I have never never been a fan of lawns. Yes, they can be beautiful. Yes, it’s a vicarious pleasure to watch Luna pick out a nice lawn when we’re on a walk so that she can blissfully roll on it. They’re nice to walk on in bare feet (provided you don’t have any encounters with stinging insects). But I grew up in Southern California. Water was scarce, much of it stolen from Northern California and the Colorado River basin. You wouldn’t know it to look around, though: every suburban house, every office park, every condominium complex was surrounded by huge, lush lawns. There were also generally sprinklers going and, if not that, then lawnmowers. “Feed it, water it, chop it down.” I heard somewhere that a lawn uses three times as much water per square foot as wheat.

Of course, I had to do some mowing as a kid, but not a whole lot. As an adult, I once rented a place with a probably 400 square foot lawn. The landlord asked me to mow it. I said I would if he supplied the mower. Months later, when the grass was up to my chest, he dropped off an old, rusty push mower. Right.

When HA and I bought the house we’re in now, the previous owners had just finished putting in a stunning sod lawn in front (apparently on advice of their real estate agent). California was in the midst of an epic drought. We let it die, and HA did the backbreaking work of tearing out the old sod (which had a nylon mesh embedded in it just to foil the work of a rototiller). We put in trees along with raised beds holding flowers and veggies watered with a stingy drip system. We’re much happier.

Going forward, we have five acres of tropical paradise. About two acres of it is pasture on rolling hills. It’s beautiful. Since it’s in a mist forest, it doesn’t have to be watered or fertilized. But it does have to be mown.

picture of the teeny, tiny mower on a small fraction of the great, big lawn

I’d never used a riding mower. Our caretaker had been getting the lawn mowed but it had been raining for a few weeks before she left, so the pasture was a bit overgrown. I’ve been wanting to try the mower ever since I bought it, and, well, how hard could it be? Just sit there and steer while it mows, right? Alas, it appears that even mowing lawns involves nuance. The mower gets stuck or pops scary wheelies going up hills. It really wants to tip over on even gentle slopes (and we have quite a few not-so-gentle slopes). It’s appallingly noisy (I couldn’t go electric as we’re off grid and the solar isn’t yet up to par). I have to wrestle the steering and sometimes get off and push the thing out of ruts. It gets hot, but between flying debris, scratchy foliage at the borders, and angry disturbed insects, I need to wear long pants, shoes (ugh), noise-cancelling headphones, and long sleeves. In the tropics.

And there’s so. much. lawn.

So that’s my pleasant morning puttering around the pasture on the tractor.


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