Monday, May 05, 2008

Borderland Report

Since we closed on the house, the wife and I have been traveling to our house in Borderland every weekend to do work on the place to get ready for the big move. As much work as it's been, and it's been a lot, I've enjoyed it all because it's work on a place that's ours. It's certainly not always been stress free, though.

For instance, the exterior of the house and the surrounding land have been almost completely ignored by the previous owners, seemingly for months. This makes a bit of sense, as they likely wouldn't have done as much work on it during the winter months, but while they at least raked the leaves out of the front and back yards, they did nothing whatsoever about the leaves that pretty much took over the flower beds that surround almost the entire house. We're itching to get in there and clean them out, but have been concentrating on getting the interior of the house in good repair first before tackling things that can be taken care of after the move itself.

The previous owners also seemed less concerned about picking up the large, lawn-mower killing sticks and limbs that had fallen from the trees during the winter. These were of great concern to me, though, as finally mowing the lawn was my major project for the weekend. It was looking quite a bit shaggy last weekend, but because our next door neighbors' lawn was in an equal state, we didn't think it would matter so much. This week, the neighbors mowed, including the tip of our triangular shaped property as well, which was mighty nice. It was time for me to do the rest and for that I would need a lawn mower.

We didn't own a lawn mower and haven't for our entire marriage. We've always lived in places where mowing was provided. I didn't really know, therefore, what sort of mower we might like. Oh, sure, I'd love one of those new super fast and maneuverable riding models, with the two levers, but they're so expensive that if we bought one I'd have to start driving it to work.

With gas prices what they are, I've been on something of a green kick so I began looking into rechargable cordless mowers. Unfortunately, the battery life on such engines is pretty short for mowing 2 acres in under four days, so my wife suggested I go with something more traditional. She also suggested something self-propelled, which would help out for mowing the kind of hill our house sits atop. And there at the Borderland giant hardware box store, we found a reconditioned Troy Bilt self-propelled mower/mulcher that cried out to be purchased. So we did.

Saturday, after painting the kitchen, I headed outside to try out the new mower. I wanted to see what this mulching business was all about, so I used that as an excuse to rake the leaves out of the largest flower bed in the back yard. I fired up the mower and mowed over the leaves. It worked pretty well at mulching and bagging all the leaves. However the limited capacity of the bag meant I had to keep emptying it onto my makeshift compost heap every few minutes. Once I was just mowing grass, the emptying was less often. The trouble was, I couldn't just mow the yard without first collecting all the sticks. Now, I know stick duty is a vital part of any mowing operation, but these were really huge limbs in some cases. By the end of stick time, I had a pile of sticks and limbs that was taller than our wood pile.

After finishing up I the back yard, I started on the front, which involved more stick spotting in a much larger area. There were also some pretty large rocks that would need to be avoided, many of which were in the tallest grass in the lower part of the yard. I ran out of gas around sunset, having made truly pitiful progress. I decided I'd woefully underestimated the amount of time it would take to mow the lawn.

Sunday afternoon, I started anew. I made it down to the tallest grass, ever annoyed at the number of trips I was making to empty the mulch bag, particularly since the wet tall grass kept clogging it up. I decided to use the giant garbage can that the previous owners had left us as a place to empty the clippings. Unfortunately, in addition to the garbage the previous owners had left in it, there was also a very large paper back with an equally large hole in the bottom of it, filled with used cat litter from their two devil Persian cats. (And here I thought that with my own cat in the past tense, I'd not have to deal with litter for the foreseeable future.)

I then decided to ditch the mulch bag altogether in favor of just shooting grass clippings across the yard. Trouble was, our reconditioned lawn mower didn't come with the handy side attachment that clips on beneath the spring-loaded side guard, so I had to remove the entire side guard. Mowing went much smoother after that. It didn't look neat, but was a lot less work.

Mid way down the yard, I rounded the corner of the square section I was cutting and was on my way back across when I noticed some grayish fluff flying out of the side of the mower. It looked like loose fur of some sort. I thought that perhaps some animal had died in the yard, months back, and this was all that was left. I looked down at the ground to see if there were bones to avoid and instead saw a hole in the ground in the freshly mowed patch of grass at my feet. And within this hole squirmed tiny furry bodies.

