly, but it doesn't grow instantly. So for at least a couple of days, you can look out on your lawn and feel some satisfaction in what you've accomplished. I don't know about you, but that is a feeling that brings a wonderful sense of peace to my mind. If I could do the same thing for the inside of my house, I wouldn't even know how to handle all the happiness I'd feel.
Over the next several years, as Dad upgraded his lawn tractors (ALWAYS staying true to John Deer, as will I), he rotated the "old" ones through the family, one going here, one going there, which resulted in "new" mowers for me on two or three occasions. I loved it. The lawn tractor we have currently is the last one my dad gave me, and even though I lust over, and may one day own, models like this, I plan on trying to keep that baby running for the rest of my natural life. It's a sentimental thing. I mowed my yard the way my dad did: twice a week, with the blades set a notch higher than most people choose to set them. The grass stayed thick, lush, and green, even in dry weather, because it wasn't getting "scalped." I didn't give much thought to the whole process; it was just something I did.
Then I got married, and my husband moved into my little house with me. And somehow in that process, he took over the mowing. I'm not sure how it happened, though I suspect that the gateway was weed-eating and edging. I've never been good at using a weed-eater. I'm not terribly strong, and those things are heavy. Even the electric ones are unwieldy for me. My approach to weeding and edging had always just been to spray Round-Up along my fenceline, and be done with it. That left an ugly brown swath of deadness all around my yard, but I chose to believe that the gloriousness of the lawn itself distracted from that. So Alex, being a man, and now in possession of the first lawn he'd ever owned, naturally took an interest in the maintenance of that lawn, I think largely due to the lure of engine-driven maintenance equipment. Suddenly he was out there doing all those things I'd never tended to, like trimming hedges, weed-eating, edging, pruning trees...wow! And somehow, along the way, he also took over the mower...probably in the hopes that this would free up more of my time for frying chicken and making biscuits.
A couple of years ago, we moved out of my sweet little house, because it was bursting at the seams. What was ideal for one person was a little snug for three. I hated leaving it, but the new place had possibilities. Unfortunately, we now live on 5 acres of rocky, barren hillside, and lush pastures are gone from my life (and the lives of my horses, which is why I'm always on the lookout for new homes for them). That anything grows here at ALL is thanks to some long-ago resident who carved, out of the rock, some flat surfaces, terracing, shoring up with railroad ties, and trucking in topsoil. So there is a lawn, and some not-too-shabby perennial, low-maintenance landscaped areas around the house, not to mention an entirely charming koi pond that came fully stocked with pretty fish. And when we moved here, Alex continued his tradition of lawn-domination.
But somewhere along the line in the last year and half or so, for various reasons (recently including being busy building various shelters for various poultry), Alex hasn't been so keen on mowing. And for reasons I still don't understand, I didn't step in and do it myself when he didn't. What was up with that? I have no idea. And just a couple of weeks ago I had a real light-bulb moment, and thought, "I have never mowed this lawn!" I was outside, the mower was right there, Alex was busy with a rented auger, boring post-holes into the rock for the new turkey habitat, and Bella was playing nearby. Ah, opportunity.
It took about 5 minutes for the love to come back. It took considerably longer to finish the yard, but it was all good. I even like the droning sound of the tractor's motor...no iPod necessary during the mowing. Back and forth, around the trees, in and out of the shade, feeling the breezes, breathing the air (this was a rare, low-pollen day)...it was about as zen as you can get while operating a gasoline-powered combustion engine. I think the best part of all is that in mowing the lawn, I'm communing with my dad. I'm setting the blade height exactly where he did. I'm mowing back over half of each freshly-cut swath, in the opposite direction, to pick up all the "stragglers" left behind from the first pass. I'm feeling a sense of independence and accomplishment. And I'm having a little giggle every time I mow around a tree, as I cut the wheels in to bring the cutting deck almost close enough to kiss the bark...this is an homage to my grandmother, who I'm sure already understands what I mean as she's reading this. (When my granddad reached the point at which he was no longer able to mow his enormous yard himself, Grandmom started doing it. This didn't mean that Granddad was no longer involved--oh, no. He sat out on the porch, "supervising," and calling out instructions to her from time to time, one of the most common being that she was driving the mower "TOO CLOSE TO THAT TREE". For those of you who know the women in my family, the response to this should come as no surprise--on her next pass around the tree, Grandmom would swing that mower in just a little bit CLOSER.)
Oh, AND? When I mowed over one area near the pole-barn, where, unbeknownst to me, an old woven plastic tarp had been long-buried, with grass growing on top of it? And the mower blades snagged up a piece of that tarp, winding it around the rotors and bringing the whole works to a literal screeching halt? Did I cry and call my husband, or someone else's husband, or the tractor-repair place? No, I did not. What I did was to get a sharp knife and a large pair of scissors, disengage the cutting deck of the mower, and drive it sideways onto a small hill and engage the emergency brake. Then I placed a large, sturdy planter on the downhill side, and then I heaved that sucker over until it rested on its side on the planter, and I sat down and went to work hacking away every bit of tangled mess underneath the cutting deck. It took a while, but I DID IT, and it felt good when I set the tractor right, started it up, and engaged the cutting deck and heard that smooth rumble that meant that all was once again right in the John Deere world.
When I mowed on Monday, by the time Alex got home I was just about finished. He changed clothes and came out and ran the trimmer all over the whole yard. That, right there, is just about as perfect a partnership as a marriage can have (Except--wait, I still had to come in and fix dinner then, didn't I? Yeah, we're gonna have to work on THAT.). And in the spirit of my granddad, Alex even waved me down a time or two to tell me where NOT to mow. To which I responded by going back there and mowing just a little more.