Soon after we had planted the pine trees in the former Blackberry Corner, we threw grass seed on the bare ground around them. My intent was to hold the soil in place and perhaps provide a bit of food or cover for the wild things. Since we were starting with new grass here, we thought that we could probably keep it mowed using our own backyard mower sitting so unsuspectingly in our garage.
The grass made a slow start, and plenty of other green things took the opportunity to colonize the exposed ground. (The soil is deep here. There are no rocks to speak of. If I were to raise a garden, this would be the place to do it — unlike the virtual hardpan of just about everywhere else at Roundrock.) Libby and I, and occasionally one of the offspring, would march through this area, swinging the grass whip lustily, hoping to knock down the emerging forbs so that the tiny pines would have some chance at sunlight. (Also, note that it is quite satisfying to chop through the blackberries that are still trying to press their old claim to this bit of earth.)
Bringing the mower from suburbia to the wilds of Roundrock, however, was something we never managed to do. I think we simply forgot our ambition of mowing the still-manageable grass and nascent scrub until we arrived at the pine plantation and smacked our collective foreheads, only then remembering our ambition. But on this last visit, Pablo had remembered. I think it had something to do with all of the fence work we have been doing around the pines as well as their endearing compliance with my wishes that they actually grow.
And this was the muscle work that I spoke of before. In suburbia, mowing a lawn is little more than walking behind a machine. At Roundrock, mowing a meadow with a barely adequate machine is real work. Our plan was to mow until the gas tank ran dry, and since we could generally get about two sessions of suburban lawn mowing out of one tank of gas (a comparable space of ground), we thought we could easily clear the entire pine plantation with fuel to spare. (You know where this is going, right?)
I set the wheels on the mower to their highest setting (that is, to raise the mower as high as I could over the ground), gave the cord a quick pull, and set off to tame the wilderness. I think, somewhere at the back of my mind, I understood that some of the growth in the pine plantation was too dense or too tall for our prissy suburban lawnmower to handle, but I got started in one of the sparser areas, and I sailed ahead swiftly, feeling all sorts of satisfaction and industriousness. After I had made a few passes, Libby commented that it sure seemed as though I was cutting the grass low, even though I had adjusted the wheels and such. But she is more discerning than I, so I stopped the mower and fiddled with the wheels again and found that while I had set the front wheels properly, I had set the rear wheels as low as they could go rather than what I had intended. Okay, that was an easy fix, and Pablo was off again, skimming over the scrub and grass, skirting the caged pines, bumping over roots and branches that had been hidden in the grass, and sometimes — sometimes — killing the engine when he pushed into the taller stuff on the perimeter.
It soon became clear even to the sun-addled brain I was using at the time, that I ought to devote my efforts to the areas more sparsely grown, but I wanted to mow a perimeter to define what work needed to be done. I guess part of me wanted to beat back the wilderness and say something like “This much is mine!” I dunno.
Libby and I took turns at the mower, and when we weren’t pushing it, we were making sure the various chairs (seen in photo above) still worked properly, generally also assessing the quality of the shade and the taste of the iced tea (unsweetened, of course).
Even though the area of the plantation is comparable to the area of our yard in suburbia, we ran out of gas long before we ran out of mowing to be done. I think a lot of torque was needed to chop at the dense grass and stalks of plants and this sucked the gasoline more greedily. Well, I always appreciate when an outside force tells me it’s time to quit working. I think we managed to mow about three-quarters of the pine plantation, and while what is left to do is the mostly difficult stuff, I’ll probably bring the mower on my next visit and try to clean that up as well. (There is no thought of taking that suburban lawnmower into the pecan plantation below the dam, however. That will take a much more intrepid machine, which I can rent from the hardware store in town. And I may.)
We had brought another roll of chicken wire fencing to finish protecting the baby pines. There were still a half dozen “virgins” as Libby called them, and we kept wrapping them until we ran out of fencing. That left about a half dozen virgins still to be defended, but my hope is that there is plenty of other food now available for the deer to nibble on, and so they might not go for our pines before we can protect them on our next visit.
Because we don’t wear watches when we are at Roundrock, we didn’t have a clear idea of what time it was when all of this work was finished. Our stomachs, however, suggested it was lunch time, so we packed our gear and drove back to our new shelter. And now you can see why we chose to pursue our chores in the order we had. A cool shelter was waiting for us after a morning of tough mowing in the sun. Had we ordered the tasks the other way, I don’t know that we would have had the patience or energy to erect and fuss with a shelter tarp.
And so we fell into the comfy chairs under the shady tarp above the empty lake and tucked in to our tasty lunch. But there was still one more thing to be done that day.
- Eastern bluebirds begin third (last) nesting.