Home' Waiheke Weekender : July 26th 2012 Contents 26 July 2012
2 Waiheke Weekender
I'm not sure where
I frst read it or
heard it but there’s
a reasonably famous
quote along the line
of… “For a man,
happiness is a great
quential for most
people who would
regard this as ‘sweat-
ing the small stuff’, I
can in fact relate to this one hundred percent.
I like, in fact love, a good looking, weed-
free, bouncy, textured and closely weaved green
lawn. It’s a harmless mild enough obsession and
you ought to humour me rather than think I’ve
completely lost the plot.
Not sure where this obsession frst began but
I have a history of mowing lawns from an early
age. The little two-bedroom brick state house
at 166 Main Highway in Ellerslie had, as many
homes did in the ffties, an enormous piece of
lawn – enough for about eight townhouses. All
of which now sit quite comfortably on what used
to be a small football feld and orchard.
From an early age it was my responsibil-
ity to mow this vast expanse – initially with
an old-fashioned hand mower. Those heavy
iron-wheeled beasts with a long wooden handle
that made a loud clickety-clack noise and had a
wooden roller that seemed as about as ineffectual
as the rest of the mower.
My father did not enjoy great health as a
result of having TB as a teenager and so push-
ing a mower was not possible. I loved it and
although it took the best part of four hours I was
well rewarded and got two shillings and sixpence
(the equivalent of 25 cents) for my endeavours.
Today’s generation would probably sniff at what
they’d consider an insultingly paltry wage but in
the late ffties, for a young boy this was good
money. Besides I enjoyed mowing in much the
same way blokes these days love riding a tractor,
you’re transported to a state of neutral grace…a
gentle place with peace of mind, secure in the
knowledge that you’re actually doing something.
It’s a bloke thing, a bit like being left alone to
potter around in your garage doing absolutely
Eventually the hand-mower was replaced
with a new trendy Masport motor mower that
did the job signifcantly faster and with a greater
level of expertise.
The Ellerslie lawn was never a showpiece.
Lots of what was termed ‘Onehunga weed’ and
that mossy look that was the result of bad drain-
age. But for a few days after a low and reason-
ably ferce crewcut, it looked passable.
In my early teens I teamed up with a neigh-
bour and friend, Ken Pemberton, who lived just
round the corner in Ramsgate Street and together
we built up a local lawnmowing business. We’d
turn up together, each pushing our parents’
mower and with a can of appropriate petrol-go
for it. With two mowers attacking the one lawn
at a time, we could rattle through at least half a
dozen lawns on a Saturday afternoon. Without
realising it we probably had an early version
of a greenacres franchise. However we were
not exactly your manicured specialists, more
your rough and ready have-
mowers-will-travel kind of
The grumpy Miss
Goodwin, an unsmiling hair-
net-wearing spinster would
come and closely inspect
our work and invariably
want some part of the lawn
“done again, and proper this
time thank you boys”.
It was ten shillings per
lawn unless it was exces-
sively large and we’d nego-
tiate on price. Ten shillings
(one dollar) was an excellent income for two lads
still at school in the early sixties. From memory
I don’t recall ever paying any tax and I hope
the IRD won’t come looking for some redress
all these years later. At the height of our busi-
ness we had about twenty clients and looking
back could have had, and perhaps should have
created, an extremely well-paying empire – ulti-
mately fnishing up in executive managerial and
administrative roles and employing other lack-
eys to do the hard graft.
Alas we lost interest and the burden and pres-
sures of secondary school took their toll. Ken
has gone on to have a distinguished career in
primary and intermediate school education,
captained the frst ffteen at St. Peters College
and was a marauding and ferce tackling forward
in my magnifcent Ellerslie Eagles third grade
rugby league team that was undefeated for…oh,
I forget how many years now!
My lawns at the various houses I’ve owned
since marriage in the late sixties were only
ever so-so despite a huge amount of effort. On
Waiheke, most of our sprawling small acreage is
well cared for by Ken Mountain who has been
managing the property for over a decade now and
loves nothing better than riding the John Deere.
A smallish fatter area that surrounds the house
is what I regard as the more manicured present-
able lawn and apart from the initial Readylawn
we put down, has had a mixed history. Once the
Readylawn had to contend with a coastal envi-
ronment, rabbits, ducks, dogs and pukeko as
well as the fact that I didn’t treat it with the due
respect and care, it gave up. I then discovered
the genial American turf expert and golf course
supremo – Jeffrey Asche. He was doing brilliant
things creating a neighbour’s mini golf course. I
approached and offered him a decent challenge –
The Hawkesby Lawn.
“No worries,” he said,
“I’ll do you a programme but
it’s going to take a couple of
summers to do properly and
if you want a decent long
term result you’ll have to put
in irrigation for the summer
I am thrilled to report that
what previously passed as
‘the grass area’ is now fabu-
lous to walk on, weedfree
and looks great… So much
so, that a fastidious nephew
who hadn’t visited for sometime commented on
how good the lawns were. No, it hasn’t been an
expensive exercise, what you pay for is profes-
sional expertise and some fertiliser and other
lawn products that you toss around by hand, then
keep the labrador from eating.
For me, having great lawns is far more satis-
fying than buying the latest technology or mag-
wheels for the car.
Big deal…each to their own.
I like, in fact love, a good
looking, weedfree, bouncy,
textured and closely
weaved green lawn. It's
a harmless mild enough
obsession and you ought
to humour me rather than
think I've completely lost
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