Cutting the Orchard Grass

I have plans for the orchard, I am unable to cut the grass anymore. Normally, we cut it in August but the grass is now waist height, the tallest its been in years and the thought of cutting it with a scythe is making my back ache just thinking about it. There is a romance around scythe cutting, but the reality is often hard going and a space this size could take me weeks. I hate grass. I always have. It is a weed. When we first moved here the whole quarter acre was given over to it, now only this part still exists. I feel like I am moaning and I damn well am. If my back doesn't get me then the dust thrown up by cutting the stuff makes me wheeze for days after and keeps Carol awake at night as my snoring sounds like the train that bloody couldn't. So, Carol and I have started to look at this end of the garden, this includes the area we earmarked for a paradise garden (this houses the shed that blew away and has never been the same since), and we have made some radical decisions. Bye-bye shed, we did plan to build another but when we sat down and talked about it we realised all we need is a tool store and feed store for the chickens, which could go behind the house rather than at the far end of the garden. Easier to take tools downhill at the end of the day than back up it. Easier to have someone deliver a sack to the back of the house than the back of beyond. The area with the shed will become a secluded garden with a pond to bring in wildlife and naturalistic planting, basically a wildlife paradise garden where we can eat, socialise and reflect. For me, gardening has become more about reflecting on living with a disability and a way to provide something for my family. It is a place of well-being rather than well-I'm-knackered-from-mowing-that-bloody-lawn.

Chimney Sweep moth

The orchard trees will remain but the grass will be consigned to history. At present the grass in the orchard is a mix of grass (more couch than grass), daisies, buttercups and vetch. This isn't a bio-diverse planting scheme and our attempt to introduce yellow rattle failed on two occasions. The grass does bring in chimney sweep moths that flutter around but predominantly the main things that are up there are midges, slugs and snails that we stand on, toads and frogs that hunt the snails and flies, and who love to jump out at us and make us jump too. Some nights are like a Disney musical with frogs in synchronised leaping and us in counterpoint screaming. We feel sorry for the frogs because even scything is a game of 'do not chop the frogs up' and the lawnmower has never been the same since the toad went through it. I wasn't the same. I have flashbacks. Back in our old garden I stopped using plastic netting for peas because I found a toad garroting itself in it, I saved the toad and ditched the plastic; that was over a decade ago. I have the same feeling about lawnmowers now. I don't think they are a good thing for my well-being, my physical health or nature. Give me a weekend without the sound of a lawnmower harrumphing across the landscape and its owner following it with four letter threats. These lovely frogs need somewhere to spawn and therefore with that in mind we will include log piles, ponds and undergrowth in the new naturalistic garden.


Lawnmower, mountfield

We're not rushing into any final plans with the orchard yet but we know we want to ditch the mower. There are some things we need to do to future proof the garden for me and Carol, so we sit down on the newly cut grass and discuss it as the sun beats down. After a lively discussion that does involve compost toilets, swimming pools (as if), bees, a hobbit house, my disability, Carol's desire to garden more, we decide this new area should have the following: raised beds so we can grow more crops with ease (the new potager has been a bit of a revelation in terms of what can be grown and how fast the soil warms up compared to the old field), accessible paths for me, archways because part of me wants to emulate Chilton Foliat from The Victorian Garden (I am thinking something like a large central avenue but must remember that even though we have a quarter acre it is only 22 foot across) and a wildlife area (possibly with bees if I do a training course). First though we need to get rid of the awful grass and the midges that swarm around us, biting. This season won't see all the grass gone, just the half by the hedge so we can lessen the risk of fire after last year's moorland fires. This part of the garden is peat that goes down to some depth and we don't want to encourage any accidents that could swallow this part of the garden and our old hedge (it came with the house, it was the only thing we saved from the old garden which was largely thatch, grass and laurels). The remaining half will be allowed to seed and provide food for birds and bees but in the long term will also go.  


Woman gardening, life on pig row, bottom


It doesn't take long for us to remove half the grass thanks to Carol dumping the scythe and opting for hedge shears (her arms are aching from using them). I follow behind her with a petrol lawnmower but only work for 5-10 minutes before having to rest. There are plenty of four letter words for our old Mountfield especially when it goes over a rubber ball for a dog and I have flashback to the toad. It takes us the morning to clear half the grass away and though the result is less romantic we will make use of it later in the week.

Potatoes and lawn

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