When I moved to Auckland, aged eight with my family I had two overwhelming impressions. The first, about which my mother cautioned us assiduously, was that the gravitational force of Auckland was such that we would soon add ‘eh?” to the end of any question in place of more civilised interrogatives such as ‘isn’t it?’ or ‘don’t you?”
Luckily this was never a problem, eh?
The second was that Dad’s beloved* iron push reel mower would no longer be a useful member of our family. The grass in Auckland was just too tough. That crab grass, that damned Kikuyu! It climbed everywhere, through more respectable seeded lawns, into cracks, up your front steps if you’d let it. It could take you down.
Children spend their time a lot closer to the lawn than we do. Playing, reading, press ganged miserably into extended sporting events, they develop a heightened awareness of the texture and scent of their physical environment. Even though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, there was a cultural chasm between the soft green lawns of Christchurch and where we now found ourselves. In our Airways supplied house in Mangere, the rain came out of nowhere and hissed on the red scoria footpaths and the tough wiry lawn.
We’re lucky not to have a lot of Kikuyu in our current garden (although my friend Helena kindly offered me some of hers). Out of sheer luck we have a type of resilient native grass which deals as well as anything can with drought in summer and deluge in winter. It graciously waits until the the very end of summer to brown off and then springs up to reassert itself at the first sign of rain.
Running our own business and working the way we do has meant that until now we were prepared to pay someone to mow for us. Recently however, Paul the lawn man gave notice. It was hard to know if it was the obstacle course of bikes, the endless cabbage tree leaves or simply, ahem, seeking greener pastures. At the same time, I left full time employment. This means we need to think about how we are going to manage our lawn from now on. My brilliant suggestion is that we turn it all hugelkultur beds. My beloved who has previously been dedicated, as many men are, to the idea of the mythical ‘cricket pitch’ down the middle is demonstrating some flexibility, but not that much.
The impeccable green swathe does seem to be a primarily male imperative. I prefer flowers and veges and I don’t care if I have flatweeds. As Aunty Margaret once sweetly pointed out to a naughty neighbour she caught spraying over her boundary “If you get rid of all the daisies, how will the children make daisy chains?”. I have to admit I haven’t spotted my boys making too many of those, but I am delighted to have the cheerful little faces of the daisies bobbing away out there.
It turns out that there are many advantages to push reel mowing as this rather charming blogpost from The Art of Manliness points out. We sacrifice a lot for speed and convenience. Push reel mowers are more sustainable, provide exercise and apparently the scissor motion is better for your grass than the rip and tear approach of the petrol guzzler. The biggest benefit to my mind though is how wonderfully quiet they are. I hate the shriek of mowers and leaf blowers as they rend the peaceful day to smithereens. As a child I loved that susserating sound the push mower made as it whirled and snipped its way across the lawn. And clearly there are some spiffy new looking models and the smell of freshly cut grass is heady and evocative. Although I am no less lazy than I was before, perhaps the matter warrants further examination.
Would you be prepared to use a push reel mower?
*May be making a rose coloured assumption here – Dad feel free to correct me if you hated that mower!