Monday, May 30, 2011

The Musings of a Manual Mower

Today, Memorial Day, I mowed my yard with a power mower for the first time since we bought our house almost four years ago. The incessant rain of the last several weeks had turned my yard into a jungle and I just didn't have the extra hours this added thickness of grass would add to the work my Great States reel type mower and I have done routinely handled together over our tenure in this house.

My Great States reel-type mower. Other name plates are made by the same manufacturer.

So I borrowed my neighbor Joe's 22 inch mulching power mower. He assured me the Earth would forgive me. Joe's is not a fancy mower -- not self-propelled or bagging or any such fancy stuff, but it seems reliable and started easily on the first pull.

Cutting grass with such a mower for the first time in a few years allows for a fresh comparison. If you're thinking about getting that polluter out of your garage, here's my take on it.

How much of a polluter your lawn mower is depends on its vintage and how well it's running. Since 1995, regulations have reduced mower emissions substantially, and those regulations have been phased in over time. While mowers, of course, contribute far less emissions in total than do cars and trucks, an average mower (in 2008) pollutes 11 times as much per hour according to the EPA.

Today's mowing took a little less time, made a lot more noise, and sprayed grass clippings about in ways I'm not accustomed to. Given the height of the grass, it was also a lot less effort. And, I really, really appreciated the mower and Joe's generosity in lending it. But I hope I can go at least another four years before I feel the need to use a power mower again.

I still had to walk about the same distance, pushing a thingy around that had sharp spinning blades, move things in the yard out of the way (and back), and sweat a bunch. I couldn't listen to podcasts whilst I mowed as I've become accustomed to doing. There are grass clippings strewn about my driveway and up my picket fence (but I figure the incessant rain will take care of that before too long).

I burned up more gas (than the none that I typically burn), and burned off at least a few fewer calories than standard. And I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as my typical quiet little walk about the yard.

It also struck me as being only slightly easier than my typical mowing job, and I've got things slightly out of adjustment on my mower that cost less than $100 new several years ago. I actually inherited it from Dad and I'm not sure quite how old it is. (Click the link to see other reflections on what I inherited from Dad).

I need to work on fine tuning the space between the blades and the cutting bar and stop fantasizing about the new models of reel type mowers that are now available. (Note that the placement of that link doesn't represent an endorsement of the company selling the different models available -- it's only intended to point you to a source of information on what's available).

Looking at what's newly available shows some models that can be raised to a 4" cutting height. Maybe if I had one of those, I'd not have felt the need to use non-human power on the lawn today.

Bottom line: This wet weather let my lawn become more than me and my reel-type mower were willing to handle, but I hope and expect to go at least four more years before using a mower powered by anything but me again. If you're mowing with a walk-behind gasoline-powered mower, consider changing to human-powered mowing.

Don Duggan-Haas


Chuck Wentzel said...

Having used a reel mower for 7 years, and more recently a gas mower (mulching, rear wheel drive) for 5 years, let me add: A reel mower can't cut high grass - it just pushes it over. So now that I've switched, I definitely cut less often. Additionally, the gas mower's mulching ability cuts back on a lot of raking leaves in the autumn. And I was surprised to find that I did less to maintain the gas mower than to maintain the reel mower (maybe just dumb luck). But, like Don Duggan-Haas, I miss the quiet!

JJ's said...

A really nice read!