Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Pain In The Grass.

   I don't know who's bright idea it was to have a lawn around here.
It was certainly never considered in the plan. It just kind of happened on it's own actually.
I had grown up around an extensive lawn, and seems quite a pile of my childhood memories revolve around push-mowers and best case scenario, a ride-on. I did my best in later life to avoid all of the above as best I could, and would often chuckle when I saw some poor slave to his yard out there sweating and pushing a mower around in his spare time.
   In the Fall of 1994, after the clearing had been done and the area cleaned up here at the hot spring property, some smarty-pants told me it would be wise to spread a reclamation mix around. So I foolishly brought home 400 lbs. of reclamation seed mix, which is what they  use on road right of ways and under hydro-lines I was told. I had a careful study of the list of ingredients on the bags, making sure 'lawn' wasn't listed anywhere on there. I figured I'd spread all this around and a forest and wildflowers were going to pop up. I had one of those seed spreaders you turn the crank and cast the seed as you walk along. It was quite a job I recall walking and cranking the entire length of the clearing, then turn around, move over a little and walk all the way back only to repeat the process. By my calculation, I put on more than 10 miles walking back and forth cranking and stumbling over roots and I was glad when it was completed, then waited for the new forest and wildflowers to appear. A couple hundred pounds of clover seed was procured and spread down the air-strip and around the cabin as well. Someone said that would be a good idea too.
   The next year the forest and wildflowers had a good start.
By 1996, my 'forest' had grown up quite high around the cabin which made it hard to wander around.  I came home from town one day with a weed-eater to beat it back a bit.
I don't know what I was thinking, but the next year I came back from town with a goddamn lawnmower of all things to beat the bush back just a little further. I knew this was a mistake right from the start and should have known better. And in a weak moment, I think I may have spread around a few bags of grass seed to fill in some of the bare patches in my budding forest.
Then I made the mistake of bringing home lengths of garden hose to operate a sprinkler...or two.
Things began to go seriously to hell from there on.
I must have had too much time on my hands as well, because on occasion I would log another clear-cut with the weed-wacker, and make an extra pass or two around the perimeter with the goddamn push-mower to extend the area,  like it needed it.
   It wasn't too much longer I began to eye-ball the landing strip, which had grown back in clover about knee high. After considerable looking I came back with a scythe. A scythe is a pole with two handles that you swing a long sharp curved blade with, commonly used by peasants and pioneers that didn't know any better, and it didn't take me long to figure out why those peasants and pioneers died so young. I managed to thrash down a tent-size patch of air-strip and realized despite the fact it scored really low on the old fun-meter, and was considerably more exercise than I thought I needed, it was going to take me all summer to do. The scythe received a coat of oil, and was hung up for display on the side of the guest cabin, where it has sat unmolested for 19 years.

I stewed over the situation for a few weeks, then against my better judgement manged to track down a ride-on lawnmower that had seen better days, hauled it out here into the wilderness and tackled the landing strip. It was grown high with clover and that first mow took me about 3 days, and thought I was going to burn up my new old mower.
   That poor old mower received 17 more years of abuse before finally calving a few years ago and I pushed it out in the bone yard back of the shop, then began to price out a new replacement.
Well that scared me and I drug the heap out and resurrected it once more, getting another awkward season out of it. This poor mower lived quite the life, and should go into a mower museum, I'm sure theres one someplace.  I came across it in front of the equipment dealer in town, a recent trade-in. Before I got my hands on it, the previous tormentor had caught it on fire, as evident by the paint bubbled off the hood and engine compartment, fueling while it is running being the usual cause. After it survived that first air-strip ordeal, I painted the hood, cleaned it up and it looked like new.  When the time finally came to paint the hood again I took it off with all good intentions, but I never did get around to painting it, or putting it back on for that matter, anyways, it looked kind of hot-rod without it. Over the years I wore out several sets of tires, countless blades, and about every moving part on it, twice. Something with the wiring went haywire one day and I spent 16 years jump starting it off my pickup to get it running. I had to by-pass all the factory safety features and re-wire to my own specifications so it didn't turn off on me every time I got out of the seat. Somewhere along the line it developed a problem with jumping into gear too if you didn't get it all the way into neutral which turned out to be problematic at times. Like that hot day I was mowing the yard and landing strip and I decided to pull over to the cabin for a cold drink. The muffler was rusted out, so I needed to wear hearing protection, which I never bothered to take off. I pulled up to the front deck and jumped off, leaving it running there while I ran in for a drink, which turned into a drink and a banana, and probably a trip to the little room. Refreshed in several ways, I wandered back out on the front deck to my waiting ride-mower, only to find it not there any longer. I took a horrified look down the bank and into the river expecting to see bubbles. I pulled my ear-muff deals off to go down and poke around the water with a pole when I hear the mower popping away on the other side of the yard in reverse, and about to head into the bush backwards. By the time I got there it had run itself in there aways before butting up against a stump and sat there digging a hole with one wheel.
Another life used up, good thing it slipped into reverse and not forward.
   Eventually the machine got just used up, and I was satisfied I got my money out of it. It cut grass all wonky and I had to pump the tires up before I jump started it to get it going, and half the time I got off it, I had to go looking for it. The steering was so loose it was a challenge to go in a straight line.
 Finally, running low on oil one day last year it ground to a halt, and was pushed to the bone-yard for the final time. I'll hang onto the wreck to resurrect it in the form of a wagon or something one day.

   As I was fearing all along was going to happen, I was in the market for another machine. I found my new victim, a new one, in front of the same equipment dealer up in town. This dealer and I, well, lets just say we have some history, and not much of it good. But it saves me driving another two hours to deal locally. The money was coming right out of savings, which was upsetting enough, but for a frigging lawnmower.  You can imagine my delight about a week later when I received a message that (in his haste to complete the transaction and get me out of the store) he had failed to punch the proper amount into the debit machine. Sure as hell, I had a closer look at the bill of sale and indeed my new hydrostatic drive ride-on mower had cost me $20.85! After a suitable period of savoring the situation, I informed him I would take care of it next time I was in town. Sometimes I don't go in very often, and can drag it out for a considerable time if required. I went in once, but figured he was probably busy. I went in another time, but decided I hadn't quite enjoyed the whole thing enough yet. I did finally sashay in there one day at my leisure, casually writing his book-keeper a cheque for the remaining couple of grand.

I call this my orange mid-life Corvette. Its about as close as I'm going to get.
This new sport model I picked up last summer has made the job considerably easier, the hydro-static drive lets you get in around in places in the orchard I couldn't with the old one and I should have traded it off long ago before I buggered it completely. All the rough work was done by the previous one, and I'm not interested in pioneering more area, so I can take better care of this one. If I could get it down on the terrace by the river I'd hardly need a push-mower. As an added bonus, it starts on its own, and the tires stay inflated. It does have an annoying habit of shutting down every time I get off it though.

As if a king-size front yard with a landing strip and orchard is not bad enough, there is a long section of the gold-rush heritage trail that runs through here I maintain. When this trail was surveyed by Lt. Palmer of the Royal Engineers in 1859, he had no idea that one day, some character would driving up and down it on his ride-mower, listening to his mp3 player.
   I usually manage to put off mowing until sometime the beginning of May, but this year was unusual in that the first mow was April 1. So its going to be along season this year, and right now its all I can do to keep up.

For a guy that swore off lawns years ago I seem to have created a monster out here.
But I suppose its worth it.

 August 1966, no matter how much things change, they appear to remain the same.

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