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THE COUNTRY LIFE: To mow or not to mow

September 9, 2013 Updated: September 9, 2013 at 7:35 pm
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photo - Weeds along Jones Road in eastern El Paso County were mowed last month. 

BILL RADFORD, THE GAZETTe
Weeds along Jones Road in eastern El Paso County were mowed last month. BILL RADFORD, THE GAZETTe 

While you'll find plenty of weed-infested lots in Colorado Springs, well-manicured lawns are the expectation - assuming you've gone the lawn route in our semi-arid climate.

In the country, my wife and I decided in the spring that, except for a tiny, lush front lawn that benefits from a sprinkler system, we would go for a natural look on our 5 acres. We would see what flowers, wild grasses, etc. decided to sprout. We were delighted with little yellow flowers that were popping up everywhere and intrigued by soaring grasses with crisscrossing blades.

So we sold our riding mower, which had been sitting in the garage since we bought it along with our home last fall. I figured if a need to mow arose, I'd use my trusty, gas-powered push mower and get some exercise.

"You're an idiot," my brother told me.

Maybe so. Because then July came, accompanied by the monsoon rains. Everything was suddenly green and growing - seemingly inches overnight. Even our pasture, where we figured hungry horses would keep things in check, was out of control.

So out came the mower. And as I got to mowing, I had to admit: I preferred the trimmed look. It was ... tidy. (And after endless hours of mowing, I also had to admit that selling the riding mower might not have been the smartest move.)

The county has been busy mowing, too; last month, weeds along the roads in my area were mowed.

That mowing was just part of a summerlong attack on weeds, said Max Kirschbaum, operations manager for the Public Services Department of El Paso County. The rights of way throughout unincorporated El Paso County, except for some neighborhood areas, are mowed once a year (some medians are mowed more often.) That effort, involving eight mowers and a mix of county and seasonal employees, starts in late June in the far northwest corner of El Paso County and moves clockwise, Kirschbaum said, typically ending by the end of September in the southwest corner.

"It's a lot of ground to cover with eight mowers," he said. That's for sure: It adds up to about 2,000 miles of road, but 4,000 miles of mowing since both sides of the road are mowed. To put that in perspective, the width of the United States from coast to coast is about 3,000 miles.

The timing of the mowing worked out perfectly for where I live in the Falcon area east of the Springs, coming after the weeds' explosive growth.

"We're kind of at the mercy of Mother Nature on this," Kirschbaum said; areas that were mowed first may see weeds sprout back up by summer's end. But, he said, "we only have the resources to hit them once."

Why mow? Mostly safety and visibility, Kirschbaum said. The mowed areas could also serve as a firebreak in the case of a grass fire, he noted. And, lastly, he said, "just for appearance's sake."

As far as my mowing duties, they may be pretty much ended for this year; the rains have eased and fall is beckoning.

So instead of mow or not to mow, the next question I could be wrestling with is: Do I get a snow blower?

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Bill Radford and his wife moved from Colorado Springs to the countryside east of the city last fall, where they live with a menagerie that includes three horses, two goats, three dogs, two cats, a half-dozen chickens, two rabbits, two guinea pigs and two parrots. Contact him: Twitter @billradfordiii, gazettebillradford on Facebook.

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