Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mowing the Meadow: Part 2

Standing to watch for what I'm mowing and what I don't want to mow.

When mowing the meadow I spend a lot of time standing up on the tractor foot rests so I can see down into the tall vegetation. This helps me to spot things I don't want to mow (butterfly weed, box turtles, etc), and holes or mounds I don't want to roll over. Every once in a while the wheels roll over and anthill or tree stump or rock and the tractor lurches up into the air. This is how farmers (and weekend farmers like me) get hurt. So I try to stick to mowing parts of the farm I know well and I often do a walk around before mowing to mark areas to protect or to avoid.

Performing mechanical voodoo on the old MF 135.

At some point in every mowing session, the tractor stops and I have to figure out what's wrong and try to fix it. Living as we do in a remote, rural area, I can't run down the street to the parts store or call up the neighborhood tractor mechanic. Well, I can, but it's about $100 just to get someone to drive out for a look-see. Most of the problems I am able to fix, which gives me a certain amount of pride and satisfaction. After two decades of editing and writing—more of which is always waiting to be done—it's nice to get the hands greasy fixing something that, when you fix it, it's done!

I feel the same way about mowing, plowing, grading the drive, cutting and hauling wood. It's nice to do hard work that has visible, tangible results.

Appreciating the results of a big job well done is something I learned from my dad, Bill Thompson, Jr. As a boy I hung around my dad when he was working on a weekend handyman project, asking him questions, fetching tools, consulting on important decisions. I remember helping him to build an enclosed cart to haul the trash cans out our driveway to the curb. We used spare lumber, old tricycle wheels and the handle from a rolling golf bag holder. I'm sure we could have just gone out and bought a wagon, but where's the fun in that? I remember my dad asking my advice on various stages of the project and somehow I always came up with an answer that pleased him. After the cart was built, we sat back admiring our craftsmanship, Dad with a beer, me with a Frostie rootbeer. Admiring is the best part of a project.
A seven-year old BOTB with BT2 in Florida in 1970.

My Saturday of meadow mowing also involved attacking and destroying some rather nasty patches of Canada thistle, raspberry canes, and multiflora rose brambles. These were in the area between the west side of our house and the orchard, and on the east side of the house, where once there grew a wildflower meadow. The multiflora rose bushes were sprawling: a dozen feet wide and almost as tall. The sparrows and cardinals were a bit bummed out initially, this was the thickest cover near to the feeding station. But they soon adjusted their flight paths to come in via the pines and birches. I was sorry to remove this bit of habitat, but it was beginning to take over the ground and make it impossible to move through or even see through.

Mowing the multiflora in the side yard. Photo by Phoebe Thompson.

This young sedge wren thought our shrubby meadow was the perfect place for a fall migration rest stop.

Phoebe and Chet running out the middle meadow path.

We use the meadow as our standard walking route. The kids run out the meadow paths. Chet chases the deer and bunnies that romp along the mowed paths—all animals, it seems, prefer to go where the walking is easy. We catch regular glimpses of skunks and turkeys and grouse and the occasional fox or coyote trotting along the paths.

An early autumn view of the meadow, viewed from the tower.

The same tower view following this spring's mowing.

After the mowing was done, and Liam and I had a Hotdog Brothers' lunch, I grabbed a glass of cold water and walked out onto the deck to admire the changes I had wrought.

Looking across the yard, past where the wildflower meadow used to be. I hope to plow and re-plant it soon.

By mid-summer the wildflowers will be up and blooming, butterflies visiting the coneflower, rudbeckia, Joe Pye weed, goldenrod, and milkweed. The grass will be thick and green in the meadow. I'll let it grow all summer and through the fall. Next winter I'll be happy to see the field, tree, song, and Lincoln's sparrows, and the juncos, goldfinches and pine siskins feasting on the grass seeds that were produced by a summer of growth following an early spring mowing.

The meadow will look like this next fall after the first hard frost.

And when, on some February morning, the meadow is covered in frost and snow, I'll walk out along the middle meadow path and check for the inevitable growth of brush and saplings, and I'll start thinking about when and where I'll be mowing in the early spring.

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At 7:29 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Growing up in Hudson and then Lancaster, Ohio in the 60's and 70's, it was Vernor's Ginger Ale! Used to be it was only distributed within a couple hundred miles of Detroit until the late 80's, so now I can get my fix here in NC without having to drive back the eight hours to Ohio.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger luisa said...

Congratulations on your blog! The team has been reading through hundreds of pet-related blogs and we've selected your blog to be a DogTime Blog Star. We invite you to join the DogTime Blog Network based on the following criteria:

Enthusiasm and love of for pets
Relevant and thorough pet content

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Thanks, and we hope you Find Your Wag!

Luisa Lapus Tiong
[email protected] | 877-348-Pets(7387)

DogTime Media | 27 Maiden Lane, Suite 700 | San Francisco, CA 94106

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Bill of the Birds said...

Wow! I wonder if this is from that "Who's Who in American Nature Blogging" package I signed up for? Or maybe that rich widow in Nigeria passed my name along...

There's SOMEBODY in this house who would fit as a pet blogger, but as Robert Zimmerman once sang "No, no, no it ain't me babe. It ain't me you're looking for."

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Julie Zickefoose said...

What's that she says about Finding Your Wag??

At 5:46 PM, Blogger littleorangeguy said...

There will never be a root beer as good as Frostie.

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, I love your storytelling. Thanks for taking us along. I remember one of Julie's where she talked about you burning the meadow. How often do you do that?

-- Heather
Wayne, PA

At 5:56 AM, Blogger Mary said...

I enjoyed watching your meadow change. I'd like to have a meadow to run and walk through. Your mechanical skills are impressive!

Yeah, we know who the DogTime winner should be...

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Jeanne Ritchie said...

Bill, love both you and Julie's blogs. Especialy pictures of the home place and Chet. Miss coming up with Leslie when she was the "baby sitter". Your contests are great!! Leslie's Mom Jeanne


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