Taming The Jungle (Or the Back Field)

You know that phrase generally used after eating three pounds of pumpkin ravioli with a handful of buttered rolls and then washing it down with half of an apple pie about your eyes being bigger than your stomach? Clearly I would never do that with carbs and dessert–ahem–but I think the phrase “her eyes were bigger than her lawnmower” might be appropriate here.


That’s picture was taken from the back of my property looking back up towards the house. As you can see, the back field is a little, uh, wild. I have somewhere between six and ten acres of property to maintain (long story) and about two of that is nicely mowed lawn around the house and barns.

Here’s where I have to pause in our regularly scheduled programming and tell you guys my dirty little secret… I have never really mowed a lawn before. Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong, my first house had a yard just larger than a postage stamp and I ran my manual reel mower over it like 3 times a year, and at Memorial I made a good show of week whacking occasionally, but  “mowing” wasn’t on my list of chores… that’s why I had donkeys, after all. So I’ve never once had to fire up a gas powered mower (rider or otherwise) and spend a significant amount of time maintaining a lawn.

It’s possible I didn’t take all of that into account when I saw the Liberty House and the rolling fields that surround her, but just after I moved in things started greening up and I realized that sooner rather than later, something would have to be done.

So I did what any fully-grown fiercely-independent licensed contractor would do in this situation… I called my grandpa.

It was supposed to be strictly a consultative call. You know, should I buy a new mower or a used one? Does it make sense to hire someone? Do I need a bush hog for the back field or should I do a controlled burn?

As you might imagine, I don’t make these calls often, and perhaps my grandpa sensed a note of panic in my voice because the next the next thing you know I’m surrounded by a whirlwind of grass clippings and dish soap– he and my grandmother came up on a Saturday morning and managed to mow the lawn, do the dishes, unpack most of my kitchen, and in general make more progress on the maintenance of the Liberty House in two hours than I had in two weeks. Let me just take this moment to say how beyond lucky I am, particularly in the grandparent department.

Then, as if just getting the two acres of lawn under control wasn’t enough, I drove up to Liberty House after a couple of long days on the road for work last week, and saw this…


Yes, the very same tractor that was once wedged into the back of my postage-stamp sized lawn for this project.

Even more exciting than reminiscing about that buzz cut I used to have six years ago…


Here’s a little before and after for you:



I might have been a little disappointed that I didn’t get to drive the tractor myself, but I’ve got it stashed in my barn for another week or so and there are still a few acres to the north that I’m going to try to tackle on my own this weekend. That’s right… I’m planning to take my mowing experience level from manual reel mower to tractor in a day. Hey, go big or go play with your barbies, right? I’m also hoping to make a little progress on the rubble pile while I’ve got the big toys to play with.

As far as maintaining the field, the neighbor tipped me off that the previous owner tended to just knock the field down once a year instead of keeping it mowed, which sounds like a good plan to me, at least this year. However I’d love to find a second-hand rototiller somewhere and till up a patch of land out there for a big old garden… I’ve still got a few weeks until planting season, so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility.

Long term, some of the area to the North will be fenced off for donkeys (though I’d need a dozen of them to keep this much acreage clear), I’d like to have that big garden, and a couple of rows of grapes and/or fruit trees somewhere out there. It would be awesome to be able to maintain a wildflower meadow with the rest of the area, but apparently that’s not as easy as it looks.

I figure I’ve got years to plan out how to best use all this land, and in the meantime I just have to make sure it doesn’t turn into a small jungle.

All I have to say is, amen for grandparents and tractors, neither of which I could survive without.


10 Responses

  1. I love the property and your grandparents! Can’t wait to see what comes of the acreage in the coming years! Good luck on the tractor! I bet you love it. 🙂

  2. I’ve been following you for about a week and have become a huge fan in that short time! I LOVE old houses (I live in a 120 year old farm house myself) and I love DIY! But I tend to get a little help from an awesome boyfriend and an awesome father! I will continue to check in, I love the Liberty House and all your plans! You may become very fond of mowing the yard when you get yourself a mower! That is one of my favorite chores! Gives me time to chill out and relax.

  3. You are not just lucky but smart to choose a place close to a supportive family! However, let’s talk about those “years to plan…”. Plans have a mind of their own and direct correlations to money, time, health, help and the years whiz by. Pencil/paper sketch of how the sun progresses across the land – try Google Earth – and mapping out the drainage areas that would work best for fruit trees, a vineyard, donkeys, etc. Priority lists definitely create a path to realizing all you dream of while family is still around and can help and better still, join in the culmination of well laid plans and efforts. I am sure they are extemely proud of you and want to help all they can. Lucky and smart….and still young enough to get it done.
    I can see where mowing (on a rider of course) with you favorite ETOH can be the best time to dream ;0)

  4. A small fruit orchard and a vinyard would be perfect for that space. Those things require quite a bit of work themselves, though. I can picture some donkeys, maybe a couple chickens roaming around eating all those nasty bugs, and a grove of fruit trees standing behind a large garden filled with rope produce. Sounds like heaven to me.

  5. I am basically at the exact same point as you: dreams of meadows, orchards, vineyards and gardens. The only different is that we’re about 2 months into our new place, but we haven’t cut any grass yet. We have a gas powered push mower that we brought from our old house, and we found two more in the barn, but somehow I don’t think they’re going to do. Desperately need a tractor!

  6. You know that “her eyes were bigger than her lawn mower” comment? Can relate, totally…

    Be careful with the fruit trees too. One of the first things I did was plant 5 fruit trees – thinking someone else would be mowing the 3 acres while I was canning the fruit. Well, now I do all of it and he is up there somewhere shaking his head at me as I pray for a hard freeze when the fruit trees bloom every spring.

    As much as a LOVE peaches and pears, they have just become a huge chore each August. I usually just end of begging people to come pick them. So don’t plant too many because they can be a lot work. Same reason I gave up on a vegetable garden.

    My suggestion – make the donkey pasture as big as you can and get as many as you think you’ll need to keep the grass down. They can be cute AND useful!

  7. How about a free mowing job? Find a farm with lots of live stock. See if they will mow for the grass. Due to drought here in Tennessee tall grass is sometime hard to come by to feed live stock, so farmers will mow other peoples fields just for the grass. I would think your winters are long enough that farmers would need all the grass they can get to keep there live stock feed all winter. Your field will only get mowed once (maybe twice) a year, but at least you won’t have to do it. Plus this will give you more time to keep all use entertained.

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