Saturday, May 26, 2012

From Go to Mow

It’s been a long time since our grass received some attention, but with the early winter rain it’s been looking lush — like pasture — rather than suffering from the sort of straggled neglect you might see in summer. 

This morning Josiah the lawn tamer came and toiled for more than an hour to cut it down to size. And now everything’s gone quiet, the way it does once the job is finished and the mower’s been put away. The male blackbird has been out to make his inspection, and a flock of sparrows has descended on the piece of shorn lawn that’s most densely covered in kikuyu grass. There are 20 or 30 of them, but even they make no noise: they’re working.

The sparrows are seeking (and most definitely finding) food, though I don’t know what. The intensity of their endeavours makes me think of migrant workers harvesting crops, but the analogy is poor. In horticulture, hand-picking is reserved for the delicate produce that needs the lightest touch, whereas the sparrows’ job involves much tugging.

Freshly mown grass is
the best convenience food.

Whole weeds need a “drag
and drop” approach.

They’re not the only birds to profit from the maintenance of the lawn. The chickens, once recovered from the shock of the roaring, devouring machine, tend to revel in eating the bits it spits out.

Fresh lawn clippings are possibly the chooks’ favourite kind of green salad. The weeds that I deliver whole are hard for beaks to tear into bite-sized pieces as they’re no longer rooted to the spot, but the stuff from the lawn comes shredded and pre-mixed: true convenience food, without even the nuisance of packaging.

The months since the last mow have created a veritable grass mountain for my girls. Surprisingly, only Alice and Henemoa have shown real interest today. 

The latter’s appetite is intact despite her moult, which has revealed body parts that nature never intended me to see. These include the parson’s nose, called that only in a culinary context (it’s “the fatty extremity of the rump of a cooked fowl”, says the Oxford D of E). I’ve sampled a few such tidbits in my meat-eating moments, so for me it’s a particularly disconcerting sight, this naked tail end of a BFF. 

Henemoa, naked and (like Lady Godiva)
unashamed. Alice is nearby, while Emmeline,
Victoria and Amelia have turned their backs.
Henemoa is not disconcerted at all — and unlike some of my previous moulters she’s shown no inclination to go into hiding. The only real concern has been the colder nights we’ve had of late: she’s been relegated to the end of the perch, pushed up against the thin wall of the chicken house.

Soft-hearted human that I am, the last few evenings I’ve snuck in and repositioned her in the middle, between two better-feathered fowls. It’s a small and possibly foolish act, but it helps sustain me in the illusion that I can rule the roost the backyard, and beyond.


1. “From go to mow” — inspired by “from go to whoa”, which Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable describes as “colloquial Australian and New Zealand English ... first recorded in 1971. It means from start to finish”.
2. Thanks to poet Laurie for the image of the lawn tamer.
3. BFF: Best female friend? Or best feathered friend? Either will do. 

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