Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Green Green Grass of Home

Years ago, I used to mow my own lawn. Which reminds me -- I was once swapping stories with a Jewish friend about stereotypes that gentiles have about Jews and Jews have about gentiles. So I asked my friend how he could tell when a gentile family lived in the neighborhood. He said, "Because the guy's wife mows the lawn." Haaa. 
          Anyhoo, speaking of gentiles mowing the lawn, I had a wonderful, durable, Jacobsen mower with a Briggs & Stratton engine. That mower was the closest I've come to owning a Rolls Royce. I even learned how to properly take care of it. Spark plugs, changing the oil, that sort of thing. After twenty some years, my sturdy American mower gave out and I purchased a Honda. Honda makes great automotive products. Translate that into lawn mower technology and you've got a mower that cuts grass at motorcycle speeds and costs as much as a car.
          As for maintaining it yourself, Honda made sure nothing was visible, not to mention, accessible, when you opened up the engine. I never found anything resembling a spark plug. After a year of trying to keep up with this overpowered, badly-engineered machine, I was pleased to discover that my hips were giving out -- from sports -- not mowing lawns. So about eight years ago, I took that as a sign to give my lawn mowing skills a rest. And I sold the Honda for more than the Jacobsen cost new.
          Since then, I've had a lawn service, opting for the cheapest I could find, when it became obvious that NONE of them could tell a weed from a flower, no matter how hard I tried to explain myself. Mostly I begged them to be careful, pointing out the danger areas or the delicate blooms that would be lost. Clearly my three years of high school and college Spanish weren't up to the task. Plus every week, it seemed, a different group showed up and I was often at work.
          I lost my my beautiful, eight-foot tall, deep purple clematis, when a giant mower blade decapitated it at ground level. TWICE. My gorgeous orange poppies became victims of a weedwacker, whose operator thought they were thistles. I used to have eight different kinds of hosta. Now I have two. My patch of pachysandra and the long row of day lilies I planted myself are now history. 
         For ten minutes each week, the lawn service came to my house, made more noise than a freight train, moved all my lawn furniture, didn't put it back, then charged me $35 a visit, until I found one that only charged $25. What happened to the kids who used to mow lawns to save money for college? I put an ad in the high school paper once and got ZERO replies. I'd pay a kid $20. The season runs from March through November. That's $720 for my lawn alone. Three lawns is over $2100 to put away for school. Meanwhile, the service was costing me over $1000 easy. Especially when you add the spring and fall rip-offs clean ups.
          Each week the crew would emerge from their truck, like circus clowns climbing out of a car. You can't believe so many people fit into such a small space. They'd open the back of their pick up and pull out industrial strength lawnmowers, more suited to the lawns of Windsor Castle than my tiny plot. One of the mowers was so large that the operator had to stand on it to see over the giant handlebar steering thingy.
          Needless to say, he only had to make two passes of my front yard and he was done. To get into my backyard, he had to use my neighbor's driveway because the space on the side of my garage with the attached porch isn't wide enough. And there's a row of arbor vitae on the other side. I'm sure my neighbor is pleased as punch with that arrangement.
          So, this year, I'm mowing my own lawn again. I got new hips, so why not. But I opted out of a gas or electric powered engine. I'm going green -- nothing to propel the blades but my own power. No noxious fumes. No loud, unmuffled engines. Call me self-righteous, but I will be a better person for doing this.
There's nothing fancy about this rig. But I could trick it out with a grass catcher.

Grass is cut as only a handmower can cut it. Badly. Now it's time to rake the lawn.

Naturally, pushing a mower, instead of being pulled along behind it at breathtaking speeds, takes some getting used to. I started out shortly after nine this morning. It's almost 1:00 PM and I haven't finished the back yard yet, what with the time outs to check my email, etc. It also took me a minute or two and a couple of phone calls to figure out how to get the blades low enough to actually cut the grass and not just nip the tops off. And I think I should invest in a grass catcher.
          Yes. There will be photos. Here's a link to a guy who bought a solar-powered lawn mower. I thought it was a great idea until I heard the noise it made. That sound is as bad as exhaust fumes.   
          UPDATE: Working in twenty minute increments, I finished mowing the lawn in just three days. Have I mentioned that the mower needs a grass catcher? An edger and some dandelion killer would help, too. The good news is that by lowering my standards, this is doable. 


Donna said...

Cliff mows most of our yards with a riding mower and sometimes even with the John Deere tractor. However, I refuse to let him near any of my flowers or trees. I push mow my back yard because of all the flowers, and I push-mow around the trees in the front yard so he won't get too close. If it were up to him, there would not be a flower or tree in any yard of his.

Mrs. L said...