paths12 April, 2012


HQ consists of our white farmhouse, a couple of sheds, a falling apart garage and 3 acres of land. To give you a sense of it, this is about the size of 3 (American) football fields, endzones removed.

We decided upon moving here that we would not buy a big mower and spend the time keeping the whole place  mowed. Not worth it to us.

On the other hand, we’ve learned that once the grass gets really tall in the summer, it takes some effort to stroll around the place. Not enough that we actively notice it, but enough that we’re subtly dissuaded from wandering around.

Last summer, my dad brought us the solution to our problem. He found at a garage sale a reel mower, in very nice shape. This is the kind with two wheels that you push in front of you, and a reel with blades spins to cut the grass as you walk it forward. No motor, no smell of gasoline, no noise. I can’t imagine using it to mow huge swaths of grass, but we use it now to mow out paths for ourselves. At first, just simple ones, between the mailbox and the front door, the shed to the garden, etc.

But now I’m using it to mow more paths, out into the more unused stretches of the property, going from nowhere in particular to nowhere else in particular. And they are amazingly tempting. We find ourselves taking the long way home (or rather, the long way back inside) these days, just because it can be easy, thoughtless.

We like that parts of our land can be a bit wild, but we learned long ago how much we appreciate how mindless and therefore meditative having a path to walk through chaos can be. For example, we love backpacking. We love rough trails that require physical exertion. But being dropped off into wilderness without any reason to go one way over another, no path or feature to follow, is an entirely different experience (ah, Denali, you limit-tester, you). I like the feeling of walking, and all the thinking and observing I am free to do, knowing that where my foot should go next has already been figured out for me.

Walking around HQ is not like backpacking. But it turns out we wander here better with paths.


  • That is the kind of mower we had. Actually, we still have it, but we have replaced the grass now. I don’t want to get rid of it, because I have a dream of one-day (soon) land like you have.

    Nicola24 April, 2012 at 12:52 am

  • Nicola – Your ‘(soon)’ has me excited! When we first arrived here from our city context, we thought we’d take out all the grass for garden before realizing the scale was wrong for that. Our hope is to every year mix more prairie plants into our grass, maybe slowly pushing it from out of control yard grass to short grass prairie. We shall see.

    A24 April, 2012 at 7:36 am