"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Ode to a Lawn Tractor, Part II

I hauled back the enormous barn door and there it was: the lawn tractor. Just me and John Deere and a helluva lot of lawn.

I decided my lawn-cutting experience might benefit from a closer relationship with the lawn tractor. Taking a cue from my friend Muffy, who recently named her new car Betzsy, I tried to think of something feminine and jaunty; something that would roll off the tongue a little smoother than "the lawn tractor." I decided on "Jean Green, mean machine" (or "Jeanne Verte," for when I was feeling multilingual). We'd become friends, Jean and I, over the many summer hours we'd clock together. She'd always start for me, and never buck me off. She'd never run out of gas and strand me mid-cut. It would be the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship, I was sure.

Confident that I'd soaked up all of D & C's lawn tractor wisdom, I dutifully checked the oil and hopped on. After several tries, Jean's engine snarled, sputtered and refused to turn over. I tried patting her on her cobwebby green hood. I tried verbal encouragements as though she were a moody child. Nothing. I restrained myself from using D's traditional method of fixing things and kept my foot firmly on the ground.

In despair, I clomped back to the house and called my mother-in-law, who was a lawn tractor guru. She wouldn't make fun of me and she'd know what to do; it could be our little secret. When my father-in-law answered and told me she wasn't home, I took a deep breath. "Dave," I whispered, switching to my newly acquired farm vernacular, "she don't start."

He drove over, surveyed Jean's engine for a few silent moments, then pushed the throttle all the way up until it touched the picture of the rabbit. I hung my head. I'd forgotten about the throttle. To lessen my embarrassment, Dave mumbled something about engines being stubborn sometimes and gave the engine a shot of ether (which, incidentally, is highly explosive). I turned the key and Jean lept to life with a trimuphant roar. Dave finished his visit by yelling a reminder not to shoot cut grass onto the uncut sections of the lawn. I'm nothing if not well-instructed.

And so we were off! My husband and brother in law would be amazed at my precision and skill. People would drive by Someday Farm just to admire Jean and I on our weekly rounds. Maybe I'd even give Jean a new coat of pink paint. I couldn't wait until bikini season.

After a few effortless runs up and down the stable lawn, where I shot some gravel perilously close to the shop windows and backed into a fence, I tackled the south border of the property. There I met my first Waterloo: hills. Every time Jean would start to heave and rise on a slant, I'd panic and steer her the other way. It felt like she was going to betray me, roll to her side like a felled buffalo and crush me to death. Okay, so Jean and I wouldn't do the hills. Hills would be "man's work."

Turning northward, I attempted to cut the remaining stable lawn. That's when I realized I needed a better bra. Run your finger enthusiastically over a head of cauliflower and you'll get an approximation of what our lawns are like. Even at her slowest speed (where a crawling baby could pass us), riding Jean anywhere on our property is a tit-jostling, butt-thumping experience. I felt like Roy Schieder in Jaws, only I didn't need a bigger boat: I needed a bigger butt.

Lumpy-bumpiness aside, I found myself entering a state of lawn-tractor zen. The droning buzz of the blades becomes as soothing as a monk's chant, and you begin to notice the loveliness around you: sweeping green fields, the smell of the mock orange bushes, the simple beauty of a dandelion...until you cut its head off. I began to see the appeal of farming; driving a tractor up and down a field, or going round and round cutting hay would give you a lot of time to think. It's a solitary activity and there's no one you can share it with except the birds, the bugs and a few curious deer. And you can see instant results: the shaggy mess becomes a lawn again - for a few days, anyway.

After 3.5 hours, I hoisted my stiff self off of Jean and hobbled into the house for a beer. Sitting on our back stoop, I raised the bottle in a toast to my green partner. Long live Jean Green! and long live Someday Farms, lumpy lawns and all.

Ode to a Lawn Tractor: Part I

One surprising thing I learned this past spring is that up here, cutting the lawn is almost always considered 'woman's work' - unless you have a kid of your own whose legs are long enough to reach the lawn tractor gas pedals. Because it is always called a "lawn tractor," never a "lawn mower" or even a "riding mower." I'm not sure why.

When I was growing up, lawns and their related upkeep were part of an exclusively masculine domain, unless you had the aforementioned kid. If the man of the house was otherwise occupied, or you didn't have a kid of your own to punish, you hired some other guy (or kid) to cut it for you. Having grown up with this mowing strategy firmly entrenched, it was a bit of a shock to be told that cutting the 2 acres of lawn at Someday Farm would be MY job. Now that I was a country girl, I had to learn to do things the country way.

When we first moved here, I was so excited at the thought of owning all this lovely acreage. My eyes greedily took in the gently sloping hills, the apple orchards, the rustic fences. I silently thanked the person who thought to plant the multitude of pine and maple trees that dot the property. Now when I survey our domain, I see it with the keen eyes of the practised lawn slave: steep ditches waiting to tip your tractor, apple trees who stab you in the eye and ear with their brances, fences whose navigation require military precision and unending maple and pine obstacles that laugh at my attempts to cut around them cleanly.

My virgin ride on our ramshackle lawn tractor occurred last week. It was 9 o'clock at night, windy and miserable. Both C and D were on hand to observe my first attempt and give "pointers." May I state here and now that the last thing a girl needs to have is two guys shouting and waving their arms frantically at her the first time she mounts a large piece of heavy machinery?

