As darkness approached Sunday night, I raced to finish an overdue mowing of the South 40, otherwise known as the front yard of Chateau Thompson.  Unlike the struggles of last year when a failing transmission in our John Deere lawn tractor turned each mowing into a battle of man vs. inertia, a new tranny and a locking differential turn mowing into an easier – but never easy – task.

For those unfamiliar with our front yard, let’s just call it a challenge with each mowing cycle. Most the three-and-a-half acres of front yard sit on a hillside that slopes, at its steepest point, 35 degrees. Bounded by woods on the left and right, along with a creek running through the lower part and a driveway that also defies gravity, the yard is a weekly test of homeowner and machine against the forces of nature. Nature usually wins.

Yet as challenging as the hill can be, the most difficult task often lies on the one flat area between the creek and the private road that serves our house and our neighbors. Bounded on two sides by creeks and a third by marsh, the grass grows especially thick on this patch of flatland and clogs even the most powerful of mowers. If I use the mulch cover, moving leaves clumps of damp grass. If I take off the mulch cover, the grass lies in rows suitable for raking and baling. It is, of course, too wet and heavy to use a grass catcher.

So I mow that section twice: Once to cut the grass and a second time to break up the clumps.

Other parts of the yard require specialized equipment. The saw grass along the creek is too tough for string trimmers so we use a blade attachment. The thick grass to the left of our driveway requires a DR Brush Mower, a self-propelled masterpiece that can take down just about anything in its path. Our back yard, such as it is, is too steep for the Deere so we use a regular lawn mower – one with large rear wheels to clear the irregular terrain.

Much of our front yard used to be trees but a previous owner of the land took them out.

Too bad.

We’re thinking of putting them back.