Fresh Cuts by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Ever since Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett came to town, I’ve been thinking about fresh cuts. Not of meat or hair, but rather of grass and lawns. It’s that time of the year when the roar of the lawnmower drowns out early morning birdsong and the smell of gasoline hangs heavy in the afternoon air. Annoying, maybe, but there’s nothing like the lines, the look, and the smell of freshly mown grass.

Many of you already know that I’m an inveterate porch sitter. My porch of choice overlooks a postage stamp of a front lawn that, although tiny, presents some unique cutting challenges. First, there is the coracle bird bath to contend with. (In case you don’t already know, a coracle is a small round boat traditionally used by the ancient Celts. The name is derived from the Welsh word “cwrwgl”—good luck with that one. It was likely the kind of boat St. Columba used to cross the Irish Sea when he brought Christianity to Scotland back in the 6th Century; maybe that’s why the birds like bathing in it. But I digress; back to grass and the cutting of it…) Beside the bird bath, there are other front yard impediments to a crisp cut—like the rose bush in the corner that doesn’t leave much headroom for the lawnmower to get at what grows beneath, or the picket fence that protects a thin band of clover that always seems to prefer the company of the sidewalk. I would need a weed whacker to attend to that business, but that’s a tool too far so I get down on hands and knees with a clipper to finish off the front before getting back to my rocker on the porch.

But then there’s the back yard…

That’s bigger business with some contour and texture to it. Heavier impediments, too, like the hammock that needs to be moved or the outdoor table and chairs which make cutting long, clean lines impossible. One of these days, I’ll get around to putting in a flagstone patio under the arrangement so I can delete that section of the yard from my cutting routine. Until then, I’ll continue to move things around while cutting the grass in smaller sections. Whew!

Then there’s this: to bag or not to bag? That’s a good question. I have access to a mower that collects the clippings in a great sack, but then the question becomes how to deal with all that residue. Putting clippings in a great paper bag and leaving that bag on the curb awaiting town removal seems to me like a lot of wasted labor—mine and the town’s. The alternative solution involves using another mower that simply distributes the clippings as mulch which, in addition to saving some sweat equity, has some positive environmental benefits. Old grass begetting new grass, a kind of green reincarnation, if you will, that reclaims all the good photosynthetic properties of the clipped material to fertilize the next batch of grass which, of course, will have to be cut again a week hence. Round and round we go, all summer long.

But eventually, all the grass front and back does get cut and I get to go have a rewarding glass of lemonade on the front porch or a quiet swing in the hammock from which I can survey my freshly cut domain. But even as the lawnmower cools, I think I can hear all that grass regrowing, the countdown already beginning until it’s time for next week’s project.

Gotta go. I’m due for a haircut. I hear there’s a new barber in town…

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is


Letters to Editor

  1. Thanks for the Sweeney Todd shoutout! One more weekend to go!

  2. Michael Brunner says:

    Steve, the noise from that pollution spewing machine is deafening. 5% of all greenhouse gases are from gas lawnmowers. One hour of mowing is the same as driving 40 cars for one hour.
    Now we all agree we are the cause of global warming, and we all should do what we can to slow the destruction. Eco-friendly lawn service is what you need. (

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