REAY JESPERSEN:
WRITER OF, AND DABBLER IN,
MANY THINGS

First lawn mowing of the year

I don’t like cutting grass.

It’s sweaty work, and while one can see the results of the effort (which I always prefer), I’m acutely aware the entire time that I could be doing something simultaneously more enjoyable and way less sweaty.

Reading. Writing. Taking a nap. Anything shy of running or working out…

But I digress.

As a more fitting beginning: It’s been raining a lot in Toronto.

Not nearly as much as it has elsewhere—flooding is a a real (and seemingly recurring and worsening) problem lately in cottage country and around Ottawa—but it’s still notably more than we’re used to getting here. Way less sun than usual, and more rain. April showers bringing May flowers has been held over to some degree. We’re now dealing with May showers and booking more flowers for June.

Because of our usual pretty busy schedule combined with that rain, a) we hadn’t been able to mow the lawn yet this year, and b) the lawn has been growing quickly. Which is a bad combination.

In Toronto, it seems there are years where it’s a short time between the lawn being cleared of snow and it getting long enough to cut. Suffice to say, those a and b elements combined to make our lawn about as high as it’s ever been, except for the time we were out of town for a couple of weekends in a row in high summer and the grass went a bit crazy. It wasn’t anything out of Lost World at that point, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if friends didn’t want their kids over for fear of them getting lost in the undergrowth. Guides with machetes may have been required to seek them out.

This time around it wasn’t quite as bad as that, but wasn’t far off. It was severe enough that, even for our small, city-sized patch of back yard, I had to employ the much-disliked Several Step Lawn Mowing Method™:

1) Use the whipper-snipper/weed whacker to make a first pass. This isn’t just a matter of trimming along the edges and the places that are hard to reach with the push mower, as is its God-given intention. I’m talking standing and arcing the whipper-snipper around myself and moving and repeating again and again, just in order to get the grass down to a height that the push mower has any hope of cutting through it. Push mowers, for the blissfully uninitiated, don’t do well with cutting grass that’s too high, because it tends to bend longer grass down before the spinning blades can do their thing, which renders the push/mow effort wholly useless. Electric mowers, it should be said, don’t have this issue. Tall grass is easily defeated by just tilting the electric mower back as it’s running and letting it down atop the long grass. It cuts from the top down. Easy peasy.

2) Rake and bag. Too much cut grass lying on top of what still has to be cut makes for miserable, ineffective mowing. The first round of cuttings has to be cleared away in order to get to the rest of the grass still standing tall just below it. Raking remains my least favourite part of this process, which is saying something. I’ll quickly mention here that electric mowers often have bag attachments that let you wholly skip raking.

3) Mow. We’re finally getting to the alleged purpose of the nominal task at hand: Getting the push mower rolling over the grass to actually bring the latter to a decent level. This will often take some repeated pushing, pulling, and pushing over the same patch again in order to trim down tufts that were missed through some evil design of push mowers that results in the same patch sometimes getting missed again and again unless you attack it from multiple angles. To anyone observing this behaviour, this part makes you look like a perfectionist and/or OCD, while you bear in mind the whole time how much easier all of this would be—a scant single pass—with an electric mower.

4) Rake and bag again. This time, to clean up what the mower finally cut. I’ve read that it’s good for the grass to leave at least some trimmings down, so I’m edging toward skipping this step, now with science backing me up rather than just saying it’s not happening because I don’t want to do it at all, let alone again. Something something electric mowers.

5) Potential final mowing. I’m no perfectionist (nor OCD), but there’s no way I’m going to put in all this time and effort and leave bits of grass still sticking up if I can help it. So if time and patience allows, I do a final once-over of anything that needs it. Definitely no raking after this one.

Having said all that, you have to know when to walk away. Our back lawn shares some qualities of our house, which will be turning 100 within two or three years: Like the interior of our house, there are absolutely no true 90-degree angles on the lawn, and the footing can be precarious. Given the lawn’s very nature prevents it from ever being totally uniform and it will never be ideal, I apply to it the writing advice I read from Neil Gaiman (which he, in turn, ported over from the words of an indeterminate philosopher): Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Could the lawn be better? Yes.

Could a whole lot of things in life? Also yes.

Thus, it’ll do.

As late as I got started on the mowing process today, I also wasn’t quite able to get it finished before picking up my daughter from school and getting into afternoon/snack/dinner mode. Knowing that I didn’t have time to get to quite all of the grass, I opted to leave a roughly oval, roughly body-sized patch where it’s growing higher. It’ll give the neighbours something to question.

After all, just because I don’t like mowing the lawn doesn’t mean I can’t have some fun with it.

Technology hates me and now grass does, too

Police motorcyles and helmets