So you wanna use a manual mower

I use a push-powered mower because I really love the environment. It’s also what the first lawnmower I remember was and nostalgia is a sad, powerful force. Oh, and I’m cheap. I hate spending money on things I don’t enjoy and I don’t enjoy putting gas in the lawn mower.

But mostly because I love the environment.

It’s been about ten years since I took the plunge on mowing the icky hard way.  I’ve learned some things.  One is that the push-mower is definitely an easier to maintain piece of equipment than a gas-powered one.  We had to repair our gas-powered mowers every single year, and replaced them almost every other year.  This is my second push-mower in ten years and I never do any maintenance on it other than occasionally dump it upside down to shake grass clippings out of it.

Still not 100% certain the first mower needed to be replaced at all. It was missing like a nut or a screw – we couldn’t keep the height-regulation set.  It’d go low and get caught more often. I digress.

Downsides. This thing cuts grass. It cuts grass very well. It does not cut dandelion stems very well. Nor does it cut that annoying weed with the tough thin stem.  You know the one.  Like a green Q-tip.  The manual mower will push over and let pop up anything that is not grass and is over six inches tall. The solution is to mow every damn week. You can’t be lazy with a push-mower.

Oh, you’re thinking “Marie, if I were lazy I’d be on a planet-destroying riding mower, not huffing and pushing gears over my grass!” But you’d be wrong. There are plenty of ways to be lazy.  I’m willing to work hard, but not often.  I’m that idiot struggling to carry every last piece of luggage in one trip.  Because I’m lazy.

It sucks cutting grass that isn’t really LONG yet.  It’s hard to see where you’ve cut and where you haven’t.

Last week it rained every freaking day and I didn’t get to mow.  The rotary mower is like unto a salad spinner for satisfaction when the grass is long enough to start looking disreputable but short enough not to give you the aforementioned bend-and-not-break-weeds.  I enjoy the push mower at these times. If you can  hit that sweet spot…

It can be particularly gratifying to watch yellow dandelion heads flying before you.

The push mower doesn’t spray a sloppy mulch of grass clippings like a powered mower would. The clippings spring out in a wider fan and don’t even need to be raked up. You can slow down as you approach the sidewalk and edges to avoid spraying clippings onto pavement, even.  That’s a lazy advantage.  Not that I’m the sort to go sweeping up my clippings. I figure they are as good as a sign declaring “HEY I MOWED.”

Why do we mow? Ugh. How did we get so invested in this image of tiny plots of short-cropped grass?  I suppose it’s so your normal-sized house looks like a vast manor over its acres of sheep grazing.  Now I’m imagining itty bitty sheep. I digress again.

When you use a push mower, you learn every divot and dimple in your yard. Your yard is NOT flat.  My yard sure as hell isn’t and I think it gets less flat every year.  It’s got more dimples than a golf ball and they are all conveniently wheel-sized to stop the mower dead.

Then let me talk about slopes.  My lawn has this steep slope at the very front. I hated pushing a heavy gas powered mower up that. I thought a reel mower at least would be lighter, but it doesn’t actually feel any easier to push up a hill because, well, it’s pushing a thing up a hill.  The dimples occur on slopes, too. That is really fun. Nothing like grunting halfway up an incline and stopping cold. Because I am, as mentioned, really really lazy, I always mow in whatever shoes I wore to work. You have not lived until you’re pushing a mower up a slope into a divot in wedge sandals.

At first I’d try to just get inertia going – get a running start – and that would get me up the slope. Well, it would, but going fast would prevent the actual cutting of the grass, which defeats the purpose.

If the grass is damp – which it will be since you’re mowing every week to keep up with the damn uncuttable weeds – the clippings can gum up the works. Sometimes you can toe the blade to force the clump out, but that always feels a bit like sticking your foot in a shark’s mouth.  Mostly I pick up the whole mower and tip it upside down. That takes time and strength and is not a graceful feat.

You are NOT going to get away with just mowing over that twig you see. Or that pinecone. Or that other pinecone.  Trust me.  I keep trying, and I keep having to dig the things out of my blades.  Much like that bit of paper the vacuum won’t get, you just gotta pick it up.

The push-mower will get closer to the base of a tree than a gas-mower. You still need a weed whacker, though, if you’re going to trim right up to trees and such.  I bought a non-powered weed whacker but it turned out to be a sharp blade on a stick.  You swing it and… so far I haven’t learned the trick to make this work any better than using hedge trimmers, so I’m not weed whacking by hand. I’m not weed whacking at all. I’m lazy.  My goal with mowing is just to avoid my neighbor’s ire.

But, after spending an hour to do what would be a half-hour’s work with a motor’s help, and bending over and picking a few dandelions I missed and rubbing the blisters on my palms, I do have the satisfaction of knowing that I reduced my footprint on this earth just a teeny bit.

And it beats a gym membership. Right?

Man. I must really love the earth.

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