A Conqueror and afeared to speak

That was the subject line of a junk email I received.

Having cut the grass yesterday, I sort of feel like the Conqueror of the Back 40 (that’s what we’re calling it these days: the vast, untamed expanse of a backyard we “own”.) I also feel like there is so much to say about this place that I am a little intimidated about what to report. I’ll start with the lawn and work from there.

A year ago (hell, three weeks ago!) I didn’t understand what it was to cut your own grass. Power tools? For the birds. Definitely not for me. But, we bought this lawnmower at a neighbor’s garage sale the DAY we moved in. We weren’t quite sure how to start the thing, so we had to go back and learn the trick from the neighbor. Sure enough, it started, and its low hum was probably the most satisfying song i’d heard in a great while.

CLH and I did the front the next weekend. If I wasn’t feeling like a suburbanite before, I was feeling it then. When I was finished, I stepped back, wiped the sweat from my brow, and admired my handiwork. The dandelions had been leveled. So, it wasn’t so much a “lawn”mower as it was a “weed”mower. Nonetheless, it provided the illusion that I could manage the stuff growing in my front yard, even if for just a short time, and NOTHING beats the smell of fresh cut grass on a hot summer day. The interior of the house was such a freakshow… so, having just 10 square feet of order and simplicity felt hugely satisfying.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day rubbing my hands together mad-scientist-style in anticipation of mowing the BACK yard. Comparatively, the backyard is 6 or 7 times as big as the front… and even though I knew I’d only be able to get to one sixth of it last night, it was exciting. In some parts, the marshmallow (flowers) had to be trimmed before I could even get the mower over the grass. The lawnmower choked over most of the grass under the fruit trees. It was probably no less than a foot tall. A foot. I tried to recall the lawnmowing lessons of my perfectionist father- cut in even, symmetrical swaths, go over what you’ve cut, and incorporate just a few inches of the next swath on your next pass, continue like this to make sure you get everything… tilt the mower back on its back wheels and lower it onto the tall stuff, should you encounter it. Of course, my father never let our grass get a foot tall. It never was more than 2.25 inches long on any given Saturday afternoon. Towards the end of the night, as the sun was setting, I started to throw the rules out the window and was pushing that thing around like it was a vacuum and I was a crazed housewife expecting the inlaws in exactly three minutes.

There is so much more to do… but at least we can walk under the fruit trees and not have to wonder what on earth is tugging at our ankles. I must have found a dozen or more peaches underneath our peach tree IN the tall grass. This was in addition to the ones i found ON the tall grass. The previous homeowners said the peach tree wouldn’t bear much fruit and that the fruit wasn’t very tasty. We have found the exact opposite to be true. CLH and I picked about 10+ pounds of peaches a few days ago and they were delicious. My housemate and I skinned and cut them up last night and stuck them in a freezer bag for future smoothie making.

That’s another thing: peaches. In my mind, they are reserved for the southern plantation. Any literature I have even encountered around peaches usually details lazy summer afternoons in the deep south, the cicadas buzzing… and now they grow right in my backyard. It’s surreal to me. The cherries in my former backyard I could handle. Cherries are the pride of this state for a few short weeks in the spring/early summer. But, peaches? Peaches, too.

The Italian plum tree is so laden with fruit, there are more plums than leaves. I cannot wait to pick those suckers and turn them into prunes.

The apple tree is nearly 40-50 feet tall. I know, i know. Apple trees are not supposed to be that tall. But, when you’ve seen the rest of the house and the other forms of neglect it has suffered, you will understand how a fruit bearing tree gets to be 40 feet tall. We can’t even see the fruit at the top of the tree. You wouldn’t even know it’s a fruit tree save for the beautiful, perfectly round deep red apples it drops underneath it every few days.

So much to do… I’ll try to update this thing more regularly. And, I’ll also try to avoid making this house the subject of every entry. It’s a slippery slope…now that you know about the lawn, you’re going to want to know about the kitchen and the bathroom. Camp bathroom. That’s what we call it. The reason? Another time.