The first mowing, and again

Wait a minute . . . not quite enough room to put a real mowing machine to work!

Down in Allendale, I’m sure folks started mowing their lawns some weeks ago now, but up on the fellsides of Sparty Lea, the week running up to this past glorious weekend was the first opportunity for mowing this year. I only mowed the tops off on Bank Holiday Monday (just after the Curlew Walkers ambled gently down our track, so I hope the roar didn’t disturb their passage) with a view to finessing the job after a short recovery.

Later yesterday afternoon, I lowered the blades and cut some more off, just after everything was standing up nicely again. That seems to have made a neater, more compact job of it, all around. We had quite an infestation of moles over the autumn, but the larger birds (pheasants, peacock or guinea fowl — maybe all of them) managed to flatten out nice dirt baths of each little hillock, so grass blades are spurting out through them again and soon they’ll just be a memory. It’s possible that Kali the cat has dispatched the mole and its mate and left the nasty-tasting things outside, not deigning to make an offering of them; no further hills have appeared since late November. So the lawn looks set to be a pleasantly trimmed green vista by the weekend.

It seems odd, bringing this touch of suburbia to the deep countryside, and yet the hedgerows we’ve carefully planted, marking out discrete rectangles of delight, ultimately breaking the wind and providing refuge for dozens of tiny birds, and with the lawns, bench-swing, and circular picnic table in between, it all feels together like a reminder of a sort of civilisation that resonates. Walking around in my special fluffy lambs wool slippers, the cut grass feels cushiony and dry underfoot, quite luxurious and humbly moving at the same time. The grass is just for us, and our close neighbours — nobody can see it from the road down at the bottom, anyway.

My sister-in-law took a photograph of me a year or so ago, desperately twirling around on the smaller grassy patches that remain, after all of our garden rationalisations, which have left the actual lawn space rather smaller than is necessary anymore for a big garden tractor with three simultaneous mower blades, while she laughed and laughed like a drain. I was quite abashed. But now that we know we can hoover up Plough’s dried poos with a golf-course sized mowing machine, depositing them conveniently for bundling into the tractor box for further composting on next year’s potato patch, I feel a little vindicated — picking up horse droppings on the field, manually, is kinda back-breaking work! The rapid mowing capacity is just a by-product blessing then, after all.

So betwixt and between this erstwhile small-holding, which has been witness to so many tales of confusion, malarkey and despair, joyfulness and the sweet smell of the hay harvest, (and more in a later entry, I hope, on a Smallholding Support Group that has sprung up over in the West Allen Valley), we espouse a ‘retirement ethos’ that suggests: it’s always fun to try, and if some scatter-brained idea should actually work, then we can chortle quietly to ourselves, and nobody at all will really care.

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