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Lawnmower man coming to neighborhood near you

by peter kostes

My life changed in a big way a few weeks ago. For the first time in more than two decades, I now own a lawn mower.

For most of the 20 years that I successfully avoided grass-cutting machinery, I considered myself a relatively contented person. Existing without a lawn mower seemed to agree with me quite well, actually.

Before becoming a Douglas County homeowner, I was fortunate to live a “mountain” lifestyle for many years. Except for the long winters and subsequent months of shoveling snow from our property, I can’t knock the lifestyle.

Moving to the Carson Valley, however, and thus eliminating months of snow shoveling and still having the mountains at arm’s length, has been a wondrous experience. Every silver cloud, though, has a black lining.

One of the top reasons for living in the mountains, in my opinion, has always been the near absence of lawns. Natural landscaping is recommended and, in practice, the preferred way, for mountain dwellers. You’ll never see that touted in a real estate ad, but you should.

“Lake Tahoe – Location, Location, Location …. and you’ll never need to interrupt your Saturday afternoon nap by trailing behind a noisy lawn mower.”

Now there’s some ad copy that could sell a few homes.

I bet if more people looking for a house up in the Sierra realized that 90 percent of mountain homeowners do not grow and maintain manicured lawns, real estate sales would soar to record levels.

Like most kids growing up in New England, mowing the family lawn represented a weekly chore March through late fall. During high school and much of my college years, I also mowed lawns to earn money in between the odd jobs I held as a full-time student.

I’ve been able to measure time as BL and AL – Before Lawn mowing and After Lawn mowing, with the number of years on either side of that line of demarcation nearly identical.

The still-boxed lawn mower sitting in my garage is about to change all that.

In reality, the nearly completed landscaping work at my house is going to alter the balance of my life. The landscaping crew installing sprinklers, laying sod and providing a dash of plants here and there in my front and back yards should be about done by the end of this weekend.

Soon, when the water and spring sunlight trigger the newly planted grass to grow, I will take the long trip back to my youth and relearn the joys of lawn mowing.

I tried my best to delay the journey, starting with my attempts to convince Julie all we really needed was gravel and rocks to blanket our yard. It appeared I had won that battle after she agreed to let me cover our backyard with a three-inch blanket of rock (that translates to approximately 40 tons of gravel and about three weekends of work for an average stiff like me).

I won the battle but not the war. Just when I thought the entire homestead would receive a gravel landscaping job, Julie went on the offensive. Every time we went out or met friends socially, she started to tell stories about my gravel empire and how I loathed the thought of grass. Before long I was hounded by my friends, who found great joy in my attempt to keep anything but a few weeds from ever seeing the light of day in my yard.

One buddy – I use that term loosely, and never to describe my relationship with the publisher of the Nevada Appeal in Carson City – even went as far as leaving the following message on our answering machine.

“Hey, this is Joe from Joe’s Landscaping. I’m calling to tell Mrs. Kostes we’ll be starting the job on Monday and you can expect a load of sod to be delivered to your house tomorrow.”

Just about the time I stopped choking, I recognized the voice and realized the gag. Julie had me on the run. I was trapped by sprinklers on one side and two Blue Spruce pine trees on the other. It was only a matter of time before Julie would win out, so I acquiesced a few weeks ago to maintain a sense of tranquility in our home.

The rest of the story, as they say, is a green yard and the siren calls of an electric Sears lawn mower that I’m about to learn how to operate this weekend.

– Peter Kostes is publisher of The Record-Courier.