Friday, May 16, 2014

A Particular Shade of Green

Spring has finally come to Four Oaks, even if it is having an identity crisis. Snow in April, late-August heat in May, 20-degree temperature swings in 24 hours. But that’s okay, because I love the changes it brings. Having moved here in September, they’re all new to me.

No sooner did the snow (finally) melt away when things started to bloom. Who knew I had a riot of daffodils along the fence line, or lilac trees, or forsythia? The mud pit on the south side of the house has been replaced by a patchy lawn that I’m sure will turn lush in a year or three. The birds that sing me awake early in the morning sound happier now. The rooster down the road starts in with the birds but seems to crow all day long. And one night, as I turned into my driveway, my headlights revealed three deer in the grass, which was much taller than my neighbors’ grass because that was before I bought the John Deere tractor.

Okay, so it’s a riding mower, but it’s still that particular shade of green that marks me as one of the cool kids. And, besides, Nancy and Phil, my neighbors to the east, say I’m allowed to call it a tractor, and they should know because they have two of them, much bigger than mine, with many exotic attachments, one of which Nancy used this winter to dig my car out of 12 inches of snow.
I am foolishly proud of my John Deere. Out here on my little gravel road, I felt like a dilettante having lawn service when everyone else had tractors. Glorious green John Deere tractors.

So now I no longer have to rely on the lawn service guy. But getting the John Deere and figuring out how to use it to actually mow my lawn took a village. Thank God there is a village.

I had no idea how to get a tractor in the first place, even though there is a John Deere dealer five miles away. Fortunately, I am related to chivalrous men. My nephew-in-law, Danny, the Craig’s List King, heard I was looking for a tractor and went on the hunt; in mere days he found the perfect model and negotiated the price. My brother-in-law, Jeff, trucked it over from Occoquan, which took the better part of a day. Then he taught me how to use it to actually mow my lawn. Then Jeff and Therese and I celebrated by drinking wine around the fire pit and toasting to how good my lawn would look when I actually mowed it.

The next day I set out to actually mow my lawn, unsupervised. I was more nervous than I’d been on my last blind date. I approached the John Deere with great respect. I tried to show no fear. I walked around it determined to comprehend its mystery, climbed into the seat and tried to remember what Jeff had told me about the controls. Gear in neutral, lock on, foot on the brake, mowing deck raised. A sense of exhilaration when I realized, I got this. Then: Oh, yeah, the key. Went inside for the key.

And then this pampered city girl mowed her .89 acres. Except for the hills, okay, slopes, which Jeff later weed-whacked for me. And I only conked out once, but Rick, my neighbor to the west, got me started up again and reminded me I couldn’t go in reverse with the mowing deck down. Nancy, my neighbor to the east, later told me that nearly falling out of the seat meant I was mowing too fast. I’m pretty sure they were both keeping an eye out, prepared to dial 9-1-1 in case I ran over my foot.

The second time I used the John Deere to actually mow my lawn, there was a little incident with the oil, but it’s okay because I learned two new things: (1) ALWAYS check the oil because you can really mess up your tractor if you don’t, and (2) STOP filling the oil at that little line on the end of the stick because if you don’t your tractor will billow white smoke and then your brother-in-law Jeff will have to come back out and drain something-or-other.

It’s all good. I get to actually mow my lawn for the third time this weekend. If you’re out this way, punch out 9-1-1 on your phone and stand by.