Cutting Back

DSM_5146Though it doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, autumn has crept up on me these past couple of weeks.

DSM_6726Low sun and pale mist greet me when I arrive – soon the mist down here in the valley will be heavier: cold, dense and wet.

DSM_7051Dock seed-heads (of which there are far too many) sparkle with dewy cobwebs.

DSM_7152And I need to step (and mow) with care – fermenting windfalls hum with drunken wasps.

DSM_6181Other insects are still busily feeding

DSM_7166and whatnot.  The first frost isn’t far off – perhaps they know it.

DSM_7040For me, the full-stop to summer is the mowing of the meadow.  Last year the ground was too wet for Sam and his enormous mowing machine to do the deed.  But this year he is hurtling around this part of Sussex, cutting a growing number of wild-flower meadows.  He is so busy that he cut ours on a Sunday – so I wasn’t there to watch him deftly dodging around the new deer cage slalom (which I have since strimmed around).

DSC_0038But here’s a photo of him (and since you ask, his ‘Ryetech Flail Mower Collector’) from two years ago.  Having twice cut the meadow myself, I was so very, very grateful that the ground was firm enough for Sam to come this year.  (He had a lousy 2012 – ours wasn’t the only meadow he wasn’t able to cut).

DSM_7031With the meadow dealt with, my attention turns to strimming the pond margins and ditches which I have left wild all season.

DSM_7034It’s a long, hot job and not one I enjoy.  If you have ever used a petrol strimmer, hedge trimmer or chainsaw, you may have experienced ‘white finger’ – an unpleasant condition caused by the vibrations of certain power tools.  The blood vessels in the hand go into spasm leading to a restriction in the supply of blood to the fingers, a loss of colour (hence the name) and a tingling, numbing and possibly painful sensation.  It is a cumulative disorder with no cure.  For this reason I limit strimming to an hour or two each day but even so I sometimes experience pins and needles for a while afterwards.

DSM_7030As well as the concern that I might be permanently damaging my hands is the worry that I will kill a frog or toad, a snake or newt.  As far as I know, I haven’t yet – and often carry one or other off to safety.

DSM_7035It’ll take me another week or two to finish all the strimming; hopefully before heavy rain flattens all that long growth and makes the task even more onerous.

DSM_6856Then, after the first frost, I will tackle the more sedate, satisfying, non-vibrating and blissfully quiet task of cutting back the beds and borders.

25 thoughts on “Cutting Back

  1. Hurrah for Sam and dry enough ground, the meadow looks rather wonderful, love the architectural qualities of the deer cages. I think this may be my favourite time of year – I vacillate between Autumn and Spring for that honour. The golden light, the late flowering perennials and grass heads. Even the docks look pretty. But I am so very glad I don’t have much strimming to do, a job I hate at the best of times, despite our nifty lightweight battery operated one. Add in the threat of white finger, and a definite downside to your profession.


    • Hi Janet, I’m trying to limit strimming to an hour a day which makes it bearable, if still not fun. Autumn light does it for me too especially, as you say, on late flowering stalwarts. I tend to welcome autumn with open arms after months of mowing and watering. But then generally. I greet each new season with open arms. I’m so fickle! D


  2. Beautiful late summer light, and the garden looks stunning and so tidy after its haircut. It must have been a relief to get the machinery in to do the job. The ‘white finger’ sounds painful. It’s hard work being a gardener. I know bits of me are starting to suffer and I’m not 40 yet. Pity you can’t hire in some sheep to do the job of clearing the unwanted grass. Of course, you wouldn’t want them eating the rest of the garden. That would be bad. 😉


    • Well, I did consider using Margaret’s sheep WW – even though they would have fertilized the ground as well, which I didn’t want. I thought of running a temporary electric fence on a line separating the meadow from the rest of the garden. But Margaret told me that the grass was too long and that the sheep wouldn’t eat it. How picky are they? Same with her cows. Dave


  3. What a relief to have the weather to cut the meadow down this year: you can sigh with relief. I really love that final picture, you’ve really captured the beautiful autumn light, and the grasses and flowers in that border are singing in it. What wonderful late summer planting!


  4. Any hopes of an indian summer seem to have quietly disappeared. I quite enjoy the process of tidying up the garden ready for winter – I’m ready to think about spring bulbs and next season’s growing – and really hoping for another cold winter, but perhaps not so long as this year’s!
    Good to know about strimmer finger – I was aware of a scything course at my garden college this weekend and thought it would be a useful skill to have! (Wasn’t in time to book, though – maybe next time.)


    • A friend of mine uses a scythe in his own garden, Caro. I’ve never used one myself – perhaps I ought to. But not for the meadow – collecting the cuttings afterwards is just too big and time consuming a task.


  5. I enjoyed a glimpse of the garden coming into autumn, it looks at the same stage as mine except you’ve started your work and I am still putting mine off. Autumn is a busy time for a garden and I have a bit of an idea of how much you have to do. At least this year it looks like the weather will be warmer for a little while.


    • Hi Amelia, autumn is a very busy time for me – but then I guess all seasons are. I’m looking forward to the first frost (a bit) – it’ll be a relief to have the grass hardly growing for a a few months.


    • As I wasn’t there to move the cuttings up to Margaret’s farm, Sam dumped them at one end of the meadow – as we did last year. Not ideal, but they did rot down surprisingly quickly over the past 12 months. D


  6. I love Autumn as everything slows down in the garden and the foliage of dying plants glisten beautifully in the first frosts. I love the wind that blows the brown leaves off the trees which I collect up and use to make leaf mould and I also love my yearly walk with my husband on my birthday in October…what bliss!


  7. Hmm ! Seasons of mist and all that ! I find it all infinitely depressing, to think of winter stretching ahead … Lovely post which really gives that misty-moisty Autumn feel !!


    • Sorry you find the prospect of winter so depressing. I’m rather looking forward to a change of season and a whole range of different tasks and projects. I’ve certainly had enough of mowing for the time being. Dave


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