For the last few days, my old friend Allen has been on the farm for two to three hours at a time between thunder showers, to mow the fields. D had taken the tractor home to change the oil, grease it thoroughly, and do some repairs. But now it is back and Allen is mowing.
It’s not that I can’t mow with the tractor myself — I can and I will — but my to-do list is too long. Every day it seems I cross off one chore and add three more. With all the rain, the fields are knee-high in weeds. Having Allen take on the mowing is a weight off my mind.
Above is the south pasture. Not coincidentally, it’s the field closest to the manure pile, and has received most of the annual 20 tons of spreading over the last few years. I am thrilled by these thick, lush weeds, when I consider that eight years ago the ground was a balsam forest and only four years ago it was sour bare dirt dotted with briar and poplar. Obviously the soil is slowly growing healthier. Still, the field is more weeds than grass. It needs more feeding, but I can’t afford to lime as I should. For now I fertilize by grazing animals on it and add organic matter by mowing the weeds and letting them fall as mulch.
The danger in mowing at my farm, of course, is rocks — boulders, ledges breaching like whales from under the surface, granite footballs hidden in the tall tangled weeds. Part of the time Allen mows with his head over his shoulder, watching the brush hog to make sure it is clear. Other times he stands to peer over the bucket, steering on his feet like a captain at the helm of a ship, watching for shoals ahead.
He wishes the mower blades were sharper. “Daddy would say we was mowin’ on shares,” he told me with a smile.
I always love to hear Allen’s stories of Daddy and Grandpa. As a child in the 1940s, Allen helped his father and grandfather farm with horses.
“That’s what Daddy would always joke when we was mowin’ hay and a tooth was missin’. You’d see the line of grass stickin’ up later, you know. Mowin’ on shares — one share left for the field.”
In the deepest weeds I would walk ahead of the tractor with the weedwhacker to find and clear around as many of the hidden rocks as I could, but — “I’m findin’ the rest of ’em,” Allen sighed. He drove with one hand on the wheel and the other on the hydraulics lever, ready to lift the brush hog at the first bang on stone.
The cutting is gradually getting done.
All the animals will prefer the tender new growth over the rank tangles. Meanwhile the clippings will sweeten the soil.
There are seventeen open, rocky acres to mow. I am grateful to Allen for his help, his jokes, the kind twinkle in his eyes, and his endless patience. I worry that the work is too boring for him. He laughs and tells me about Daddy as a child mowing with horses and falling asleep holding the lines, and Grandpa’s reaction on seeing the crazy result in the grass.
Though we often don’t speak for hours, it is such a comfort to look up and see Allen at work at the far end of a field.