I have a lot of grass round my home. From time to time I think vaguely about cutting it. Because the summers are hot here in southern France I tend to think if I don’t cut it long enough, the sun will kind of dry it and it’ll fallover. Then it will stop being so long.
It’s not that I don’t want to cut it. I do, quite. But lawnmowers seem to be made for men. I have a fairly standard sort of lawnmower way up in the long grass which is green (handy when you lose it…) and works with petrol. The problem is I soon found that although the guy who showed it to me said it’s easy to start, it isn’t. You have to pull a long cord, quickly. But it resists being pulled. My not very brawny female right arm doesn’t have the strength to pull it quickly and all the way out. So I can’t start it. I once asked a passing neighbour to start it for me but once I got going, and he carried on his walk, I realised I either had to mow for 3 hours non-stop or just stop after mowing a short strip in an otherwise grassy field.
So I tried to buy an old-fashioned just-push-it-along mower. Remembr the noise they made when you were a kid and your dad mowed the lawn? (You won’t if you’re under forty I suppose. ) It was a kind of hypnotic whirr, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. A real hot-weather, summer noise.
I wanted that kind of lawnmower. No horsepower, no cords, no petrol cans, no fumes. Just a light, manual, lawnmower.
They’re not made any more. Or as far as I can see they’re not. I couldn’t find one in the whole region. You have to buy a polluting motorised lawnmower or nothing.
A 50-something friend of mine found the same difficulty and decided to buy a ride-on mower. I think it might be a machine called a John Deere Tractor Lawnmower but I’m not sure. Looking at the catalogue picture she showed me it looked like she’ll be able to mow half of France once it’s delivered. It’s enormous. Like a tractor in fact.
I borrowed something like it last year from another neighbour. You ride around on it as if you’re herding cattle but that kind of lawnmower doesn’t work for me either. This is a forest house and the ground around it is uneven and has tree stumps in it. Wiggling this large tractor-lawnmower around lumps and bumps wasn’t practical.
So this year I’m calling on the grass-mowing service of the local shepherd again. He turns up with three hundred non-motorised sheep who don’t need a cord pulled to get them started. Three gorgeous collie dogs keep them off the flowers and shrubs and on the grass, following occasional instructions from their master, the berger.
We have a bit of a chat about the price of sheep’s cheese and goats’ cheese and he usually tells me a few stories about wondering the hills of Provence with his flock and his beloved dogs.
I don’t know if any manufacturers make lawnmowers with female customers in mind but I don’t really care. I think I’ll stick with the four-legged mowers. They obviously enjoy eating the grass. And they turn it into a delicious, delicate, mild cheese.