Fishtown Local: Expect anything

Mowing season is upon us in full tilt mode. Past time to trot out those lawn mowers, riders, tractors and snippers and get at that green stuff! Mowing is at once both exhilarating and a pain in the butt.

A pain because it never ends — like a mailman in the mail stream, it just keeps coming at you. You mow, you count to 10 and your beautiful mow job is already getting shaggy. D’oh! (Homer sound). But wonderful because you instantly see the results of your work and satisfying to the soul to see the target (the grass) going away as you apply your effort. Good for the achievement part of your brain and the organizational skills in there, too.

Your work is cut out for you as you start, but progress is so clearly displayed as you go. Finishing feels so good, doesn’t it? At least for the rest of the day before it starts growing again.

And grow it does, relentlessly. Strange because it hasn’t rained that much, but there must be programming in the grass cells that mowing stimulates the growth of the next generation, like a haircut.

Sometimes, one waits to start the mowing off because it grows less before the first cut and then — powie — you’re off an’ running on the treadmill! That first long haired uncut grass of the season looks so poetic too, so artfully shaggy and a clarion call that spring and summer are the order of the day — no more doubts. But the subsequent grass after the cutting has begun is so spiky and uneven — not to mention ungratefully unkempt — that you are forced to cut again not long after round one. “Didn’t I just do that?” one thinks. Then you are on the runaway train of obligation after that: it grows, you mows. No feelings or sense of propriety, that grass is screaming out its inevitability, its pervasiveness, its lack of caring about you and your empire of order. No, it’s screaming “hooray for me” and “get outta my way, coming through!” And so it does, until late summer. Gasp.

This mower guy has been at it for decades. There are two ways to deal with the overall situation. You can pay someone to do it or do it yourself. I’m in the latter category and can muse on about the best combo of machines.

There’s, of course, a difference between retail mowing and wholesale mowing. Retail mowing is near the house, etc. where one has to take extreme care around flowers, rocks, front steps, gutter spouts, plantings — you get the idea. Wholesale mowing is like driveways, side lawns or little adjacent spaces that your wife won’t let you avoid. Doesn’t have to be as perfect as near the house mowing and usually involves a bunch more monotonous time.

Retail mowing requires precision management and complete attention. Wholesale mowing is bulk, insincere and hot sun beating down on you as you toil away.

One can go with a sit-on mini-tractor style mower, like Sears or Snapper for bulk mowing, but that just doesn’t cut it for retail mowing. The things just don’t allow close enough tolerances for permanent rocks, plants, flowers, front steps, you name it.

If you go that route, you’ll still hafta come back and trim it out with a regular lawnmower to make it beautiful, groomed, retail. The best mow jobs, guests won’t notice — because when it looks right, a guest (or relative) just doesn’t notice. When it looks wholesale, fuzzy, shaggy or irregular, the whole world will notice. That’s why I use a push mower around the house. You can use a “powered” mower that drags you along behind it, pulling you along. But when you cut the power lever, those are too hard to pull backward — which is often half of the mowing total. They are heavier too, especially when pulling it back, exhausting by the end. The “you push” mowers are way lighter and allow much more creativity in how you attack the target. The absolutely best mower in the history of the world is a mower bought at L.E. Smith in Rockport. One of the last honest men in the world, a fella named Jud Wilson — from whom I had already bought several mowers over the decades — one day said to me: This mower “will start on the first pull every time.” An orange Husqvarna with a Honda engine — slightly more expensive than the Sears Craftsman mowers I’d been using, but that had been hard to start after four years of use. Even this year five out of the shed, first pull of the season, it started right up. He’s been prophetic; it has started every time.

But it still looks and acts brand new. Never had it serviced. In truth, most mowers last four seasons, no matter how expensive or cheap. This one will go far beyond that life. The farm also has a Snapper riding mower, which is great at bulk mowing but it is hugely expensive to service and maintain every year cuz it breaks down when it hits a twig. 

Lastly on this subject, what’s with the deluge of oak tree flowers this year? Those little brown squiggles started out like snowflakes, but now they’re coming down in clumps, falling to earth at rates we’ve seldom seen. We wonder if it presages a banner year for acorns?

The flower does grow before the seeds (acorns) drop. But it makes mowing even trickier in spots. Got to roll with punches — May is a mower’s month. Expect anything.

Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is an actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine and producer of “The Chicken Shack” community access TV show.

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