Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How my high ideals were mown down this summer

By the time we arrived in Maine this Spring, our yard was already over-grown, the grass tall enough to hide rhubarb plants. Initially, we deemed mowing a low priority and happily waded through our lawn. We noticed how closely cropped Mid-coast Maine lawns are and joked about our hippy homestead. Yes, it was all fun games until we started realizing the extent of our tick problem and were reminded that tall grasses are to ticks what the Ramble in Central Park once was (still is?) to certain men, a great place to lurk while you wait for a tasty tidbit to walk by. So we bought a push lawn mower and basked complacently in the glow of shared ideals. We were here to escape noise, not make noise. We're homesteaders, not gas guzzlers. Besides, people-powered mowers are so much safer and we have small children to think of.

Luckily, Aaron and I also share a willingness to re-visit the ideals-vs.-certain-realities equation and adjust as needed. The first problem was that the mower wasn't able to cut one type of tall stalk, and since the ticks were not abating, we worried these stalks were acting as safe harbor. The second problem was that to keep up with all of our lawn, which includes a small network of former ATV trails, mowing became Aaron's primary outdoor activity. By the time the last corners were done, the first corners needed to be mown again. And the tick siege continued. We reassessed. It's so quiet around here, what's a little noise every once in a while? We are homesteaders, not landscapers. Besides, Lyme Disease is no joke and we have small children to think of. And just like that, we turned to the Lawn Chief, a ride-on mower that the former owner left for us to fix or dispose of. It was sitting in our shed, an object of much fascination for Forest. Happily, with nothing more than a new battery and some air in its tires, the Lawn Chief was ready to roar (loudly enough to make Forest sob when he finally got to ride on it). And, voila, mowing shrinks to a once a week chore.

And there you have the siren call of the Industrial Revolution: get more done in less time. (The siren call of the Post-Industrial Age seems to be about spending all that saved time: movies, shopping, tv, video games, Facebook.) Although part of our homesteading dream is about greater self-reliance and smaller carbon footprints, how do we resist the lures of the heavy machinery when our to-do list looms long and guzzling a little gas enables us to check new items off rather than check the same item off over and over?

Sleep-gods willing, I'll post soon on other adjustments we confronted this past summer when our ideals bumped up against reality.