will mow for beer

Overgrown yard

I wish my yard could look like this.

THE EARLY HOT WEATHER this spring gave our grass a head start on its annual quest to reach the sky, prompting me to think that whoever invented lawns should be punished by mowing mine.

I’m the one who usually gets stuck with the mowing, not because I’m better at it, but because I’m not as good at everything else. Because my partner Leah wields power tools, she can repair plumbing, hook up a stove, and build shelves. The last power tool I used was the blender, for frozen margaritas.

Since we moved onto our half-acre plot eight years ago, Leah and I have both avoided mowing our vast yard. I protest; I wait two weeks. The grass gets so high that it takes two hours to cut, and to clean up, I need farm machinery to roll the clippings into oversized Shredded Wheat bales.

We thought of overgrowing our yard into a weedy wildflower delight, but the woman down the street already tried that trick. A nosy old neighbor reported her to the village, claiming her self-made field caused a radical increase in savage snakes and swarming mosquitoes at his house. This is the same vigilante who shoots young deer in his backyard with a BB gun and swears he’ll keep Trumansburg civilized.

Initially, I planted substantial flowerbeds in the hopes of cutting back on lawn time. Now when I mow I get to admire gigantic weeds choking scraggly blooms as I push by. For years, my sister planted only plastic flowers around her house. I’m starting to see the wisdom in sticking inanimate objects that require no maintenance into the dirt to look healthy and colorful year-round.

Grazing might be an option in another town, or another era. Woodrow Wilson used sheep to manicure the White House grounds during World War I. To no avail, we’ve been begging the village to allow us to have chickens, so I can only imagine what they would say about sheep or goats. I’m sure our nosy neighbor would have input.

One year, Leah planted literally twenty-three baby fruit trees in an effort to shrink the lawn, not considering it would be years before they cast enough shade to minimize grass growth. Complete with cages and stakes, the twenty-three saplings transformed our big lawn into a big obstacle course that twists and turns around the snickering trees. Because mowing our yard resembles a physical challenge on a Japanese game show, quotes for hiring someone to trim the grass start at $50 a pop. Twenty weeks of lawn mowing will cost us $1000 for the season. That could buy two plane tickets to Florida this winter when the offending grass is long forgotten under the snow.

In a desperate move to make lawn care meaningful, the eco-conscious Leah purchased a push mower, the kind powered solely by human idealism. Like everything utopic in theory, it’s not very functional in reality. It takes two of us to push it, probably because we let the grass get too long, and it seems to cut only every other blade of grass. Leah faithfully sharpens the push mower’s blades once a year, but that’s all the action it sees. Keep your eye on the “for sale” section of craigslist for this one.

I am jealous of well-manicured lawns dotted with intentional, tidy flowerbeds, clearly cared for by someone with either obsessive compulsive disorder or enough money to hire help. Proud owners of such works of art can join garden clubs. I’d like to start a “I’m Lucky If I Mow My Lawn Once a Month” club so I can have something to feel proud of, too.

Yesterday when I cut the grass, I enjoyed the vindication of plowing right over three dead little fruit trees. Three less obstacles to maneuver around. I took such glee in their demise that I felt guilty.

But that’s what it’s come to: I curse the lawn, I curse the unkempt beds, and I curse the trees that laugh at me as I circle around them again and again. My only reward is that mowing the lawn is a good excuse to drink a beer in the middle of the day.

-Amelia Sauter

Amelia wants to know: How do you cope with mowing your lawn? Send your comments below.