posts tagged with 'lawn care'

outdoor learning in the suburbs

One of my favorite things about learning at home is how much time we get to spend outside. Tons of playing, of course, and educational play opportunities like when the kids spent an hour last week picking wild grapes and then made grape lemonade. But also the chance to do more traditional schooling stuff out of doors amidst the beauty and decay of the early fall garden. All the fresh air makes those math brains work better! The only problem with outdoor learning in the suburbs is that you have a good chance it's going to be hard to hear each other. Because pretty much, as long as it's nice out someone's going to be busy with loud gas-powered lawn care.

Elijah and a friend using math manipulatives at the picnic table with a riding mower working behind them

the joys of garden school

I don't keep records, but it seems to me that the same thing happened last week at the same time. At least the lawn-service guys know their business and get in and out pretty quickly so we only had to deal with the obnoxious drone of the mowers, trimmers, and blowers for about 20 minutes—and it was only too loud to hear each other talk for about half that time. Then they left, and we were able to converse easily again... at least when there weren't airplanes buzzing overhead on their way to land at the airport a mile away.

As for our own lawn care, I'm proud to report I haven't contributed one bit to the noise pollution of the neighborhood in the past couple months. I'm so impressive, using the push reel mower exclusively ever since my gas mower stopped working!


fall regrets

Our maple tree gets color late in the fall; late and underwhelming. (Why couldn't the previous owners have put in a sugar maple in the middle of the lawn instead of a Norway maple?) As I look out the window now, though, it's browning leaves are colored orange by the rising sun and it looks as good as it's ever going to. Properly fall-like.

The waning days of the fall make me think of the failures of this past summer, yard-wise. One, we didn't use the hammock nearly as much as we should have. I always want to make sure it's put away when it's going to be wet out, and too often I was late putting it up again so fine days went by without anyone being able to use it. Worse, towards the second half of the summer I "temporarily" took apart the hammock stand to mow the lawn... and it never got put back together. Tragedy!

And speaking of mowing. Remember how last year I talked big about using the push reel mower all summer? Well, in the fall I got a working power mower so I could chop up leaves, then in the spring I thought I'd use it for the first pass over the fast-growing grass. That was it, the push mower never made it out of the shed all summer. The good news is the lawn is still in good shape—delightfully green. I was telling a friend the other day, "it's mostly weeds, but they're all perennial weeds so they hold their color!" But I did feel pretty guilty every time I started up that gasoline engine. Using a power mower is habit-forming, I think; you get used to those straight, even rows of cut grass and it's hard to go back to the more naturalistic effect produced by the push reel mower.

Oh well. At least we had many lovely adventures, and got to travel more than ever before, and spent lots of time swimming. Now we're looking forward to winter fun. And next summer will be perfect!


lawn report

close-up of grass, mower in the background

lush grass

Summer weather is hanging on yet, and I'm still mowing the lawn. And I'm delighted to report that, true to hopes expressed back in April, we're still going strong with the old push reel mower. Not only has it done a fine job with the grass all summer, it seems to be doing better and better every time I mow.

I have no real idea why that might be. But I have two theories. First, I do think that the mower sharpens itself—the way the blades scrape against the cutter bar seems to at least wear them into a finer point. Second, I think the grass is growing better this year—more tender and easier to cut—than ever before. Obviously there are a lot of factors in play—the weather surely plays a part—but I'd bet that at least part of the improvement is due to the mower. The way the blades work is a scissor-like action, rather than the high speed sword-like force of a power mower, and each blade of grass gets cut much more cleanly. I'm sure that's healthier for the plants, and lets them start growing again quickly and more evenly.

Or I could just be making it all up. Maybe next year the lawn will prove impossible without a power mower and I'll have to take it all back. But for now, at least, I have some advice for anyone considering a push real mower: keep at it! Don't do what I did, and give up when at first your brand-new mower doesn't work perfectly. It'll get better! Just look at the picture heading this post—have you ever seen more inviting grass? Free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and, now, free of gasoline residue too. Perfect for lying down on... as long as it stays warm.


our kind of mower

the mower in the lawn

effective technology

It's hard to believe, given that it feels like it was just winter the other day, but I thought it necessary to give the lawn its first trim of the season yesterday. Continuing my practice from the end of last year, I brought out the push reel mower. The six-year-old from next door was interested. "That's a weird mower!" she said. "We have... a different one."

We do too; two in fact. The one I bought all those years ago and one I got for free from a friend. Right now they're both broken—I got the second one in hopes of fixing the first. And I will, someday: there are good uses for power mowers. Composting leaves, for example. But for mowing our lawn, which really isn't that big now that we've reclaimed so much of it for garden and muddy play space, so much internal combustion isn't really necessary.

I used to think it was, because for ten years I didn't think the push reel mower worked. It turns out I just needed to use it for a little while and it would sharpen itself. Now it works like a charm, at least on the tender spring grass. And worrying about clippings laying on the lawn? I haven't bagged the clippings for years. So few downsides, and a couple nice advantages—mainly that the sound is a pleasant whir rather than a deafening mechanical whine. With the beautiful spring weather we've had to endure two straight days of mowing and blowing from the neighbors' yards, and it is horrible. Down with gas power! Up with human power! Push reel mowers for all!


my meadow lark

a view of the lawn showing mown and unmown portions

a study in contrasts

As the summer shifted slowly, fitfully into gear, I started to become aware of the necessity of mowing the lawn. In a moment of enthusiasm I brought out the push reel mower and took care of maybe a quarter of the grassy area before other necessities intervened; then between the painting and the rain it was over a week before I thought about the matter again. By that point the grass had gotten pretty tall—too tall for the reel mower to handle effectively. No problem: I do own a power mower. Only when I brought it out, it wouldn't start.

So I gave it an oil change and a new air filter (which of course took a couple days, as I had to get around to procuring said oil and filter). Still nothing. (As an aside, if Alan is reading this I'd be delighted to trade something—jam? eggs? tomato futures?—for some small-engine repair classes.) While my various failures continued the grass reached knee height.

Yesterday I did what I should have done right away, which is to ask a neighbor to borrow a working mower; and today hacked my way through the tangled thickets to restore a useable lawn. It's not that what we had before the mowening was unattractive, to us at least: the tall seed stalks were quite pretty waving in the breeze or jeweled with morning dew. But it wasn't really functional as a play space, and the neighbors were starting to wonder about us. Wonder about us even more, that is. Now, in the area of lawn care at least, we're once again safely within the bounds of suburban normalcy.

Well, almost. I did leave a little patch of tall grass as a nod to prairie restoration.