Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lawnmower Man

For the first forty-seven years of my life, I lived in New York City, in a succession of apartments. Mowing a lawn was something other people did, like driving a car or voting Republican. But I  was dimly aware of lawn mower trends, and I watched in contempt as suburbanites upgraded from manual mowers to power mowers to what looked like small cars, just to keep their lawns trim. I vowed that, if I ever had to mow a lawn, I'd use a manual mower. My reasons were environmental, and political, and moral: I disapproved of the do-less-work/burn-more-oil trend. Wasn't there anything Americans could do by themselves, without a loud machine to do the heavy lifting? Zero turning radius indeed.

Admittedly, this is an easy position to take when there's no lawn to mow and no likelihood of one. But now we're in Richmond. Last December, we moved to to a house with a small front yard and a mid-sized back yard. Sure enough, spring came, the green stuff grew, and it was time to stop talking and start pushing. A friend recommended the Fiskars mower. We got one. I used it for the first time last Friday.

The results: the mower is terrific on grass. It moves easily, and tosses up a green wave of clippings. It's fun.

Negatives: it's useless on tall weeds. It just pushes them over without cutting anything. Repeated passes make little difference, so I ended up just pulling them. Also, the mower jams pretty easily on any pieces of wood thicker than a twig. When that happens, roll it backwards a few feet and the jam clears. Of course the tall weeds and chunks of wood say something about the condition of our lawn. We're not talking putting green. I expect both of these problems to disappear over time, as I pull the weeds and pick up the fallen branches.

Bottom line: the mower works. I can get out there early in the morning, while it's still cool, and mow the lawn without disturbing the neighbors. Because this mower runs on smugness, and I've got deep reserves.

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