Living in the woods requires a different approach to yard work.
For instance, Monday I mowed the lawn, though lawn might not be the most precise word. Grass is cut in the process, but in many areas mostly I chop and vacuum fallen oak leaves and twigs from moss generously sprouting mushrooms.
Nor do I follow mowing patterns typically seen on lawns tended by people with patience and a passion for straight lines demanding no blade be out of place.
That’s not my yard.
It’s a rolling, uneven series of tree-dotted terraces dropping towards a creek. Much of the yard is left natural including the boggy creek bottom area.
Most of what I mow is moss-covered with sprigs of grass here and there that act like Velcro catching leaves and other vegetative remnants blown along by the wind.
A small area immediately next to and behind the house, is mostly grass – sprinkled with what lawn purists would call weeds. Gung-ho green grass gurus would say even that area needs a lot of improvement, but mostly I’m OK with it.
Few would avoid mowing the areas where mushrooms were popping through the soil Monday as I did. I steered the riding mower around fluorescent orange mushrooms more colorful than the orange Husqvarna I jockeyed. Other areas sprouted purplish mushrooms, little brown ones, red and white ones, corals, some that appeared to pour out of the ground solidifying in tree-ring type patterns and a few very ugly ones that could be scenery in a horror movie.
I mowed around the larger clusters unless they were tight to the ground and unharmed as I passed over vacuuming leaves and detritus from the ground.
I don’t know what most of the mushrooms are. Most likely aren’t edible. A couple areas still had very small mushrooms — dried and past prime — those in the know assured me are true delicacies.
I thought about why I was leaving so many mushrooms stand. This is what I determined:
A. I am fascinated by their sometimes-wild colors and changing shapes.
B. I figure they’re working below ground turning dead vegetative matter into something more useful.
C. They’re part of the diversity of forest life and the world already has plenty of monoculture lawn grass.
Most importantly, I like watching the fungi change as they grow. Some start out pretty, white bulbs and turn into yellow and/or red toadstools out of Alice in Wonderland.
Some, glow so orange they don’t look real.
The corals look just like their name suggests: colonies of ocean corals.
Some are fluted like a trumpet section shooting up from the ground.
Some are slimy, ugly and oozing masses you don’t want to step on.
Another plant I mow around looks like a mushroom but isn’t. Indian pipe stem or ghost pipe stem is white like a mushroom but is a plant that lacks chlorophyll that makes most plants green.
Slugs eat some of the mushrooms. So do squirrels. I suspect deer or other creatures might sometimes, too.
Manicured lawns are nice to play on — if owners allow that — and look neat, but the wild disarray of the somewhat-domesticated woods floor that passes for my “lawn” is far more interesting.
So, I mow around the mushrooms — and the pipestem, and the lady’s slippers and several other fascinating floras that appear at times.
I also try to move unharmed to the edge of the yard the acorns that fall from the oaks so the deer and squirrels can dine naturally while reducing the chance I’ll roll an ankle stepping on nature’s roller bearings.
Last year’s acorn crop was overwhelming. So far this year, acorns are coming down in less abundance.
As surely as the first rows of snow fence put up Monday in Stearns Park is a sign of autumn is arriving so is the sound of acorns clanking off the roof, the deck or vehicles parked outside.
The coming weeks are to be savored for their color, the autumnal light and the crisp air that eventually accompanies the change of season.
It also means more mowing for me. It’s easier to mow the fallen leaves regularly, than it is to rake them after they’ve all fallen.
Undoubtedly, I’ll mow mushrooms with the leaves, too. That goes with territory. That territory boasts more moss and mushrooms than manicured lawn.
I like it that way.