Having had little experience driving much of anything motorized apart from my Kia and the '70, I got along fairly well, if I do say so myself. I figured out how to start the thing, where the brakes were (even though they don't work), what a choke was (up until then I thought it was just something I wanted to do to the dog when she misbehaved), how to go really fast and how to reverse. It was actually kind of fun once I got over my annoyance at the boys and their skeptical expressions. As I rode up and down the patch of lawn between the stable and the barn, I thought, Hey! I can do this! Look at me!

The true test came the next day when I had to go it alone. D was at work, and C was busy in the fields. There would be no one to hear me scream. I dutifully put on my grubbies and marched out to the stable to unleash the beast.

Part II coming soon to a blog near you...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Too tired to blog...

Just so you know, unpacking one's accumulated crap of 11 years is severely debilitating to one's urge to blog. Yep, I did it all myself. Yep, I also packed and unloaded an additional 10 boxes to the Goodwill. And crushed 45 empty cardboard boxes. And hung up all our clothes.

But I do get a kick out of watching D try in vain to find stuff...beh heh heh...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Drop in? Drop dead.

Okay, that title's just a bit harsh. But only a bit. Since moving to the country, I've had to learn to master the art of the "drop in." Actually, I've had to master the art of being dropped-in-on, rather than being the drop-in-'er. And believe me, there is an art to looking happy when unexpected and/or unwanted guests show up at your door when you're a) naked, b) in the middle of doing something important, c) cooking something fabulous for two or d) all of the above.

I grew up in a home where the drop-in was considered a way of life. Everyone popped into my mom's place - friends, relatives, neighbours, students, etc. My mother never batted an eye (except for the time she was stranded on the basement stairs absolutely nude on a laundry run). And most of the time I welcome guests. I want our home to be known as a place that's fun to visit, and I hope that we're thought of us good people to be around. But let us get moved in, already! Wait until we cut the grass and unpack our underwear!

I'm being a bit cranky, because, quite honestly, I don't begrudge folks their curiosity about our new place. It's on the main road by the lake and everyone and their cousin's dog have driven past it over the years when it was forlorn and unoccupied. So now that we're bringing new life to Someday Farm, I don't blame people for wanting to stop in and have a quick peek. I'd probably do the same myself.
I just hate the fact that I can't scamper around in my skivvies for the next few months until people have satisfied their curiosities.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Right? Right!

My overwhelming need to be right is not one of my finer qualities. Family and close friends know about my shortcomings in this regard and aren't afriad to call me on it. D, on the other hand, is still learning.

An excellent example of my I AM RIGHTness problem occurred last weekend while we were pruning our tiny apple orchard at Someday Farm. Whenever I've daydreamed about living in the country, an apple orchard always figured prominently, so I was delighted to find 15 apple trees in orderly rows on our new property. Sadly, they are stunted little things with nary an apple on them.

D consulted the local apple expert who lives a few concessions over. He's a good-natured fellow who supplies the boys with all their cider-making apples and I'm sure he was a bit curious to see our place as well, so he dropped by to provide us with some instruction. Now, I don't know if I just blanked out, or got distracted by a bird (this happens fairly regularly), but I swear Mr. Apple Man told us to prune the main middle branch out of the tree so that it would open up and allow the tree to umbrella out. I swear it.

We tackled the pruning the following Saturday. It was a miserable, rainy day; blessings on my bro-in-law C for lending me his cherished "rain gear," and blessings on D for buying me shiny yellow rubber boots at Christmas. Still, getting rained on when you have an outdoor task to complete does not bode well for marital bliss.

I dug my beloved red pruners (or "loppers" as D calls them) out of the depths of the unpacked garage and grimly set off through the downpour for my first tree. D was snipping off all the suckers and wasn't watching as I attacked my first victim. I hacked off the big branch going up the middle with the flourish of an executioner. Note: If you have never used a big shiny pair of loppers, I highly recommend it. It is immensely satisfying to cut stuff up. And I don't mean that in a Dexterish way.

I had just progressed to my third tree when I noticed D running towards me in what I have come to know as his panic posture, the one where he waves his long arms in the air like his hair is on fire. He was yelling, "NO! NO! HOLY F*CK, KIM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!?"

A bit snottily, I told him I was pruning the apple trees, just like Mr. Apple Man had instructed us to. More wild gesticulating from my mate. His voice had risen about three octaves.

"You're cutting the whole middle part off!? Are you insane!? My God Kim, look at what you did! You cut the whole f*cker RIGHT OFF! You cut all THREE of these RIGHT OFF!?!"

At this point, D attempted to grab the loppers from me but I hid them behind my back and with great difficulty refrained from jabbing him with them. Who was the gardener here? Who owned the majority of garden tools? Me, that's who! I was doing it right! He was the insane one! Humph!! Why didn't we just call Mr. Apple Man and confirm my rightness?

I suppose at this point you've already guessed that one should not cut off the "leader" branch of an apple tree when pruning it. That will stunt its growth and probably eliminate all chances of any apples appearing on it in the fall. And one should probably not have a dispute with one's spouse while holding a sharp object. Believe me, I'm right.