While my town’s free Sunday evening yoga is on hiatus until fall, I’m relying on my push mower to keep me in shape.
My neighbor Julia, who leads the yoga class, and her husband just got a new load of baby chicks, and their fruit trees will be bearing soon. As is true in most rural communities, our lives in summer are ruled by planting, harvesting, preserving, and caring for livestock.
I miss yoga, but weekly sessions with a non-self-propelled Lawn Boy will tone my arms and glutes.
I think of my cheery apple-green push mower as a personal trainer. I call him “Lon.” Lon always starts on the first pull, which I take to mean “I’m ready, let’s do this.”
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My yard is just under an acre and takes about 21/2 hours to mow. I have yet to accomplish it in one day, but that has more to do with other obligations than stamina.
I enjoy mowing grass, always have, even as a kid. In Florida and in Maryland we lived on lots with steep slopes, so mowing required a lot of upper body strength. I liked the challenge of it as well as the smell of cut grass.
Self-propelled mowers leave me cold. I feel like they yank me along like a Labrador on a leash, and they are a lot heavier. I can turn corners and circle around flower beds faster with my old-school model. And even though I have a big yard, I have never understood why you would want to sit down to mow when you could be getting free exercise.
The largest stand of grass on my property runs from the driveway to the stable, and I mow it lengthwise in 50-yard stripes. On hot days, at the end of each 100-yard “lap,” when my shady gazebo tempts me to take a quick break, I imagine Lon saying, “One more lap.” And another. And another. I don’t want to look weak to Lon.
So great is my competitiveness with Lon that on several occasions I have refused to pause until I run out his full tank of gas. When I hear him sputter and heave to a stop, I feel I’ve won.
City people have told me they think living in the country would be nice except for the hard work. I think it’s nice because of the hard work. My neighbors, from 10 to 93, aren’t only unafraid of hard work, they seek it out.
An ice-cold bottle of Mexican Coke tastes twice as good if you’re really parched from pushing the mower around. (I’ve learned from locals that beverages get way colder in an ice-water bath in a cooler than in the fridge.)
Sleep is also better when you flop down bone-weary on cool sheets.
Of course, playing sports or working out or riding a bike will also keep you fit and help you sleep better. Which brings me to the last thing I like about mowing the yard myself: Satisfaction. Gazing at the flat, trimmed lawn polka-dotted with tall clover and wildflowers here and there — my offering to the bees — is more satisfying when I know I did the work myself.
It is a work-ethic thing I’m hardwired for, that cliched “sense of accomplishment.” I need it like a drug, even in my free time.