The girls and I have been spending hours in our yard together. We added a butterfly garden behind the playset, which sounds like an incredibly kid friendly idea until you take into account the fact that Frankie shrieks like a horror show teen queen at the sight of anything vaguely bug-like. We had a little snack break at the zoo recently, which attracted a few flies. To avoid Frankie's banshee howls, I had to fan my arms in front of her non-stop to ward off any flying creatures. I can always hope that butterflies will be more magical and non-threatening to her, but I'm not holding my breath, given the fainting spells over the sweetest little ladybug that happened into our house last week.
Our trusty Black & Decker electric mower stopped working last week. A quick check on-line to estimate the cost of getting it going again revealed that our mower had actually been recalled nearly 4 years ago for a malfunction that could damage the mower and cause damage to person and property. Exactly what kind of damage wasn't specified, but my mind went busily to task constructing all sorts of nightmarish scenarios involving flaming clothes and fire detectors with dead batteries. After having Jörg replace all fire detector batteries,* we tried to call the manufacturer, only to miss their closing time by 3 minutes.
It was Friday, and I was pretty sure that the grass would be high enough by Monday that I would have to keep the girls inside, for fear of losing one of them in the turf grass jungle. So I borrowed our neighbors' gas-powered lawnmower. Then I spent the rest of the day with a woozy headache from breathing in all that stinky exhaust. Plus I couldn't keep my hands still, as the memory of that tremoring lawnmower handle still worked the muscles. I know that probably 95% of my neighbors here in town use gas mowers, but I still have to say, "Yuck. Why?" Afterward I felt like I was in some suburban reenactment of that famous scene from Apocalypse Now: the one where the soldiers are surfing on the beach while the crazy captain?/sergeant? paces with his cigar, the one who later watches the helicopters bombing the jungle and inhaling deeply says, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Except for in this version it would be a bunch of suburbanites drowning out the birdsong, and the line would have to be, "I love the smell of gasoline on the weekend."
Since we couldn't wait the weekend to find out if the malfunction listed in the recall notice was responsible for the breakdown, we decided to look into reel mowers. Our lawn is already bigger than is recommended for electric mowers, but I always worked around this by just mowing the front one day and the back yard the next. So I had my reservations about a reel mower, which is usually recommended for even smaller sized lawns. Jörg, the European raised in the land of postage-stamp-lawns, thought a reel mower was a great idea from the very beginning, but since I was the one doing the yardcare, I pretty much got veto power on the issue.
But even the corded electric mowers were expensive (the rechargeable ones were completely out of question), and I didn't relish having to swing an electrical cord over my head every time I changed directions. I could already see the girls trying to teach themselves to jump rope with the fun, bright orange cord as I labored away obliviously. So I flexed my arm muscles a few times, just to reassure myself what a powerful woman I really am, and we bought a reel mower.
I can't believe that we didn't discover the pure one-with-nature joy of reel mowers sooner. The backyard, with its scraggly, struggling grass is super easy to cut through, with no repeat passes necessary. The front lawn has a bit of a slope and the grass is in better shape (no shade trees), so I have to go over the grass twice and my arms feel all rubbery spaghetti afterward (except for not skinny like spaghetti). But that extra work is more than made up for by the completely entertaining silliness of watching the grass fly up in the air as I push the mower along. When I get going really fast, the grass shoots up in the air just like hair in a cartoon with a barber holding scissors in both hands and working too fast for the eye to follow! Or just like when Edward Scissorhands did lawn work! Fun!
Best of all, though, is that I can cut the grass and still conduct conversations with my girls. Frankie will go off to entertain herself happily in the sandbox while I'm working outside, but Annika begins to go into communication withdrawal if she's out of conversational contact for more than, say, 45 seconds. Although having to stop and restart an electric mower to hear a question is not such a big deal, it did get kind of annoying. Now we can continue chatting while I trot along, happily Edward Scissorhands-ing my grass.
The rest of the week has me composting the flower bed out front, planting zinnia seeds in the bare spots behind the play area, and planting tiny redbud trees for some much needed patio shade. If you're looking for me around town, I'll be the woman with brown-rimmed nails.**
*Jörg has proven himself wonderfully responsive to my brain's feverish overworkings. When I told him that I had had repeated nightmares in which our car went off a bridge into a river and I couldn't open the windows, he bought and installed one of those windshield breaking tools for my car. I think it's great that he works to structure our waking lives to ease the stress of my sleeping life. Or it could be that I always sit him down and recount my bad dreams to him in painful detail. I think he would do nearly anything not to have to listen once more to any of my dream stories, which I usually intone with a dramatic air. I probably should stop watching Medium.
**You'd think I'd learn my lesson and wear gloves in the garden. Last year I was digging by hand in the raised flower bed out front and stuck my hand right into into some excruciatingly fresh dog doo. Thanks, helpful dog, but I prefer my soil nutrients a bit less odiferous.