… he puttered in the yard.
In honor of Jeremy’s nonchalance towards his lawn, I would like to present:
The Anatomy of Kick-Ass Grass: An Intro-Retrospecticus.
Volumes of literature abound that explore the best biological techniques (water, fertilizer, sun, etc) for cultivating a fantastic looking lawn, but very little discourse exists when it comes to physically maintaining the grass (mowing, edging, tae kwon do, etc). Since my attention span is shorter than a moustache on a 10-year old, I have a very hard time with the scientific part, and I tend to overcompensate with the physical maintenance. I want to do some work and see immediate results. I do not want to add some chemicals, wait a day, apply water, wait another day, massage the turf and add more water, wait a couple weeks, and then maybe see some results. Besides, neatly manicured weeds look much better than even the healthiest lawn if it’s shaggy an unkempt. It is my downfall, I know. But it is also my grass, and it looks better than yours, so cram it until the neighbors’ kids start asking questions. Without further ado: A typical Saturday morning at Casa de Humptown, 30080.
This is my grass, and as you can see, it’s waaaaay too long:
First things first, you must love your tools. Love your tools and they will love you back. If you don’t love your tools, they will turn against you. Ever seen a lawn mowed by a mower with one broken wheel? Looks pretty stupid. Ever caught a piece of trimmer string in the cheek? Feels good like getting stabbed. Secondly, safety first, motherfucker. A gas-powered nature eraser is like a rabid squirrel on a stick, and what kind of dumbass is going to wave that around his yard without the requisite protective eyewear? Love and safety:
The one tool I have that I don’t love is this gas can:
This can, made by the Blitz corporation, is a royal, frustrating, piece of shit. See that black nozzle? That thing is stiff like PVC, which makes bending it into the mower’s gas tank a spill-rific endeavor every damn time. Some Blitz sales rep scored and got the Home Depot account, so this is pretty much all that is on the shelf at the orange warehouse. You’ve been warned.
Once the loving, and fueling, and cussing, and cleaning is complete, it’s time for the John Deere to establish a nice even edge everywhere the grass meets concrete. That’s right, I own a Deere. It might be the single smallest tool that Deere makes, but it’s still a Deere. I could wear one of those trendy trucker hats bearing a Deere logo without the slightest tinge of irony:
Rather than invest in some wanky edger, I just turn the nature eraser on it’s side and carve away. Edging the whole yard takes about 6 minutes. Before:
The army calibrates their instruments on this sexy curve:
The next step is the actual mowing, which might be the most underrated domestic chore in existence. I love mowing. I find it deeply satisfying. Behold, the tool of my trade:
Briggs and Stratton makes ONE HAIL of a small gas engine, and my 5HP Quantum kicks wicked ayse. The handle and bagging system, I could take or leave, but the engine (aka the important part) is a beast.
Most people mow their grass the same way every time. They start at a straight-ish edge (driveway, street, etc), and go back and forth until they’re finished. And their yards look … okay. I do two things very differently. 1) I mow at an angle that compliments the shape of the yard and overall landscaping aesthetic, and 2) I change it up every week. Here you can see the uncut grass, clearly showing which way I mowed last week. Notice how the lines don’t follow the driveway or the street, but rather, they lead the eye diagonally across the front acreage creating the impression that the lawn is literally tearing ass all over the yard:
So this week, I will start over by the mailbox (left side of picture)and mow the opposite direction, naturally. Just like tiling a floor, you don’t start at the edge and work your way in. Rather, you start right in the GHAT damn middle and work your way to the edge. This takes some practice, but once you get it, you’ll never go back. Here’s a view of the grass standing next to the mailbox:
The overall quality of the entire mowing job rests on this first line, so PAY ATTENTION!! Visualize the way you want the first line to look, and line up your mower where said line will start. This is the important part: Pick a spot on the other side of the lawn and focus on it. In my case, it is where the sun is hitting the base of that Saucer Magnolia tree. Once you have everything lined up, simply walk the mower to the spot you picked out (assuming you have started your mower first, duh). You MUST keep your gaze directed at the predetermined spot. DO NOT LOOK AT THE GROUND DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE MOWER!! It’s just like driving, if you look right in front of the mower, you’ll weave all over the place. Stare directly at the spot and walk towards it. Voila:
This being an instructional demonstration, I’ll be honest. The above line is okay. I can do better, and I did several hundred pushups as personal punishment. Once you have your first line cut, the real work begins. It is the subtle consistency and uniformity that separates an acceptable yard from a grandma-slapping, sexy patch of the American dream. Actually, there is nothing subtle about precision, so forget I said that. Your goal is to make every line look exactly the same. For this you will need to stare at the spot directly in front of the wheel that is dividing the cut grass from the uncut. If your first line is straight, all you have to do is keep the wheel right on the outside of the uncut grass. It’s very meditative. The finished product:
At this point, your bridal shower-bound wife may or may not come out of the house and say, “Why are you taking so many pictures of the grass? Why can’t you ever be not retarded?”
She loves me.
Feh. Someday she’ll understand, but not today. For those of you who are sensitive to gross violations of rule #2, you may want to go to a different website. This part is hella-tricky. A few months ago, I decided I wanted the grass on both sides of the driveway to be cut in the same direction. Rather than try to eyeball it, I’ve incorporated the same technique from cutting the first line of the day. Midway through cutting the first half, while making a swath back towards the driveway, I simply traverse the driveway in a straight line and carve a new first line in the other side. Then I mow the entire other side based on the first line. Rule #2 be damned:
I’ve also managed to usurp the traditional clippings disposal process. Most of my neighbors have brown paper bags sitting at the curb from Saturday until the yard refuse truck comes thorugh on Wednesday. Remember Compostron? Well, it’s still kicking ass, and it eats well more than it’s fair share of lawn clippings each week.
