I Wish I Had a Lawn Service

I love spring – in fact, it’s my favorite season.  What I like is weather that’s warm enough to work outside without a jacket and cool enough that I’m not dripping sweat (and I really sweat), and for sure that time is now.  I enjoy planting annuals in the beds I’ve made, getting my pond ready for the warm weather, and hopefully completing the repairs to my above-ground swimming pool so that I can actually use it this summer.  I’ve spent years slowly adding ground covers, planting beds and other projects throughout my property for both my ongoing enjoyments as well as to improve the final value of the place when I sell it.  I get personal satisfaction from using my own labor to accomplish these changes and the physical activity is beneficial to my overall health.  My friend Mike helped me get my garden tractor running for the season (although I’ve been doing it by myself since 1985!) last week, and it’s been raining almost every day since, so today was my first real chance to jump on the tractor for that first cut of the season.  I have to admit it – I hate mowing the grass!

We (my first husband and me) moved to my current home in 1984, when our kids were both under the age of five.   I was fortunate enough back then to be able to stay at home with the kids while their father was at work, and I made the mistake of offering to do the grass cutting that could be done with the tractor because of the novelty of it all.  This of course resulted in my being the one responsible for the inside of the house as well as more than an acre of ground on the outside, the kids all day and, much of the time, a part-time job in the evening after my husband came home from work and could take over the care of the kids.  What he did, to be honest, was babysit his own children, often acting as if he were an irresponsible teenager rather than a parent.  It’s bad enough having two kids to take care of, but adding a grown man who acts like a kid to the mix was more than I could stand.  “If this is ‘til death do us part,” I thought, “Then one of us better die soon!”  But I digress.

My first spring, with the new tractor and spreader, I drove all over the property spreading weed and feed, like the books I’d been reading recommended.  I was so frustrated a few weeks later as I surveyed my domain, which had gone from being sparsely covered with something green to a more consistent dirt covered with dead stuff.  I hadn’t even considered that none of the stuff I’d had growing all over the place was in fact grass – it was all weeds – so what I was left with were really hard to kill weeds that I’m still dealing with more than thirty years later.  Mental note to self….

I’ve been the primary landscaper/gardener and all that entails for thirty-six years, and every year I try to postpone that first mowing in the spring, as if watching the ‘grass’ grow taller will slow it down somehow (it doesn’t!).  I really hate having to go all over the back yard, where the majority of the trees are, to pick up all the branches that the winter and wind knocked to the ground but haven’t yet come up with a way to stop gravity inside the fence.  Fortunately, I do have a dump cart for the tractor, so I move it around the back yard to collect the twigs and branches.  Today’s experience was the worst to date.

I started out, as I have for the last two seasons, by firing up the compressor to inflate three of the tires on the tractor.  Sure, I could have bought new wheels last spring, but that would have cost around $400, and I do have a compressor and hose that makes inflating the tires every time I use the tractor quick and relatively painless, so I’ve kept my cash while filling the tires.  Last season, I could use the tractor all day (or as long as I usually used it on a day) without a problem, and I expected things to remain the same this year.  Apparently, I did not take into consideration that the tires might have another plan.

In preparation of that branch and twig clean-up in the back yard, I inflated the tractor tires and pulled the dumpcart around to hook to the back, discovering along the way that one of the tires on the cart was also flat on the bottom.  Of course, when Joey and I replaced the tires on the cart a few years ago, we managed to put both of them on backwards, so I have to tip the cart up onto its side in order to access the tire valve, so definitely an empty cart endeavor.  As I was spinning the tire around to find the valve, I saw why it was flat – someone (who knows who it could be?) had driven over something that made an L-shaped hole in the tire.  Not one to be stopped by minor inconveniences, I went into my newly organized laundry room and found some contact cement and extra-sticky duct tape.

With the glue along with a scrap piece of rubber pond liner, I patched the tire, and then used the duct tape to temporarily hold the patch on until the glue dries.  It may not have completely fixed the problem, but it did slow down the air escaping the tire enough that I was able to use the cart for a few hours, until it was almost dark and I was done with it for the day.  I still had enough light to mow the grass, and the tractor does have headlights, so I dropped the cart and climbed back on the seat of the tractor to cut more grass.  As I did so, I noticed the mower deck moving out of the corner of my eye.  I decided I’d imagined the movement and started the mower blades as I accelerated forward exactly nowhere.  It felt as if something was preventing my mower deck from moving ahead, so I shifted gears and reversed without a problem.  When I still couldn’t drive forward, I got off and discovered that the clip that’s been holding the mower deck up since I got the tractor had apparently decided to shelter at home.  I have no clue where that home is.  

I tried to use my giant magnet on a handle to locate the hardware in the grass, and quickly determined that I would be dragging it all over the place for days, so instead I grabbed the metal detector I’d borrowed from Joey’s stepfather when I lost my keys in the yard (it’s a long story for another day) and walked back out, following the newly mowed grass tracks swinging the detector side to side like a weirdo, but I didn’t find what I was looking for before it was too dark to tell where I’d been from where I hadn’t been.  No wonder I hate the first cut of the season!

I’m pretty sure I have reasonable facsimiles of the parts I’m missing to let me use the tractor until my parts order arrives.  All my apocalypse supplies, you know.

Day 2, First Mowing of the Spring

I decided to order four new tires (without rims) for the tractor on Amazon for $147, because it’s really a pain having a tire that simply can’t hold air. 

My plan, when I ordered the tires, was to keep doing my inflate-as-I-go plan until the new tires arrive, then take the tires and drive the tractor to my mechanic, about a quarter mile away.  I can stay off the street for a good part of the ride, and I firmly believe that there’s no one in town here who would bat an eye at me even if I was on the asphalt.  I’ve seen stranger things all over town.

Anyway, I was driving around the property, trying to mow as much of the property as possible that didn’t have winter debris still to be removed, so I returned to the part of the back yard that I’d cleared off the previous day.  By that time, it was around dusk, and it gets dark pretty quick now because the trees are leafier, so I flipped on the headlight.  I began to notice that it was getting harder to turn the wheel, but I know I need to add some grease so I attributed it to that.

Nope – the front tire had not only lost all its air again, it had lost its connection to the rim, making it impossible to inflate.  I had to give up trying to fix it because of darkness, and I’m possibly going to have to utilize a slightly dangerous but effective means of resealing the tire to the rim that involves a small, contained explosion.

What could go wrong?

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