Monday, 30 July 2012

The Artistic Strimmer

Green waterproof leggings, splattered up the front with dry grass are stepped into. Comfy safety boots, similarly coated with a film of dark green crud are also pulled into place and laced up tight. As if preparing for battle, a matching jacket is zipped and velcro fastened right up to the neck. The preparations are not yet complete, for gloves, extra thick ‘anti-vibration’ ones at that are scooped up from the worktop before making for the machinery store.

A sleeping strimmer leans against the wall, its chunky engine anchoring the machine to one spot, while the business end, the spinning bit, leans securely against the corner of the shed; also covered in dry grass. In days of old it might have been the twisted shaft of a scythe, with glinting blade, eager to tear through the sward during a day’s honest toil. Today however, this fossil fuelled consumer of grass leads the way, and its scope for work knows no bounds, all it asks is a regular drink of oiled fuel; stinky, pink, oiled and smoke producing petroleum.

Its harness slips overhead, and with straps adjusted is now ready to support the weighty machine, but before heading out, a spare length of cord is tucked into the pocket, and the handy pen-knife touched for reassurance. One last thing; the orange helmet with grubby visor is lifted from its hook, and once more slots securely in place, sure to protect against sunshine and showers, along with bullet like particles of shredded grass, and slug.

Wrapped up and harnessed up, with strimmer hovering silently, I stomp out in search of the next patch of fresh and ‘untidy’ grass. Clicking my ear defenders into place, my worldly sounds become muffled, and my focus for a while is the audible thud and the bone jarring shock of my boots clumping on the drive. Pausing to set the machine on the ground, the choke is switched, the rubber bulb squished and, with a single pull of the starter cord, the machine rumbles into life – for just a second. With choke switched off, a second pull fires it up again. ‘We’ are now in business.

Hoisting the machine back to my hips, the harness latch clicks onto the metal loop of the strimmer. I lower the visor into place, squeeze two fingers on the trigger, and instantly feel the tightening torque through the handlebars as the hidden spindle twists inside the shaft. The cutting head spins into life and the business end clatters as the line self adjusts to a uniform length. Speed increases, and a whistling breeze signals an eagerness for green material, and I move forward, slicing the hardly visible cord into the sward.

At a distance, I could be viewed as a lowly strimmer guy, simply keeping the weeds and long grass down, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's not surprising if I sometimes miss passers by, as I usually descend into a world of my own, the outside environment is deadened to a point of none relevance by my hearing protection - and the ongoing work always looming in my peripheral vision. Whilst, on the easier sections I can spend my time planning, day dreaming, pondering and so on, all that usually matters is the job in front of me, and the quality of finish is always paramount – I’ll explain:

There's plenty to concentrate on as I constantly adjust and manipulate the handles, aiming not only for the even cut, but also for smooth dispersal of cut material. Strimming doesn’t end there however - it is filled with creativity. Crisp edges can be created, wildflower areas can be ‘smoothed’ around the perimeter, and hollows, too awkward for mowers can be clipped to perfection. Individual seedlings can be carefully spotted amongst the grassy blades, and selectively avoided whilst they grow on to flower. The weedier specimens however can be chopped at will, preventing another year of seed - or seven years of weed, as people say.

 I guess I’m saying the person on the strimmer isn’t necessarily ‘just’ cutting the grass - they may be doing much more. That person on the strimmer, seen deep in concentration as the grass violently flings off in all directions might be some person smashing down an overgrown area, but they may also be smoothing the lakeside bank of a designed garden; artistically avoiding wild primroses and violets; or carving an edge to a formal driveway. They may also be working the machine in such a way as to stop the debris landing on the path, or in the pond, and always to avoid clipping that base of a tree.

Strimming by a gardener may not always be what it appears, it might have become their form of self expression, their time to perform, their art. The strimming machine is indeed a versatile tool, capable of serious scrub clearance and daily grass maintenance. Nevertheless, in the right hands, strimmers are capable of carving, moulding and controlling grass, thereby affecting the presentation and possibly, the overall look of a garden area.      
These days, I'm just as happy whooshing my strimmer through a garden as I used to be swooshing my paint brush across paper, but with my machine, in my grassy woodland, I'm every bit the Wembley or Wimbledon groundsman, the graffiti artist, or the sculptor - but anything more than that - you can decide. I don’t expect everyone to see strimming through my eyes, as we all have our methods, but my strimmer could be described as my brush, and with my work, I’m tempting, if it's at all possible, the genius of my place to show their hand.
Are you an artistic strimmer?

2 comments:

Lucy said...

Brilliant! A hymn to work. A notice that so many apparently simple tasks have much more to them than may meet the eye of those who never do them (well).

Gardener Gary said...

Yes quite a mundane task on the face of it, but there is beauty in that there strimming!