The mowing life
By Bobby Neal Winters
My in-laws just got back from the north land where they had been refugees from the Kansas heat during the months of July, August, and part of September. Upon returning, my mother-in-law inquired as to the health of our mutual friends Bill and Beth. It seems Bill and Beth’s lawn had not been mown recently, and, upon seeing this, my mother-in-law immediately feared for their well-being.
This is was no idle worry. I have noticed myself that the one of the first things people do when they die is to give up mowing. This first occurred to me on a road trip to Oklahoma with the family. My youngest was pointing out “haunkted” [haunted] houses. Sure enough each of the houses she pointed out to us had an un-mown lawn, a sign of the unnatural if there ever was one.
My mother-in-law need not have feared as our friends are in good health. I can’t say it for a fact, but I rather suspect they, like me, are thinking about their mowing end-game for the year.
How and when to finish is an aspect of the sport all but the most serious participants in the sport of mowing completely ignore even though it is the most important part of the mental aspect of the game. You heard me right. There is a mental part of mowing that is too often neglected.
It begins at the first of the season with the question of when to begin. On one hand, there is the natural temptation to put off the first mowing as long as possible. However, this has a downside in that if you wait too long, it becomes quite a difficult operation. What is the point in mowing once instead of twice when it takes more than twice the effort to do it? What all we mowers must keep in mind is that the point is to expend the least amount of effort that is humanly possible within certain constraints as to your lawn’s appearance. We need to husband our strength for more important matters, but we don’t want our neighbors to think we’ve died. (I have to wonder what it would mean “to wife” our strength. Maybe my wife will tell me if she ever sits down to take a break.)
After that first mowing, the weather here in Kansas guarantees we are pretty much locked into a weekly schedule for a while, or so I thought. A few years ago my friend Paul—who is an engineer with a practical turn of mind—told me about the 8-day method. If you mow every 8 days instead of every 7, after 7 weeks you’re one mowing ahead. The practical mathematics of this appealed to me immediately. If you start mowing before the first of May, then you can get ahead by the 4th of July.
The 4th of July is an important date in the mowing game just as it is in other sports. In this part of the country, there are some years in which you can switch from a weekly schedule to a biweekly schedule at that time.
Let me tell you what, if you can switch into that biweekly schedule, you are in the clover, as it were.
That did not happen this year, and I personally blame it on the shifting in weather patterns that is due to global warming. (It is my belief that our president didn’t sign the Kyoto Treaty because he is in the back pocket of Briggs and Stratton.)
When you get into the month of September, you really have to start watching your game. Regardless of the year, you can pretty well count on the fact that you are going to have to mow twice in September, but the strategy is to place your mowings so that (a) you only have to mow once in October and (b) that one mowing is at the optimal time.
If it’s too early, then that makes the first mowing in the spring more difficult. If it’s too late, you might get caught by rains and have to postpone your last mowing until November, which is a time when the pros have gone on to other things like Autumn-League Leaf Raking.
Bill, the mutual friend of me and my in-laws, is a real pro. Those of us who take our mowing seriously watch him closely for hints. If his lawn looks a little scraggledy now, you can be dang sure there is a good reason for it. He has some strategy that will rock the mowing world.
You can count on it.
(Bobby Winters is a professor of mathematics, writer, and speaker. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.okieinexile.com.)