"AHHHH!" I screamed, as I realized I'd just run over a nest of infant... somethings. I released the mower handle and it came to a halt. Terrified, I quickly eyed the most recent clippings to see if there were any infant something parts. Nope. Not a one. I then stooped down and moved aside some of the downy fluff covering the hole and saw that within it were what looked like tiny baby rabbits. At least, I think they were rabbits. Their legs and tail looked rabbity and their ears, while not very long, were much longer than those of a squirrel. I don't know how they didn't get sucked up into the mower, but being below ground I guess they were low enough that they were out of range of the blades and suction. I dashed up the hill and into the house to fetch the wife.

"Come out and look at what I almost killed," I said. Out we went, peering into the hole as the little creatures, whose eyes are not yet open, scrambled away from the light, each trying to be the rabbit on the very bottom of the pile. As I looked at them, I was continually struck at how fortunate it had been that they hadn't been mowed. With all that's happened recently with the cat, killing a bunch of cute little bunny babies would have just done me in. Had to say a little prayer of thanks.

Having mowed away their cover, we piled all the rabbit down we could find back at the top of the hole and covered the whole thing with grass clippings. My guess is their mother will move them to a safer location.

By the end of the mowing process, I was again having visions of the riding mower we will one day have to purchase. Either that, or we'll have to til up the lower half of the yard and plant lots of decorative tall grasses that we won't have to mess with. I was also very thankful that my wife had not only talked me down from the ledge of the electric mower (which wouldn't have been able to handle even a fifth of the yard at a stretch) but had also suggested the self-propelled push mower. That yard would have killed me otherwise.


Anonymous said...

I am de-lurking to express sympathy for your yard exploits. I am a new-ish homeowner too, and have been in learning mode for the past 2 years. I learned that it is actually better for the lawn to leave the clippings on it & that self-propelled mowers rock.

And last weekend, when I was hand-digging up the weeds to avoid chemicals, I also accidentally half-dug up a burrow of baby bunnies. I did the same as you, recovered with grass & fluff & crossed my fingers.

If I can do it, you can too, I am sure!

Love your blog, read it from your old town of Charlotte,

Gardenbuzzy said...

Two comments in one fell swoop:
1) One way to regard leaves in the flower bed is as mulch, there to keep the ground moist and provide nourishment to the plants. Works for me.

2) My husband turned up a rabbit nest one spring as he was tilling the garden. There were two babies, pretty well grown. One died later from injuries incurred from the rototiller and the other we released in a wooded area away from civilization when he was older. We kept them in an aquarium with dirt and grass in it that we had kept gerbils in at one time. That same spring, one of our cats brought (still alive) two newborn baby bunnies to us to do something with. (The first one I had to take to the vet where our son worked to even find out what it was.) He gave us a recipe for baby bunny formula and a bottle with a tiny nipple and we fed them for awhile. But the frequent feedings got to be more than we could handle and we gave them to a girl who worked at the vet whose family raised rabbits and could do a better job with them than we could. During that summer, if I was up in the middle of the night and looked out the front window, I saw rabbits in the front yard. However that must have been the Year of the Rabbit because we have never seen hide nor hare of a rabbit on or near our property since that time.

MamaSan said...

You are so lucky to have such a thoughtful wife! There is nothing quite like knowing someone has got your back. Even the baby bunnies had someone looking out for their backs, with a Mama who dug a deep enough hole so they would not be sucked up by a big meat grinder/mulcher in the sky. Keep up the good work!

Holley T said...

eeek! I ran over a snake once with my lawnmower, but that was on purpose. It was pretty messy so I'm glad the bunnies were miraculously spared.

Let us know if the mom moves them!

The.Effing.Librarian said...

the idea of mowing two acres would kill me.. if gas wasn't so expensive, I'd say burn the whole yard down to the dirt. all I want is a nice quarter-acre, but we live in zero-lot-line land so it's lucky just to find a house with any property to mow.

An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.