The past month has been pretty wet hereabouts. Barely a day seems to have passed without rain; payback perhaps for the long dry spell we had earlier. The ground has been saturated and combined with a little warmth most plants have flourished. My garden seems replete with moist, green fecundity. Five weeks ago my mower broke down and the lawn has retaliated by becoming a meadow.
We live on the side of a drumlin and have about half an acre of grass around us dotted with trees and shrubs. When I moved here the house hadn’t been lived in for months and the grass was over three feet high. A farmer friend of my neighbour's was enlisted to cut the grass with his tractor and disc mower. Afterwards I had to manually rake the grass and pile it into stooks which were then picked up and carried away by the tractor. This was an insight into the agricultural labour that my forefathers had done for generations. The haymaking was very hard work over several days which left me with an aching body that took days to recover.
I was advised to get a ride-on mower to keep the grass in check. I bought a second-hand Honda but it couldn’t manage the steep slopes of the garden. So they took it back and sold me the toughest mower they had, a Snapper, made in Georgia USA to a 30 year old agricultural design. It was red and chugged up and down the steep slopes munching the grass as it went. Over the years my Snapper has proved to be very robust until it stopped suddenly five weeks ago.
I took the mower to the repairers, they already had a backlog to fix and said they would try and do it in two weeks. At the end of this time I rang to find it still wasn’t fixed. They had first ordered the wrong part and then, because it was an old mower, the part they needed wasn’t in stock. Two more weeks passed and the grass grew and grew. It was about a foot high and meadow flowers had begun to proliferate in it: yellow vetch, ox eye daisy, white and purple clover. Without trying I’d got a very large bee garden.
I rang the repairers again, they had fixed one problem and the mower was operational, but they were still waiting for several parts to finish the job. We agreed that I would take it back to cut the grass and then return it to them when the parts they needed had arrived. My obliging neighbour took me to pick it up with his trailer which had a ramp at the back. The trailer was littered with sheep shit from its previous occupants, but no matter the mower slid in nicely.
I pondered how the mower would manage to pick up the grass when it was over a foot long. It won’t, said another neighbour, what you need to do is to mow the grass and blow it back out onto the lawn. Let it dry for a few days and then you’ll be able to go around again and pick it up with the mower. Seemed like a good plan.
I waited for a dryish day and late in the afternoon I set about the cutting. Even the trusty Snapper laboured through the long grass. The engine grumbled but the grass was sprayed about fifteen feet into the air, landing in heavy green clumps on the lawn, the mower and me. Then the mower ground to a halt. The grass was only dry at the top and kept clogging up the blades. I had to keep stopping to pull handfuls of matted wet grass from its innards. Slowly the Snapper did its job. I didn’t feel good chopping through the wild flowers, so I left a strip along the edge of the garden for the bee meadow.
It rained solid for two days and then it was dryish for the next two. On the first day I raked the clumps of grass to help them dry. On the second I got out the mower to pick up the old grass. Trouble was the lawn had also grown a couple of inches so it was a mix of dry and fresh grass which took double the normal time to cut and pick up. T helped me dump the grass into the field at the back hedge. And to add insult to injury there was a torrential downpour for the last ten minutes of our work. But we just kept going and flopped indoors: drenched, covered in grass cuttings and knackered. Even with labour-saving machinery, a country life isn’t easy.