A 50% chance of rain never happened yesterday. Feeling better than I have in a week, I bounce along the front lawn on the Husquvarna leveling off grass that grows in tufts. I set the cruise on the riding mower at dead slow because the ground is uneven. For two days the flu has twisted my insides. The rough ride across the lawn is painful even at a slow pace. I named my bright orange riding mower Fred to distinguish it from the four year old Cub Cadet whose name is Ted. I spend a minimum of five hours hours on both boys, once and at times twice a week.
Ted is relegated to rough areas and hills. He's lower to the ground-short and squat. I have an extra set of blades for Ted, so I'm not concerned about gravel hiding in the grass from winter plows. Fred is a baby. I'd been after the lawn mower guy to make adjustments to Fred since day one. A house moving project, illness and winter interfere with lawn mower guy's tune up for Fred. A week ago I loaded Fred up in the back of my F-150. All the plywood I have for a ramp is in use, so I haul a piece of 3/8th inch oak plywood from the kitchen remodel over to a hill. I back the truck to the hill, bridge the gap between truck and hill and start up Fred. Fred has a Kawasaki engine. It growls at high rev's and purrs at low revs. Half way through the loading process the oak veneer plywood breaks in two pieces. I am a model of decorum trying to figure out how to get the mower, especially the mower deck off the tailgate and into the bed of the truck. I'm lying, of course. No one can hear me while I curse the bloody plywood and bodily lift the beastly riding mower up over the edge of the body liner into the truck. Lawn mower guy wants me to come back while he diddles with my machine. I'm wise to his ways and tell him I don't have time to drive the 18 miles back and forth. I know that lawn mower guy will procrastinate while he wastes time jawing with customers who amble in to his shop.
The shop and the lawn outside the building are a fright. It looks like a lawn mower graveyard. Parts of tillers, push mowers and walk behind trimmers are abandoned in the high grass. Inside the shop, the so-called office with one bar stool for customers is a dusty museum of used and new parts. There's not an inch of space on the floor. A used chain saw in pieces blocks any customer access to the actual repair shop in back which is also a disaster. I'd given up asking him to order parts because he would forget to order the air filter I needed or couldn't find it when he remembered to order one. Each time I brought the Cub Cadet in for service, I'd come back to Ted with a different set of keys-not that it makes any difference-you can start the beast with a set of luggage keys. I still joke with him about the original bright yellow plastic set of keys that came with Ted.
I stand mute while lawn mower guy gives me his standard ruse about replacing the old deck with a new deck under the warranty program, the amount of time required for the changeover, the weather, last minute customers wanting help and on and on. I'm thinking, " Hey, I'm standing here. I'm your first priority." When I say nothing he fills in with, "Let's put the mower up on the hoist and take a look. In one half hour he has replaced the old blades, leveled the deck(which should have been performed upon shipment to him) and adjusted the angle of the cutting deck. He takes it on a test cut. He has to drive it around back to find an open area of grass. I'm satisfied with the way Fred cuts. No longer is there an uneven swath of grass in the middle of the 42 inch cutting path.
In the front lawn the only hazards are pine cones. Normally it would take 45 minutes to cut this portion. Previously, I worked Ted over the margins and rougher areas-places with tree roots snaking across bare patches of lawn. I'm cutting back the edges between the lawn and weed barrier to the corn field behind us. All sorts of nasties lurk in the high grass. This year I'm growing pumpkins and gourds along a 68 foot single tilled lane at the edge of the lawn. I cannot sacrifice good garden space for something I feel is mainly decorative. Yet, I have to hold back the weed barrier so the vines can overwhelm the weeds which can grow to six and seven feet tall. I pull Fred into the garage after what seems like forever and break for lunch.
After lunch, I replant dwarf sugar snap peas and snow peas. It's a favorable time to replant according to moon signs. I have no idea why the germination of peas is so erratic. Is it because the weather is so erratic or something I did wrong ? This time I inoculate the peas with nitrogen fixing bacteria as I plant the seeds. The inoculant looks like fine coffee grounds. I sprinkle it over the new furrow of peas adjacent to the few peas that actually germinated. The law of opposites says if I water the new seeds, it will rain. The sky is a threatening mix of gray and black cumulus clouds. I add an extension to the hose and water the peas and the spinach that is coming up nicely. It doesn't rain as predicted, so I'll need to water on a daily basis despite today's overcast sky. I'm worried about the potatoes. They haven't broken the surface. I wonder whether I should be farming because of the amount of worry I put into the garden. I examine everything I did during the seeding of potatoes. I remember a note in the seed catalog about wood ashes and potatoes. I worry that the wood ashes I scattered last winter are affecting their germination. I thought I'd turned the soil frequently and carefully. I always save seed in case of emergencies, but the potatoes are a special order from a company in Maine. I get some seed potatoes from two sources. The ones I bought on sale in Seneca are long gone by now. The hardware store in town will run out of seed potatoes soon. If I wasn't so manic about producing my own food, I'd forget the hassle of being a small farmer and buy produce form local organic farmers. The urge to get my hands dirty and the fun I have in giving away fresh vegetables is too strong.