If you need me, I’ll be in the yard

I Fought The Lawn ... And The Lawn Won

My lawn care workforce is currently on strike, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Saturday afternoon, I watched Colin struggle to adjust the line on the weed whacker for the hundredth time. Somehow he cannot master the art of gently tapping the thing against the ground just enough to get the line to feed out. Instead, he slams it with the force of a WWF wrestler, and jams it up. Every. Single. Time. Then he has to take the thing apart and put it back together.

He wouldn’t ask for help. He struggled with it for a while before proclaiming trimming an official pointless waste of time of which he’d have none, then moved on to mowing.

He only started mowing this year. Jack’s been our mower up to this point, but he also mows my mom’s lawn. Her yard is all one level and even smaller than mine, and she has a snazzy, new machine that practically pushes itself around, and then jumps up to do the dishes. Electric with a battery. Narrow and light and pretty like a racecar. Ours is not. Parts of it are held together by duct tape and spit. The grippy rubber on the handle is falling off, and power handle is broken. It’s big. In comparison to mom’s mower, I imagine it feels like pushing a Cessna.

So I wasn’t surprised at Jack’s munificence in passing his home mowing duties to little brother, who was eager to earn a few bucks.

Colin’s first mowing session was after it had rained almost every day, back to back, for a couple of weeks. The grass was overgrown and still damp even after a dry spell. As Colin pushed the mower around, the grass sort of flattened out and mooshed together in places. He left little rows of mowhawks in my yard. I gave him a pass on perfection. I didn’t want him to be discouraged.

The next time, Colin “forgot” to mow the upper half of our yard altogether. When I reminded him, he sulked, muscling the mower up the four steps to the neglected section of grass and pulling it along, running, behind him like some toddler with a blankie. A really heavy blankie with blades and a power cord.

… That has to be the crappiest metaphor ever, but it’s totally what he looked like.

He was pulling the mower along like this for a couple feet before there was a bang and a series of loud rattles. He let go of the power lever and stood looking at the thing.

“That would be the sprinkler head, buddy,” I said.

“Sorry mom.”

I don’t know how we ended up with such a ridiculously hard lawn to take care of. It’s teensy. A few years ago, we had a guy come in and redo our patio and put in a sprinkler system and some new sod, and it was so pretty. We entertained out there quite a bit. I was meticulous about its care. I felt like every leaf and stem had it’s place.

Since then the upper part of the yard has started to sink behind the retaining wall. The neighbor’s junky evergreen dumps needles that kill the grass, and our own trees have roots coming up that make straight rows with the mower impossible. Once someone joining us for a drink on the patio was beaned on the head by a walnut from one of our trees. He joked about a concussion and a lawsuit. We laughed, but I’ve never shaken the thought that our yard is trying to kill people. We discontinued the entertaining.

Then there’s the weed control regimen I have that doesn’t seem to be working. It consists of throwing hippy, organic, pet-and-kid-safe pellets on the ground sporadically, and wondering why they neither kill the weeds nor nourish the grass like they’re supposed to. I’m not going to call in some company to spray foul-smelling crap on my lawn for a small fortune and then lie awake at night wondering if their broad-spectrum death potion is consigning my soul to hell in exchange for a lush, green lawn.

And my approach to watering can best be described as random. I don’t have anything on a timer, so I’m probably watering at the wrong time of day for the heat, and then either not long enough, or not often enough, to keep it from looking crispy and crabby all the time.

I know if an expert came in to look at the grass, he’d say something about how it was stressed from my lawn care technique. Which is pretty much how you could describe how my lawn makes me feel. It’s a complicated relationship.

Mike was telling me the other day about a friend who just built a house with a backyard that opens up onto the river. He has artificial grass that somehow manages to not look artificial. It’s on some sort of mesh, so any water will drain into the ground under it, and if it starts to look dusty he can just hose it off like a patio.

I suppose I’d have to see it to believe it doesn’t call up an image of the Brady Bunch studio backyard, but something about getting rid of our lawn altogether calls to me.

Anyway, when Colin announced Saturday he’s no longer mowing our lawn at all, because lawn mowing is stupid and ALSO pointless, I got him.

And I was also a little relieved. There’s something about having our youngest out there trying to get leverage behind a contraption with the mass of a small airplane, and with whirring blades and a trailing electrical cord, in a never ending battle to keep nonnative ground cover looking like a golf course. While he would mow, I would wait, with bated breath, for the next sprinkler head to get caught under the blades, or something worse.

So for now, and recognizing that Mike is actually quite allergic to anything green and has a doctor’s note and a slight wheeze to prove it, the job of mowing is back on my plate. Once again, I can go all OCD on the outdoors, trying to remove every spec of debris that’s fallen from the neighbor’s junk trees, and not kill our own cottonwoods by cutting them off at the roots. I’m getting up close and personal with our network of weeds and crabgrass again, reminders that it’s time to apply another dose of organic unicorn dandruff and fairy whispers, or whatever’s in those pellets that doesn’t kill my dreams.

I’m going to keep a running total of the cash we save not hiring our kids to do this crappy job, until I either make up the cost of a mower that doesn’t weigh as much as a semi, or give up completely and install a Brady Bunch lawn of our own.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


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Photo by JD Hancock

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  1. I don\’t think I could mow a lawn to save my life. I believe I\’ve \”mowed\” one lawn, ever. My parents were on vacation and my sister and I were assigned lawn mowing duties. Pretty sure we did the minimal that day. Nowadays, all outdoor anything is for my hubs and boys. And that is just FINE with me! 🙂

  2. Lawn mowing induced labor for my youngest. Seriously. He\’s now 19 and we\’ve gone through 3 lawn mowers since. I\’m now battling the European Chafer beetle. OMG. Google them. Lawn maintenance has changed forever.

  3. If you have weeds in planters or flower beds..try pulling them out at the roots then put down a ground cover and covering it with dirt. Should hold them at bay for a bit.

  4. So funny. Thank God we have a lawn crew and let them figure it out. I\’m embarrassed to admit my sons have never mowed a lawn because we don\’t own a lawnmower! We also have one of those shady, hilly yards and God knows what it would look like if my kids mowed it. I admire your courage. Good luck!

  5. I totally feel your pain! We\’d rip out our entire lawn and replace it with sagebrush it THAT wasn\’t so expensive!!

    1. That sounds like a good idea. We also have a dog, though, and even if ripping it out and replacing it with sagebrush wasn\’t an expense, I can\’t imagine rooting around that kind of stuff to clean up after her.

  6. I refuse to own a lawnmower or any other yard equipment, so I can feel better justified in hiring a lawn service.
    1) It\’s too close to 100 degrees and about the same humidity in Florida, where I live.
    2) I work too much and too hard to come home and spend my short and precious time working in the yard too.
    3) I don\’t believe in forcing my kids to do things I know I won\’t do myself. I get it that it\’s my fault they\’re spoiled and lazy, but whatever. They\’re very sweet and respectful and I don\’t want to make them do it.
    4) The lawn crew sweeps in and does the lawn, hedges, trimming, edging, everything in like 10 minutes.
    5) We\’re supporting the local economy and small business.