I live in a neighborhood where people don’t mow their own lawns. I mean…a few of them do but most of them don’t. They work hard. Some of them travel a lot. Some of them probably grew up with “staff”. In my neighborhood, the sight of a woman mowing her lawn is so odd that people slow down, slack-jawed and stare as they drive past (I live on a busy street).
One day almost two years ago I slipped and rolled down a hill in my yard while mowing my lawn. It was the middle of the day, my 18 month old son was napping in his room, no one was around, and I was negotiating a particularly steep part of my yard when my foot slipped and I fell with a burning hot, gas filled, 60 lb, blade spinning, limb severing machine of death. We tumbled over each other like a pair of clumsy lovers and arrived at the bottom of the slope – me scream-breathing and the lawn mower sputtering and then still. I picked myself up, brushed off the blades of grass, and hauled that hulk of metal and petrol back up the hill, all the while thinking about what could have happened if the mower blade had nicked an artery, or if I had broken a limb and my highly active toddler had woken up from his nap. I did my mom-hysteria laugh for a few minutes, then I got serious. I fucking hated this lawn mower.
Thank God it hated me too.
Two months later it quit in protest. Perhaps it was tired of my lumpy, mossy, gigantic yard with multiple 90 degree slopes. Perhaps it didn’t like me on principle. One spring it decided to never start again. At the time my husband had just started a company with a few friends, and we couldn’t afford to buy a new lawn mower. Also at that time, I was incapable of thinking outside the gas powered lawn mower box. I decided to become an expert lawn mower mechanic. I watched YouTube videos on lawn mower repair. I would disappear into the garage and emerge days later with greasy hands, frizzy hair, and profane language spewing from my pores. I replaced the spark plugs, the air filter, I cleaned the carburetor, changed the oil, tried adding acetone to the gas tank…nothing worked. The last thing I tried was kicking my lawn mower and yelling at it. It still didn’t start.
Go to Hell, lawn mower. You are so terrible, you don’t even have a name.
Time passed. Winter happened. Grass stopped growing. I started working – a lot. The Lawn Boy languished in the garage like a 30 year old still living in his parents basement: watching daytime TV and eating stale marshmallows from the baking cupboard. In the mean time, I did some research and discovered The Push Mower. It’s name…is Walter. I envision my push mower as a male in his early 40s, with a high waisted pants and spindly arms, who wears thick-rimmed eye glasses and short-sleeved button downed shirts. The uniform of the 50s dad.
According to The Art of Manliness: “the reel [push] mower isn’t just a viable option, but is in some instances superior to its gas-powered cousins.” To that I would like to add “it’s so easy, even a lady could use it”. Or any woman. In fact, if I pushed my gas-powered beast around while I was pregnant while my husband sat inside and complained of a “grass allergy” I think the whole lawn mowing as a manly art thingy needs to be reevaluated. But I don’t wish to rabbit trail this article. Here’s the meat of the matter: push mowers are so awesome, so much easier, greener, and sexier…I am still trying to figure out why everyone doesn’t do it.
Why everyone claims they can’t use a push mower
1) Space: In my neighborhood, the houses are built as large as possible, so most of the yards are only the size of a quilt square. There goes THAT argument. For those of you with bigger lawns…I mowed my 8025 square foot parcel in less time than my gas mower.
2) Energy: This is the thing that really made me think twice. Ultimately, I deciced to buy the mower because I am fighting a teensy bit of sedentary office worker weight gain (12 lbs since August 2014) and I thought that I would get a better workout with a push mower. Wrong. This mower is so light and airy that it took less energy and less time to finish my lawn. I felt kind of…cheated.
3) Maintenance: Yeah, you have to sharpen the blades of your push mower every year or two. You know what you don’t have to do? Shlepp to the gas station and fill up a can of incendiary liquid and then transport it and store it near or in your place of residence. You don’t have to change any oil, or filters, or carburetors.
There is some weirdness with a push mower.
Oh yeah…fantastic weirdness.
1) The sound. It sounds weird. For people like me who have been conditioned to think that the smoky roar of a gas powered mower is a true sign of spring, the push mower will alarm you. It sounds like grass being cleanly and efficiently sliced. The mower makes a crisp, subtle whoosh as it cuts through grass. I felt conspicuous at first but once I got over it I enjoyed the metallic, sharp sound of my grass being subdued.
2) The Look. Oh…my Tesla/BMW/Lexus/Mercedes-driving neighbors were appalled at my gas powered mowing from last year, but the push mower was just.too.much. One woman even stopped her SUV in the middle of the intersection that I live at to swivel her head and stare. Although I was acutely self conscious the first time I mowed, after 10 minutes I decided to own it: I’m a woman, a working woman, I don’t wear Prada, I drive an old Jetta, and I mow my own damned lawn…on my own womanly power. Hear me roar!!
3) The mess. Walter (my push mower) has a mulch-catching basket. This time around I decided to let it mulch the lawn because it’s good for the grass, so I haven’t tested the basket yet. I prefer to toss the lawn clippings onto the compost heap (stinky black gold). So next time I’ll try the mulch basket out so I can compost some of those fantastic, nitrogen-rich greens.
4) The quality of lawn. I was satisfied with the quality of the clipping from my $80 push mower. The mower had the ability to very easily adjust the grass height, and I never had trouble getting through longer grass. There were a few parts of my lawn that I let go and they were over 6″ long – those parts had to be remowed. This wouldn’t have happened with a gas powered mower…but I wouldn’t trade the experience. Now that I actually own a functioning mower my grass won’t get that long again.
The verdict: Oh, I think you know where I stand here. The push mower is lighter, doesn’t require maintenance other than a yearly blade sharpening, it’s quiet, cute, better for the earth, and better for your lawn, and you can easily store it even if you don’t have a garage. I easily mowed my lumpy, sloping, mossy, 8000+ square feet in less effort than with a gas or electric mower. And I have smug-points for being energy neutral (I ran off of pure butt-cellulite power).
I think Walter and I are going to get along juuuuust fine.