Chris Rogers, editor, Winona Post


For much of May and June, my lawn was fried. The heat and drought desiccated the little blades into straw. A little pokey to walk on, but no mowing required — just as well for me.

Now the rains are back and with them a myriad of tiny choices. I’ve never cared too much for lawns, but I must admit I’m not immune from the subtle social pressures that go along with them.

How long can I put off mowing my lawn? You’d think that grass height is the primary determining factor, but — at least for my sense of guilt — I’ve found that the neighbors are much more the driving force in what gets me to haul the mower out of the garage. Once the surrounding homes trim their grass, mine looks unkempt, like an angsty teen, by comparison. Every day I wait, the contrast gets more obscene.

Next you have to consider the time of day. Weather and your own schedule are limiting factors, of course, but you can’t fire up the ghastly roar of the mower too early in the morning — when the poor night owls are still in bed — or too late, when young parents finally get their baby to sleep and sweet old couples are settling in for a relaxing evening. The most socially appropriate time to mow is in the blazing heat of midday, sweating through an old T-shirt.

Perhaps the greatest question of all: When you near the property line, how far do you go? This is truly a conundrum that I must admit I grapple with whenever I mow.

First, it raises the delicate question of where exactly the property line is. I’ve spent enough time orbiting around the fascinating world of local land records to know that these lines in the sand are much more easily lost than you’d expect. You might feel absolutely confident in the location of yours — bolstered by such dependable landmarks as a fence or sidewalk or the distant memory of the former owner’s gesturing — but try asking your neighbor where the line is.

Once you’ve made your best estimate of the property line, how far up to it or past it should you mow? Surely, you’re skimping on your duties if you don’t mow all the way to line. And perhaps mowing a tad past the line, a little bit into your neighbors’ yard, is a tiny courtesy, like holding the door or not eating the last doughnut. On the other hand, by mowing too far past the line, are you planting a flag on some slice of your neighbors’ yard, subtly saying, “Here is where I think my property ends.” Is it, perhaps, a bit passive-aggressive to mow part of your neighbors’ lawn? Will they interpret it as an unspoken comment on their own lawn maintenance, feeding into a cycle of guilt in which they will feel obligated to mow because you did? Every time, I’m nearly paralyzed by the gravity of this choice.

But mow I must, never sure if I chose correctly. And every time, an ice cold drink and the sweet smell of grass clippings are just the right consolation.