The Impossible Task

I had completely let the property grow wild for an entire semester. In my effort to pass my intensive summer course while working at a very physical job i had quit mowing the grass. It had also rained, a lot. The entire 2 acre property was covered in grass that ranged from knee high to mid-torso high. The dogs were sleeping in their crates and sili was no longer allowed in the bed because the tall grass was full of ticks. The dogs were medicated against ticks so they didn’t latch on. They just hitched a ride in the dogs’ fur and then hopped off and tried to burrow into me, a non-medicated host, once inside the house. I had to change pants every time i watered the plants because the chiggers were so prolific. It was not a moment of pride for me. I had really let the property go. I told myself i would fix it during the break between semesters and now it was time to make good on that promise.

I didn’t own a riding mower. I owned two reel blade mowers, an electric weed wacker, and a battery powered push-mower. the grass was higher than 3 inches so both the reel blade mowers in their varied conditions were out. I decided the combination of the weed wacker and the battery powered push mower would have to be used to tackle this job.

Determined not to do this job more than once, i lowered the mower as close to the ground as the notches would let me. This ultimately damaged my blades several times because there are always rocks, stumps, and branches hidden in two acres of tall grass and this ensured that i hit all of them, but i was in a dire state of needing to get this done and not having the time or will to do it again before the onset of winter. I hoped the heat of a texas summer sun would dry the grass out and then the freeze of winter would kill it.

While i was mowing i uncovered what i suspect is a fox den behind the house and what is likely a rabbit den near the extension shed.

I started the process at dawn on my first day off work since the semester’s end. It was in the eighties when i began but as the sun climbed high in the sky temperatures quickly soared to near 100. The problem was that each battery only lasted 40 minutes. I had 3 batteries and 1 charger. Each battery took roughly two hours to charge. That meant that i had to mow in waves, at the beginning of the day, at noon, and at the end of the day. That was when the batteries were available.

Come mid day i enjoyed 15 minutes of mowing in a tank top and with no hat. After that, the kind of sunburn i’d be creating would require medical attention at the ER. So, on went the long sleeved button up that i folded over my hands while i mowed to keep my fingers from turning red. On went the t-shirt underneath my baseball cap to protect my face, ears, and neck. so began the misery of wearing winter clothes in 100 degree temperatures. Your body moves more slowly. As heat-stroke sets in, movement becomes more difficult, requires more focus and planning, and precision is less possible, but having grown up in Texas and lived here most of my life, if there’s one thing i’m well conditioned for it’s functioning through heat stroke. Just drink lots and lots of water and ignore the little voice in your head that starts telling you you’re cold. (Don’t really do that. I don’t recommend emulating any of this behavior. This is a do as i say not as i do type moment.).

The batteries that were supposed to last 40 minutes overheated in 5 to 15 minutes and had to be placed in the house in front of the window unit to cool down before they could be used again.

I began making some headway but the going was slow. The temperature, the height of the grass, and my steel toed boots made it impossible to run. I was walking to cut the grass, and usually had to go over each area twice just to get it cut down to the correct length.

I stopped to admire a wolf spider named midnight that had run down a June bug, pounced on it, and was now going to eat it for lunch.

I thought this would take me a day or two. Between destroying, macgyvering, and repairing the weed wacker and dealing with the overheated batteries, this process took me a week and a half between work shifts. At one point i figured out how to thread rubber coated metal craft wire through the weed eater and just give it half the juice it was meant to have to avoid driving to town to get more line. At another point i mowed the lawn at night with the car’s high beams pointed at the area i was working on, pushing the mower with my left hand and holding the lantern with my right.

I cut paths to the compost pile, the mulch pile, and the trees in the orchard.

I remember finishing this project. I repaired and restrung the weed eater and hacked down the last bit in the dog run. Once it was hacked to a reasonable size i went at it with the mower on the second shortest setting. The temperature was so hot and the sun so blinding that the batteries barely lasted 5 minutes a piece. I had one patch left and all but one of the batteries had overheated. I was so determined to finish this now and not have to wait for the batteries to cool and go at it again. I was pretty delirious from heat stroke and it was difficult to see. I was yelling at the heavens and the mower and the grass…i kept saying “i’m gonna finish this” like a broken record on repeat. I coaxed the mower along and the last battery held out long enough for me to finish that one corner of the dog run. Immediately after i mowed the last blades of grass i let go of the mower and stumbled around the dog run laughing in disbelief and screaming “it’s done! It’s done! It’s done!” Thirty minutes later i was sitting on the floor in the a/c still mumbling “it’s done” in disbelief. I had actually disassembled the mower and the hundreds of feet of extension cord for the weed eater and dragged everything into the shed before i came into the house to sit in the a/c. I don’t remember doing it. That part is pretty much a blur. I finished my task. That was all that mattered to me. I had to finish it. It was done. It was finally done.

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  1. Just thinking of what might have been / was crawling around in that tall grass gives me the shivers!
    Maybe a gas powered mower is in your future – or maybe some goats!

    There are some nylon type “sleeves” that I found to be useful when I worked in St. Augustine. When wet they would cool the skin and also gave sun-protection. Even sweat evaporating through the fabric was cooling. Cheap, too.

    The yard looks much better…and safer. Good job!

    1. Oh, there was everything from scorpions, toads, hundreds of wolf spiders, dung beetles, ants, grasshoppers, wasps, and a bumble bee. I fed the grasshoppers to the chickens and gave the wolf spiders a bit of time to get out of the way. I picked up and relocated the toads and dung beetles. They are too beneficial to waste. The critters were a huge challenge because i was trying not to kill them and i couldn’t take two steps without something emerging from the grass in droves.

  2. Looks great. I am in France, cow Country and the grass, weeds etc here grow like a jungle. It’s a battle to keep onto of it all and often the ride on mower can’t cope as it’s heavy, pushes the grass flat. I found it easier with good shears, a small motor mower that I can use as a strimmer by tilting it and a rake. Like you, got busy and it just takes over.

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