Saturday, May 31, 2008

Graduation Day

Our old electric lawn mower from Costco started to sound more like an egg beater so I kissed it goodbye and joined the ranks of modern push-reelers. It's a great feeling not to be trailing that power cord through the garden, knocking over my lettuces and onion plants. And now I don't have to answer any more questions about how much coal the local power plant is burning so I can cut my grass.

I took the plunge after I noticed more and more of my neighbors ditching their two-stroke mowers (terrible polluters) for good, old-fashioned muscle power. Just lowering the noise level in our neighborhood--replacing the horrible din of gasoline engines with the gentle rattle of the push reel--is worth the switch.

Did you know that more gas is spilled filling lawn mowers each year than all the oil spilled by the Exxon-Valdez?

I did a bit of research on the internet and found you can spend $250 on a European reel mower. I opted for this Sunlawn model with a 14-inch-wide reel priced at $142 at Amazon. It arrived two days after I ordered it (free shipping) and took about 10 minutes to attach the handle assemble to the reel.

The blades are said to stay sharp for up to 10 years. What I like best about it is, it only weighs 16 pounds. Cheaper mowers are heavier. Not only is this one easy to carry from one place to another on our urban lot, but it hardly feels like pushing anything at all.

The push-reel doesn't cut as neatly as the power mower. Thin stalks of fine weeds manage to survive several passes. But we've never attempted to have a perfect lawn. We've never fertilized (just let the clippings fall in place) or applied any herbicides (we make dandelion wine). The yard's full of all different kinds of grasses, weeds and clovers. I imagine if you stayed on top of your mowing chores, you'd hardly be able to tell that you'd switched from power to manual.

I noticed that every few minutes mowing our overgrown lawn the height setting on the mower needed re-adjusting. I attribute that to having let the lawn go too long between cuttings. On this particular model, the highest setting is 2 inches. I wish it were a bit higher. Some models will cut as high as 3 inches.

I don't think it took me any longer to mow the yard with the push-reel than it did with the electric mower. We have some steeply sloping areas that I was concerned about, but I managed. Edges also are a bit of an issue: I'll have to come behind the reel mower with our electric line trimmer. What I will miss are the clippings for my compost pile.

Yesterday we stopped by the hardware store and there were all kinds of reel mowers on display. Apparently we're part of a healthy trend. That's something to feel good about.


Joanna said...

My grandfather had an old-fashioned version of this. We have come full circle, and that's a good thing in this context. How much grass have you got? Presumably you had to do some sort of edging in the noisy old days?

Good on you

K said...

A rake and a broom will pick up those grass clippings or you could
give a helping hand to those neighbours who have more grass to
mow. A kind word and an offer of
help goes a long way.


susan harris said...

Options in mowing height are a major limitation of most mowers, even the nice push ones like yours. WHEN is somebody going to make the mower that organic gardeners are looking for?

Pattie said...

Ed: Congrats! Welcome to the club! Push on for the Planet!

And, by the way, I got a manual edger, and I like it even MORE than the mower! It does such a nice sharp job and it has a satisfying sound and feel to it. I find myself edging my neighbor's curbsides as well! Also, I got a pair of lawn sheers for those edges you can't reach any other way. Using the lawn sheers was my job as a child and I have very tender memories about it, so that's a pleasure, too (that I'm trying to share with my kids!)

I love pushing the lawn mower, the pleasant clickety clack sound mine makes, and ESPECIALLY that everyone who goes by stops and talks with me.

Ed Bruske said...

Joanna, most people remember those old push mowers that were heavy as lead. We don't plan on having grass much longer, so I'm content to have this smaller, light-weight model.

K, I agree about the rake and broom. And I will be getting much closer to some of my neighbors to harvest those grass clippings for my compost.

Susan, there's such a diversity of options on the different mowers. I compromised on the cutting height to get the width and weight I wanted. But I don't see any reason why they couldn't have designed this mower to cut higher. Someone should contact the manufacturer. (In fact, Sunlawn contact me wanted to send a press kit. Maybe I'll pass this suggestion along.)

Patty, I really like mowing now, too. I get up in the morning hoping the grass will be tall enough. Trimming for me is a big deal. I have to get down on all fours with my shears to cut around all the vegetable beds. It's turning me into a neat freak.