Two days in Bellingham, not the original travel plan, but that is what happened. Not that Bellingham is a bad place to be stuck, quite the opposite. This is all the better as I have relatives in Bellingham. Thus I am spending a couple nights at my uncle’s place, actually pretty nice.
What to do for the day? Several possibilities were considered, but practical matters needed to be the priority. My uncle has a beautiful backyard, a yard and garden of stone terraces, raised vegetable beds, a stream running through the middle. It had been neglected a bit while he journeyed with us along the Inside Passage.
Thus I agree to help deal with that situation. What needs to be done?
Mow the lawns? I can do that.
It is then I make a realization… I have not mown a lawn for a dozen years. Not since we sold the house in Tucson. When moving I had given away the lawnmower. Our Hawaiian hale has no sod, the yard is gravel, shrubs and fruit trees. If I find a blade of grass I pull it up by the roots, it is a weed.
Now, I do know how to mow a lawn. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where grass grows so prolifically that mowing is a survival skill. Homes and businesses can quickly become lost in seas of impenetrable green if mowing is neglected.
Our family yard was quite large. It was my assigned chore to keep it controlled, thus any given weekend saw me making at least one pass at the front and back lawns. I had it down to an art… The most efficient pattern to accomplish the task, care and feeding of the mower, exactly when I would need to refuel.
If for some reason I was unable to mow for a few weeks, a vacation, a few weeks of rain, the task was not mowing the lawn, it was haying the back 40.
Damp grass would stall the motor if mown too quickly, you needed to just shave a few inches over each pass. Thicker spots would require lifting the front end of the mower up and lowering it slowly onto each.
Though it may have been a dozen years since I last mowed a lawn, I found I knew exactly how to do it. The old skills quickly came back, in moments I was on track and mowing efficiently.
First pass… Get the edges and odd corners, create a smooth working edge on the un-mown portion.. This will be the hardest part. Once I have a clean edge on the outside I spiral to the center of the lawn quickly, without having to zig and zag about.
This lawn is not simple, there are multiple separated lawn areas. There are levels and ramps of grass. There are steep slopes along the creek that divides the yard. Over a few years of retirement my uncle has gone just a little bit overboard on this yard.
This is when I make another realization… My uncle’s back yard is not a yard, it is not a garden. This is a lawnmower obstacle course… Expert level.
Those beautiful stone terraces and ramps each take multiple passes while carefully edging along the stonework. The steep slopes to the stream must be carefully negotiated to avoid the mower slipping. There are far too many trees to mow around, small patios with chairs, a few lawn ornaments to deal with.
To get to the the other side you trundle the mower across the bridge, there you mow under the fruit trees and around each raised vegetable bed. Edge each flower bed, but avoid mowing down the hostas. Again try not to slide a mower into one of the pools along the stream. Carefully edge around the big stone pizza oven.
Two guys, two mowers, it still takes a couple hours to get it all. Afterwards we sit in the adirondack chairs and enjoy the warm afternoon, and a job completed. He points out the next stone wall to build, some new stone for the stream, the next bridge.
Maybe I will do the weeding next time.