Cutting the grass

We did a seachange. (That’s poor English). We seachanged. (That’s worse). We were one of the original seachangers. (Don’t really like that either). Here I am trying to improve my writing skills; trying to engage the readership as the website encourages me to and I come up with that tripe. Anyway, you get the idea. In fact, come to think of it, I remember watching the program from our house on the Bellarine Peninsula so we were the trendsetters – we seachanged (sorry) before the term was invented.

We moved from an inner suburb of Melbourne where we had been for some time. I left my job and we moved to somewhere we’d never heard of and knew nobody. We conducted a scientific experiment: take three small children, add food, water, exercise and voila in six years time you have three larger children. As a direct result you now seem to have a smaller house than the one you bought six years ago. So we moved. We ended up with a house more suitable for larger children. The backyard was also larger than we had originally thought or planned for. Cutting the grass became an issue.

My old lawnmower had finally died. No use sending good money after bad on that any more. Decision making time: in the end I chose both. I bought a ride-on mower and a hand mower. I think trying to mow the large expanse of grass had contributed to the downfall of the old mower so the decision wasn’t too hard in the end. The time saved using the ride-on would be better spent anyway. And I had experience with ride-ons. Part of the seachange was finding a new school for the children and when the new teacher asks whether you can help out at the working bee how can you say no. When the grade three teacher and working bee co-ordinator asks you to cut the grass with the ride-on how can you say no. When you are asked can you go on the mowing roster how can you say no especially now that you know how to use a ride-on (which incidentally is not that hard and quite fun especially to start with). Before all this rotation to avoid injuries stuff that the Australian cricker selectors have recently put in place, the saying used to go that it was much harder to get out of the Australian cricket team than to get in. Well the Baggy Green has nothing on this school’s mowing roster. From the earliest time when you only have one child at the school to the final year when your third child is about to finish, every year you are selected! No matter your form of the previous year or anything for that matter once you are on that roster you are on there. Every year the laminated schedule would come out and you’d be on there again. So I knew how to use a ride on.

We’ve been in the new house for several years now and recently both mowers would not start. The hand mower required a self diagnosis. Surely just needs a new spark plug; replaced the filthy old one and no worries. The ride-on hadn’t been serviced for a while so organised that; apparently a solanoid needed replacing.

It was the intervening period though from when both pieces of machinery would not go that was interesting. Mowing the grass is one of those things in life that can be put off for the next week or perhaps the one after or maybe even one more. Then when it’s done you look over it and admire your work and ask why did I put that off it looks great. When the power of being able to decide when you cut the grass is taken away – local shop was closed on the Sunday and Geelong is 20 minutes away so the spark plug had to wait for another day or more likely the next weekend but 2 or 3 weeks to get a booking for the ride on! I felt powerless, empty. The mowing had already been put off for the maximum allowable time and now it had to be extended. What will the neighbours think?

With all the rain the grass was growing at a great rate and here I was powerless to lift a finger to change it all. It was all a contradiction. You go to work – Hey, what did you do on the weekend? “Spent most of Saturday in the garden, cutting the grass.” You put a bit of a negative spin on it because it’s not really how you want to spend the weekend. But, have that power taken away and you want it back. I need to cut my grass. It’s getting too long. The anguish inside was ridiculous. I usually put this off and now it’s put off for me I don’t want it put off.

Oh the relief when both mowers were purring beautifully again. I could hardly wait for the next weekend. It sounds a bit silly but I really wanted to cut that grass; it was getting to the messy, unkempt stage. I started with the ride on and then used the lawn mower to do the parts closest to the house. A final touch up with the whipper-snipper. I stood back and admired ‘my’ work. It looks great. I resolved to try to keep it looking this good. Perhaps I should get back to cutting it weekly.

Next weekend came: woke up, looked out the window at the grass – doesn’t look too bad, can wait for another week.

About Noel McPhee

Noel's background is in statistics including 13 years at the ABS. More recent employment has been at Deakin University and Services Australia. He has worked on every State and Commonwealth election this millennium plus a few Local Government Elections. His weekly article, 'The Stats Bench' appears in the EFL's football record - The Eastern Footballer. Noel's legacy as a sportsman is that he tried hard; two cricket fielding trophies, a tennis premiership and boundary umpiring about 80 EFL senior games.


  1. Noel, that great Antipodean cultural icon; mowing the grass whether it needs it or not.

    Dull seachangers have immaculate lawns.

    Some times I lose the lawn mower in the long grass. I have to call for reinforcements: the neighbours calves (with electric fence) for the orchard area and his Shetland pony (with rope) for ‘No Man’s Land’.

  2. Had a neighbour years ago who would cut his grass at least twice if not 3 times a week!! I was really worried for him when they put him on the mowing roster!!

  3. Before my sister’s wedding (reception in the garden at home) I had to mow the lawns twice on the friday before and a quick run over on Saturday morning before the midday event.

    It is quite fickle actually. Watering grass, with the indirect carbon release, and then cutting it, again with more carbon release, just so it will look like the grounds at Royal Ascot where the climate is totally different.

    A typical Aussie lawn should really be scorched and brown in the summer and lush in the winter.

    Cricked pitches are a paradox. We water, fertilize, herbicide, roll and mow them just so they can be scalped.

  4. For the first time ever on this site, I might actually be qualified to comment. 5 years as a professional lawnmower, (yes, I was paid to make lawnmower noises. Boom tish),

    First of all, you will never find me putting my name down for a lawnmowing roster. I have cut enough grass for this life time..

    Phantom, I think the term you looking for is “recreational mowing”. Anything to get away from the wife for a few hours.

    The curse of lawnmowing, after the blazing sun, is the Bouganvillea. If I ever see one, it brings out cold sweat. Curiously, 5 years in the desert climes of Abu Dhabi has made me feel that the blazing Australian sun wasn’t so bad. I will test this hypothesis upon return in a few months and over the first antipodean summer for 8 years. (Of course I plan to move into a house with no yard, or at least concrete/paved features, so mowing will not be a priority).

    I’m betting those who mow more than required also keep the length unnecessarily short. Even in Queensland summers, letting the couch grow out a bit will slow the growth and therefore keep it tidier than scalping it to within an inch of its life, and expecting that to keep it under control.

    I take your three times a week man and present a former customer who would call me whenever the blades had exceeded the maximum allowable length of 3cm. In summer months this was about every three days. He was also known to vacuum the lawn to remove pebbles. That being said he fashioned beautiful hand made sailing boats out of timber and was a veteran of the Kokoda Trail, so I could cut him some slack.

    To remove lawn grubs, just flood your lawn. They hate it.

    Noel, gardeners tip. If you whippersnip first, then you can pick up the litter in the catcher of the mower as you get around, or use the blades as fan to blow the litter/leaves off the pathways etc. Never saw the need for a blower myself.

    Maybe I’ll start a lawnmowing column?

  5. I’m seriously worried. I was reading this fine piece and could relate to it very well. Then Noel revealed how he wanted to cut the grass, he needed to. He’s become one of those neighbours that comments on your nature strip when the grass is only an inch high. Seeing as I can relate to the first half of his article – I’m worried that I will become that neighbour! Oh well, nothing I can do I suppose, except buy myself a ride-on.

  6. Gus, we had a bouganvillea in our backyard when we bought our house – it was the first thing to go. I hate them. I removed it but had my arms torn to shreds in the process, even after taking all necessary precautions. I like to think I still won.

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