My back lawn stretches north to south along the edge of my house, and half again as far to the west. When I look out the window, it’s an expanse of brilliant green in every direction; about 2,000 square feet by my step-off calculations. I could place the Emerald City at its edge and things would look even better than with the field of poppies. I should invite Dorothy & Toto over for a cup of coffee. Or dress like the Wizard’s guards in one of those head-to-toe outfits while I mow. Even my lawn tractor is green.
It wasn’t always jade thumbs for me. Growing up, a gardener took care of my parent’s lawn (an even bigger carpet than my backyard Oz). Instead of mowing, trimming, mulching, aerating – all better options in hindsight – my brothers and I commanded weed and leaf patrol. Endless amounts of both packed into endless amounts of extra-large black lawn-n-leaf bags. One summer we helped my dad install a sprinkler system; everything from a rented trencher to miles of PVC pipe. It was a good education in plumbing, but I didn’t learn much about lawn care. Er – change that up – I didn’t care to learn much about lawn.
When my wife and I bought our first house, caring o’ the green became a proviso, if only to be good neighbors in such close quarters. We lived on a postage stamp lot in a small neighborhood just south of San Francisco. (If the lot really was a postage stamp, imagine the size of the front lawn.) I could mow and edge in a cool fifteen minutes. Looking back, I get a little nostalgic for my first lawn mower. It was the simple bare necessities – just a rotating blade and a couple of wheels, connected on up to a pair of hand grips. The engine was me, and there was neither seat nor steering wheel. No matter – my “push reel mower” worked just fine when you’re talking postage stamps.
Moving to Colorado, I graduated to a bigger lawn and a gas mower. A yoga class should include the lunge-like move required to start a gas mower. Brace with one leg, deep knee bend with the other, arm extended forward (but not locked!), fingers closed lovingly around the cord handle, deep breath, and… PULL! Sometimes the engine wouldn’t start after several PULLS on an early morning, adding colorful words to my vocabulary.
After that, we moved to the ranch we live on now. Mr. 2,000-square-feet beckoned out back that first summer, but with my smallish mower I pushed about a five-mile spiral to get him cut (my neighbor still smirks at me today… “city boy”). Too many years later I graduated to a John Deere ride-on: seat, steering wheel, drink/snack holder – the works. I even have the matching JD hat so I look like I know what I’m doing.
DO I know what I’m doing? DO I care enough about my lawn? Sometimes I wonder, as in a recent Wall Street Journal article, which story-tells lawn care at a whole different level. Some of my neighbors out there, in what can only be called obsession, take scissors to their grass or pluck the blades by hand. Others use a vacuum to clean up the scraps. Still others attach a roller to their mower for a finishing flourish – those light/dark stripes normally reserved for baseball fields. If I too want to be “extreme” I can purchase the video, “How to Dominate Your Neighbor’s Lawn”.
No, I’m not that guy. No scissors, no vacuums, no videos. I’m content to just putt-putt-putt every-other-week spirals around my green, with the occasional hand-rake of the trimmings. I’ll even admit to using a lawn service to hold back the weeds. It looks acceptable. The Wizard of Oz would probably approve and that’s good enough for me.