And that’s pretty much it. Stop looking at mowing the lawn as a burden and more like the art of bonsai trees or one of those miniature zen rock gardens with the sand and the little wooden rake. And remember, before you put your tools away, love them:
“But Tony,” you ask impatiently, “how the hell are your glorious piles of firewood doing?” They are doing great actually. For those of you who don’t remember all the firewood I split in February, here is what it looked like the day I finished splitting it a scant 6 months ago:
Notice that it is stacked just above the fence. Now check out a picture from this past Saturday:
“But Tony,” you are so annoying, “It appears to have shrunk.” Yes it has. And that is good. That means moisture has been cooking out of the wood all year and that it should be ready to burn in the next couple months. Pyro-rific:
Wow, that update was a monster. I’m spent.
Well done, but I must confess that I did mow my lawn this weekend. And I actually utilize many of the same guidelines. I too mow in different directions every time. I even made a half circle while traversing the sidewalk to cup both planters. Oh it was nice.
I tried to mow my lawn for the first time two Saturdays ago. Guess what happened? Snapped the damn starter cord. Right after looking at it, noticing it was frayed, and saying to my self, “Self, that cord is not going to last very long.”
Intent on doing some kind of yardwork, I fired up the Ryobi trimmer and went after any weed that rose above the grass. Needless to say, that was unsatisfying. I also came to the conclusion that my yard is pretty much brush-free, so the only thing I’ll ever need it for is edging. Is it true that the gas-oil mixture only lasts 30 days? There’s no way I can use a whole gallon in 30 days.
By the way, my Blitz can is only a gallon, so it wasn’t too hard filling the trimmer.
We should have a trimmer party in Andy’s back yard…
After reading that I thought to myself, “I could have mowed MY lawn in the time it took to read about you mowings YOURS!” No, for real doe, you have motivated me. I’m going to mow the lawn first thing… this weekend.
Oh, and I totally agree about wanting results. Tim and I spent a fortune on grass seed this year, and somehow our lawn is nothing but crabgrass! It’s even worse than it was last year. I only had to wait 3 months to discover this- so much for results. But it still looks just fine when it’s groomed.
I too own that very same Blitz gas can. I’m glad that someone else thinks it is a total piece of shit. Watching me use it, you’d think I was trying to light the mower on fire instead of fill it with gas. My mower has a 6.5HP Briggs and Stratton. I can mulch a cinder block. I’m sure 5HP is very cute.
I haven’t talked to Dan Ziober in ten years and he comes out of the woodwork to make fun of my lawnmower. But I guess with a 6.5HP engine, you can do that sort of thing. Damnit.
Maybe you should all hop on the short bus and roll over to my house for a quick demonstration on how to gas up your yard grooming tools. I too have the Blitz gas can, one big and one small, and I don’t seem to have a problem filling the tanks. Of course, I have mastered the trickery known as “Tilting the Can”.
I know it’s not always easy to get it in the hole, especially on the first try, but you can always practice with a piece of fruit or something.
Oh HAIL no!! No he di’int!
The problem with the can is when it is full or close to full. When one employs your green beret technique of “tilting the can,” FUCKING GAS COMES OUT OF THE NOZZLE! If the nozzle isn’t already inserted into the gas tank, FUCKING GAS GOES ALL OVER THE PLACE!! Once the can is at two-thirds or less capacity, you can tilt it far enough to get the nozzle in the tank before gas comes flying out all over you. But what’s the point of getting a 5-gallon tank if you’re not going to fill it all the way up?
Maybe you can maneuver yours more easily because it’s all soft and bendy, but I can’t stick mine in the hole because it’s hard as a rock. Counter-intuitive, but true.
Are you saying your spout is harder than mine? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been filling it up at the pump and had someone compliment me on the size and stature of the ol’ gas can. Soft and Bendy indeed.
I’m talking ’bout tilting the whole enchilada so’s you can get it in the hole without spewing it all over the place like some landscaping porn star. Sometimes, if it’s really full, you gotta flip it up and stick it real quick like, so you don’t start emptying your can prematurely. Sure, it’ll take a little finessing in the beginning and sometimes you have to smack it around a little, but it’ll come around. It always does.
Or you could always use a funnel, Nancy Boy.
“Tilting the whole enchilada,” just gave me a fantastic idea. I’ll tilt the damn mower. Dan, you paying attention?
See, now you’re coming around . . . thinking outside of the box . . . using your noggin . . . cooking with gas . . . I’m spent.
I’m not sure what proper comment etiquette is. Am I allowed to comment on a comment once a new post has been posted or will that make me the subject of ridicule in one of Tony’s future entries? Tony – I’m sorry to have put down your mower. I’m sure 5HP is quite adequate and I think I overstepped my bounds of a proper re-introduction. Chalk it up to lawn envy.
No no. Comment away. There are literally … ones of these prolonged discussions taking place all over this website.
And don’t apologize for the lawnmower comment. If you don’t come out swinging, you’ll get eaten up. As they say around my job, “He who leads with his balls is bound to get fucked,” or something like that.
Glad to have you around!
That was fun.
I own a cat. That’s about it. Still looked fun.
Learn how to pour, Tony. Hey, Dan.