I stand there in awe, because it is a rather large beast with a tendency to make strange and unusual noises. I’ve seen it often, but never found reason to use it myself. I am staring it down in my garden shed, woman versus large orange growly machine. I inherited it during my divorce, never once thinking about actually needing to use it – but now I’m a yard owner, and I need to familiarize myself with the dreaded lawn mower.
I fully acknowledge I am not an outdoorsy type. Camping for me is a laughable concept unless it involves cabins equipped with hot tubs and wet bars. While I come from a long line of farmers, including my own father, and gardeners, including my mother who managed to grow monstrous vegetables despite limitations of season and temperature, I seem to have been entirely bypassed when it comes to these genetics. The idea of lawns and gardens, shrubs and trees, lawn mowers and gardening shears, all fill me with a mild form of terror and dread – and yet I bought a house with a large backyard and a lush lawn.
One of the challenges of home ownership as a single woman not predisposed to domesticity of any sort is a tendency to avoid things like knowledge of lawn maintenance. My first summer in my new house was easy enough, as the previous owners had left the lawn in pristine condition. It looked a bit like the grass at the Kentucky Derby, I imagine, thick and green and almost plush. Once I managed to figure out the lawn mower (electric, meaning the biggest learning curve was realizing one needed to avoid mowing over the extension cord at all costs) I even moved on to “whipper snipper”, an odd contraption with an even odder name. That summer I mowed and snipped with gleeful abandon, musing at how simple this all was and what a fool I had been to fear the idea of lawns.
And then it was winter, with thick, deep snow which gave way to spring...and when the snow finally all melted and the detritus accumulated over the winter surfaced I realized I was in trouble.
A long season of cold coupled with the dog had left my beautiful lawn in serious disrepair. There were suspicious “piles” in various locations, and with the warmer weather things were beginning to smell a bit suspicious, too. The areas free of piles seemed to be almost barren of grass and what was there was yellow and brown, looking as dead as dead things can possibly look. Being a sensible woman who knows when she is out of her league I did what sensible women do: I called in the professionals.
I began with a service that cleans your yard of dog waste. I knew I didn’t have the stomach to do it myself and so I brought in the troops, a lovely woman with an enormous trash can, several trash bags and an impeccable reputation for being thorough. In the course of an afternoon she cleansed my yard of dog waste, some bones (also related to the dog), some dead leaves, twigs, bags, papers and other detritus the melting snow had revealed. Once cleared of the piles, though, the lawn looked worse than ever – so it was on to phase two and the lawn care company.
The team of four came and, after shaking their heads sadly, went to work with a variety of equipment that looked like tools of torture to me but that would apparently revive my lawn. They fertilized, they seeded, they did whatever bizarrely loving things lawns like to be done to them, and when they left they told me to water it nightly.
Over the course of a week my lawn, yellow and dead and forlorn, sprang to life. Green shoots continued to appear until, a month later, the entire lawn was lush and green and if left unmowed for longer than a week, resembled a small green jungle.
This lawn neophyte learned her lesson. This year I am ready. I am booking my professionals early, poised to spring the moment the snow is gone. There is a reason we have dentists, so we don’t need to pull our own teeth, and doctors, so we don’t need to suture our own wounds. In the same way I have learned to turn to the professionals when it comes to my lawn, at least in the spring. I am a veteran of the lawn wars – and I have learned it is a battle you don’t need to fight alone.