A blog about a first-time house owner learning to maintain his backyard, and thoughts about nature, science, history, and life.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


There are two ways to get from the lawn to the creek.  There’s the long trail, which winds its way around the fringes of the wildflower patch.  Then there’s the shortcut trail, a mown straight shot from the lawn toward the north-northeast corner of the property.  Then again, the shortest route would be to emulate the deer, bound straight through the wildflowers, and try not to get stuck.  

I wouldn’t want to take the long trail barefoot.  It gets muddy, and there are scattered shards of glass left by someone, probably years ago.  It would be a pain to clean up.  Because it’s not the shortcut trail, the long trail is the scenic route, so I guess it inevitably requires scenery…there’s refuse along the long trail.  I found my first brick hiding in the woods next to it.  I also saw my first snake there…a long, old chain that made me feel like a conjuror, pulling up its coils from its resting ground in and under the soil.  I took the brick and the chain and put them on my slowly growing pile of eyesore near the fringe of the yard.  I’m sure I’ll find more stuff of interest along the long trail over time and add it to the pile, too.

I don’t take the shortcut trail often.   And when I take it, I take my time, because there’s a big log smack dab in the middle of it.  It’s like the trail’s speed bump, reminding me to take my time getting from one end to the other.  And, besides, the shortcut trail isn’t really a shortcut to the creek.  Sure, it takes me to the edge of the bowl that looks down on the creek, but if I want to get straight to the dock, as I said, I’d have to plow through the wildflowers, and try not to get stuck.  

The deer have their own trails.  The most worn one is a zigzag path from the western side of the lawn into a neighbor’s yard, behind the government property.  This must be their shortcut trail.  But why do deer need a shortcut trail, when they have no natural reason to hurry?  

Maybe it’s an escape route.  The deer like to stand on the lawn and graze on the grass.  They’ll slowly work their way through the lawn, eating the wildflowers.   The two fawns, I noticed one morning, like to frolic in the wildflower patch, somehow avoiding the thorny plants.  But sometimes, they see me staring out through the sliding glass door window; I don’t know how. I don’t see much when I look inside from out there.  But if I do something from inside the living room to give them a start, they get going.

Besides the deer, there’s a groundhog, the next biggest permanent resident on my property to me, and he’s got tenure.  He lives under the shed, but I only see him when he’s in the lawn, and he only sees me just before he sprints back home.  I imagine he spends a good bit of time in the garden.  Maybe I should even call it HIS garden, because he’s probably tended it more than anyone has in years.  Though I see parts of the lawn that are torn up, I don’t think HE’s the one doing it (that’s another story for another day), but he must be eating something, and the garden’s the most likely candidate.   At some point, it’s likely that people grew food there, and since then, I’m sure the groundhog’s done all he can to keep his favorite meals coming.  So as I decide what to do with the garden, I guess I have to keep my tenant in mind.  I probably need to find a way to keep the meals coming so he doesn’t tear up the lawn.

There’s a path within the garden.  It’s overgrown, so I can’t tell what its purpose is, but I suspect that it lies between what used to be flower beds.  There are signs of disruption…places, for example, where I can see that the deer have stopped for a snack.  The garden itself looks like a wave…it’s tall with thorny plants that bow over into the lawn at the end nearest the shed, but at the far end, the garden is almost grassy.   In between, there are plants that I see nowhere else on the property.  I imagine that these might be some of the groundhog’s favorite snacks…if he is smart enough to eat the stems but not the roots.  

There’s also a shortcut path connecting the long trail to a neighbor’s yard.  I don’t know why, or how long, this neighbor exit ramp has been there.  Without the ramp, it would be hard to go over, say hi, and shake the neighbor’s hand.  But it is there, so I mowed it one time.  I still haven’t met that neighbor, though.

I don’t have to mow the paths often.  Surprisingly, it’s the more well-traveled (since I’ve been here at least) long trail that requires the most frequent mowing.  There are clumps of grass that grow quickly, and it’s annoying to trim grass by hand.  It’s also annoying to mow the long trail because it has twists and turns, and my mower was made for straight lines. Some of the roads around here (well, one, at least) have snowplow turnarounds…I need to make room for a lawnmower turnaround.

I’ve only mowed the shortcut path once, and only of half of it at that.  Of course, I mowed the half that starts in the lawn, and left the half that ends in the woods alone.  I don’t see much difference.  Though the shortcut trail is a reverse mohawk of brilliant green amidst the wildflower patch, it’s not grass; it’s short, stubby, weedy stuff.  Like most things in my yard, I don’t know what it’s really called, so I just describe it the best I can and then somehow you get the picture.  I hope.

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