The grass is always greener (or shorter, anyway)

Just a month into this new life of ours, certain things are becoming abundantly clear.

We cannot survive without a second car, because Beardy’s 40-mile a day bicycle commute will destroy his knees and make him totally exhausted and thin as a rake (more so…), even if he does part of it by train on occasion. Not to mention the fact he won’t be able to ride his bike on icy or snowy winter days.

Further, his heinous shifts and long hours mean that on work days, he can do a little firefighting in the garden, but not much more. For example, he can water the greenhouse. But big projects are out, until his (rare) rest days come around. Do I sound a little bitter about his work? I think 7 days on, then 3 days off, is a demanding pattern. I wouldn’t want to work 7 days on the trot, but then I’ve never been known as a workaholic.

But back to our muttons. Not that we have any yet, but that day may come, if our most egregious and megalomaniac plans come to fruition and we buy an extra bit of field behind the dry stone wall, and if I have no further need of paid employment and can devote all my time to milking ewes. So not very likely, then.

Over the years, in spite of conscious resistance on our part, we have fallen into rather traditional gender roles when it comes to the division of labour. I, for example, dislike driving, am quite afraid of cycling, and have little interest in anything mechanical. Which means Beardy does most of the driving, maintains all the bicycles, does all the little bits of DIY in the house where I wouldn’t know where to start (e.g. disconnecting the washing machine), and is generally a very practical and useful person to have around. I, by contrast, like reading recipe books, cooking, preserving, cake decorating, sewing, and knitting – all of these when time allow. And since Beardy works long hours, he has no time to do the food shopping or cooking, or deal with child- and school-related activities and admin. As a result, the children appear to think that daddies earn money, drive the car, are good with their hands, and know a lot about science, whereas women like cooking and domestic pursuits and are useless at 3-point turns.

All of this must change! It is quite clear that in our new home, I must learn how to navigate single-track roads and reverse uphill and around corners to the nearest passing place, I must understand how our water supply is filtered, how the wind turbine feeds electricity into the grid, how to use the wood chipper, and indeed far more basic things like what species of tree we have in the woodland. I must become knowledgeable and practical and less of a sissy. In short, I must man up, if not for the fact I am a woman. And one of the things I must be able to do is mow the lawn.

In passing, I should mention we have been assiduously researching ride-on mowers because we have too much grass to mow by hand (I don’t mean with a sickle, but with a conventional push mower). But we haven’t yet settled on the perfect, shiny man toy machine, so for now we are stuck with our petrol mower.

Today I decided to give Beardy a little surprise, by doing some mowing while he was at work. Have I ever mowed a lawn? Yes, but not for years. Have I ever used the petrol lawnmower? Once, as a token gesture. Do I have an intuitive understanding of how the lawnmower works? Certainly not.

Luckily, I have a very observant and technically-minded eight-year-old. When I revealed my plans to him on the way to school, he gave me detailed instructions for filling the lawnmower’s petrol tank and switching it on. This gave me confidence.

I duly entered the hallowed confines of the Garage (not my space, obviously), extracted the mower from our other clutter, found some ear defenders (alas, not the perky yellow ones, but a whole plastic helmet + ear defenders), rolled the mower outside, and peered at it suspiciously. My first attempts at turning it on failed. I went indoors, watched a Youtube video, concluded everyone else’s lawnmower looks different from ours, went out again, deduced that instead of a choke button we had a primer, checked the petrol reservoir, and tried again. Success!

Today I discovered many things about mowing. I discovered that it’s very hard work mowing uphill and on undulating ground (note to self – thank Beardy with even greater sincerity next time he mows the lawn. Or perhaps it’ll be me). I discovered it was exceptionally easy to remove the grass collection box and empty it, but I only discovered this after I’d fiddled with several likely-looking fluorescent orange handles, thus making the wheels fall off the mower. I discovered a sense of triumph when I managed to start the mower first time. I discovered that when I stopped mowing and looked around, the sheep were grazing peacefully in the neighbouring fields, and it was incredibly still. Or perhaps that was the ear defenders.

Most of all I discovered I felt childishly proud of myself for having a go. Several bits of lawn are now slightly shorter. Will Beardy notice when he gets home? Given how rarely he notices when I’ve had a haircut, possibly not, although it has to be said, the garden is vastly more important to him than my appearance.

after mowing
After. Tell me you can see the difference…

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have a go at strimming.


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