Joco Diversions

Mowing into fall and hoping the grass chills soon

Mowing has been one of the chores Denise Snodell has picked up this year. She's ready for a break.
Mowing has been one of the chores Denise Snodell has picked up this year. She's ready for a break. File photo

Although our efforts will soon turn to raking leaves and dodging pumpkin-spice air freshener, it seems there’s still a significant chunk of lawn-mowing season left. I know this because I asked my husband when it will stop. He said, “Never.”

I had a selfish reason to ask, because over the summer I took up some of the mowing duties. This shift in household division of labor popped up like an unexpected dandelion.

Thankfully my husband remains our household’s main blade cutter and fescue whisperer. Lawn maintenance has always been his source of zen. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for a quarter of a century. But one time in June he had an impossibly busy week as did the photosynthesis fairies in our yard. Before it all turned into a tallgrass prairie I stupidly volunteered to march in the clippings.

A mini-trend started and it seems I’ve been out there with the machine more times than I prefer. Let me count some reasons why lawn care is not my favorite task:

  1. Mowers are intimidating if you’re not accustomed. Aside from rumors of scary sharp underbellies and all the motor stuff and noise, there’s an art to getting one started. Anticipating the correct vrrrrr-vrrrrrrrrr-konkonkonkonk sound can spike one’s anxiety.

  2. There were two times I forgot to engage the self-propel bar.

  3. Our back yard is oversized — see sentence above.

  4. It seems I undertake this task only on the most humid, windless days. Just draw a dotted line connecting gas fumes to my face. A reminder the earth and lungs are one. An electric mower sourced by solar power is my dream.

  5. I always, always forget to check for large, fallen sticks and branches before starting the machine.

  6. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I suppose another thing that bothers me about this whole deal is I’ve been advised one must employ a specific technique that adds way more mileage to the petrol-vaping chlorophyll-staining task. And that technique, my friends, is overlap mowing.

It seems you can’t just cut one strip of lawn then move on to the full uncut section next to it. You have to position the mower to re-visit about a third of what you just seared off because, because…I don’t know why. Avoidance of deeper tire ruts? The Lawncare Industrial Complex’s trick to wear out machines? Mulching? I don’t know the answer, but I comply.

What I do know is overlap mowing adds a ton of steps and sweat to the chore. When I do this I feel like I’m pushing a Fisher Price toy on a football field. The forever-ness of getting from one side of the yard to another is real.

Now that I’ve handled the Honda GCV 160 Quadra Cut System enough times, I’m not fooled by its fancy name. It’s a hunk of metal with wheels and blades, a throwback experience that probably hasn’t changed since 1955, when Wally Cleaver and Eddie Haskell side hustled for malted milk cash. Plaid shirts, combustion engines, square lawns: Golly gee I’m part of that old scene right now.

But not completely. One must pull in some cyberspace to counteract that Cleaver feeling. Last time I overlap mowed I carried my iPhone to document the total steps and mileage. I have no idea how accurate the health app is, because I was shocked it tallied 4,485 steps and 1.9 miles. It doesn’t seem possible. Then again, I know how long it takes to walk two miles so I’ve decided to believe it.

I also believe I’m going to spend the winter researching xeriscapes.

Reach Denise Snodell at or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell