How I Celebrated Earth Day

That's not me in the photo, so you can stop laboring under the false belief that I have toned thighs and a great tan. We need to stop that rumor right here.

However, that lawn mower does resemble my lawn mower.

Pretty darn spiffy, isn't it?

Yes, that's a lawn mower.

It's what is often times referred to as a "reel mower". Perhaps you've seen one in a dark corner of your grandmother's basement, next to the 40-year-old cans of pickled chow-chow and covered in cobwebs. Perhaps you even had to try to move your granny's old-timey reel mower to get to the chow-chow and you were instantly caught off-guard by the sheer heft and general immovability of the rusted-out landscaping behemoth. I believe that my own mother's old reel mower weighed somewhere between 100 and 150 tons and took a team of oxen four hours to drag it around our 1/12th acre in-town back yard.

But this ain't your granny's reel mower.

The reel mowers of today weigh about 20 pounds or less and a good one costs in the $150 range. The first newer reel mower I bought cost about $95 at Sears and it cut grass just dandy. I can only imagine that the $200 reel mowers lovingly trim each blade of grass with the precision and elan of a Garren New York stylist.

What else?

Well, Chateau Halushki is situated on a rolling, near-1/3 acre estate in a 1970's subdivision, and the owners desperately try to maintain some grass in the back yard, with the front yard being slowly turned over to eco-friendly, low-maintenance native plants (i.e. dandelions and wild strawberry, i.e. weeds) and natural landscaping (i.e. dirt). If you're as spacially challenged as I am and have no idea how large 1/3 acre is, to give you a rough idea of how much ground we have to mow (sans house and trees), think of maybe three tennis courts worth of grass, one of which is on a 45 degree incline.

Now, with a self-propelled gas mower, it would take me roughly 30-45 minutes to mow the lawn, depending on how many Barbies and dead squirrels I had to pick out of the grass while mowing.

With a Madame Jozet-propelled reel mower, it takes roughly 45-60 minutes to mow the lawn, depending on how often I have to stop to check-out how ripped and vascular my awesome biceps

With a gas mower, I had to spend money on gas, and last I checked, a gallon was ringing-in at about $3.55. (Cost in polar bear deaths = priceless.)

With a reel mower, I have to "fuel" myself with carbs and protein: locally grown whole wheat crackers + organic peanut butter = about $ .50 per serving.

Now right there in polar bear lives and great-looking arms alone, you can see that a reel mower might be something to consider. But wait! There's more!

With a reel mower

  • You can mow at any time of day and not be the labeled The Obnoxious Neighbor Who Evidently Never Had 1) A Hangover, Or 2) A Napping Infant. Seriously, from break-of-dawn till dusk, it seems that someone is running some loud yard equipment in our neighborhood. It's like Neighbor 1 decides at 7:30 AM to start mowing his lawn, and this reminds Neighbor 2 "Oh yeah! I really should mow the lawn today!" and this reminds Neighbor 3 and so on and so forth, and all day long it's BBBRRRRRRAAAAAAAAANNNGGGRRRRAAAAA and that's just the lawn mowers. I didn't even start talking about the leaf blowers and hedge clippers. You know, one time, one of my friends joshingly poked fun at me while I was silently and elegantly raking my leaves (truly, I am a ballerina with a rake), and then she jumped into her car to drive to the gym where she was probably going to work out on some machine that simulated leaf raking except with beeps and blips and an electric hum.

    Sorry...I got off topic...

  • You can mow with your kids in the yard and not be afraid that a stone will fly up and knock someone's eye out, or that someone is going to slip under the mower and end up with a hunk of hamburger for a foot. Okay, maybe I'm the only one who worries about such things, but honestly, it could happen. Right?

  • Your 8-year-old can mow the lawn. Sure, reel mowers are still a bit sharp and slicey, but a kid would really have to go out of her way to take an appendage off (knock on wood.) Now, I'm not promising that your elementary-aged kid will be able to manage evenly spaced passes (at first), but her attempts will be good as a first run and will lessen your time at the mower. It's also a great hard-labor punishment if authoritarian parenting is your bent. Anyway, a reel mower can allow for an outdoor chore chart line much sooner than a gas mower. (Unless your kids are growing up on a farm in which case they're probably successfully running combine harvesters by 8-years-old, so never mind.)

  • Your friends will want to mow your lawn - at least once. I kid you not. Your reel mower will make you a genuine Tom Sawyer of sorts. Friends and family will be fascinated with your primitive grass-cutting contraption and want to try it for themselves just to see how much of a nut job you really are. Or, like the sledge-hammer game at a carnival midway, folks will want to test their brawn against yours by attempting to mow the other half of your yard in half your time. Let 'em have at it. Go make some more lemonade and then gush over their superior strength and stamina. Enjoy your mowed lawn.

  • You can mow your lawn and stop to talk to neighbors. I love this! It seems that a good number of folks in my neighborhood hang out on their back patios in the summer. Vive la suburbs! However, it can get a bit downright creepy at times to walk through a well-populated neighborhood and not see any of the...popules. Where is everyone? Well, there are some dog-walkers that I've met. And a few morning strollers. But perambulating around as I do, the only other time I see humans is when they are out mowing their front lawns. And because mowers are so loud and, I suppose, inconvenient to stop and then start again, the humans give a smile and cursory wave, and then it's back to mowing. With a reel mower, you can stop what you're doing, engage the passer-by in a neighborly chat about, oh, your old-timey ways and the polar beat population, etc...which, uh, may explain why people cross the street to the other side or turn around and head in the opposite direction when the see me out mowing my front lawn. Okay, strike that reason to own a reel mower.

  • Reel mowing is healthier for your grass! It's true! Reel mowers actually do scissor the grass tips oh-so-gently and precisely, while gas mower blades hack off your fescue's tiny noggins leaving a raggedy edge and a bitter turfdom.

  • Reel mowers are dead sexy. I may not look like the chick at the top right now (or ever) after a winter-long Girl Scout cookie binge, but by September, I'm going to be one pumped-up and powerful mama (with grass-stained feet.) Guys dig strong, take-charge women!

    Alright, really, guys (i.e. my husband) dig wives who mow the lawn. But I'll take the rockin' biceps as a consolation prize.

Now, of course, yes, of course, reel mowers do have a"But! But!" attached.

If you let your lawn get to knee height (not that that's ever happened here, eh-hem), it will take you at least 32 passes to get the lawn down to putting length.

Also, reel mowers don't always catch the tall wispy weeds and instead just bend them down and let them pop back up again. So, if your lawn is a bit "weedy" like ours is, you may end up with perfectly cut grass but with a spattering of stray fronds and stems poking up like the spines on a lionfish.

Here's a lionfish.

Hey, that's actually not so bad looking! I'll never look at my weedy lawn again with such disdain.

Also, if you do own a larger property with much grass (some reel mower "experts" say an acre or more), a reel mower might not be right for you unless you just love lawn mowing so much that you can't think of anything you'd rather do for twenty hours a week.

Now, of course, you could still buy a reel mower for the workout benefits and just use it for part of your lawn or part of the time. Or, if you have several children who would benefit from the moral correction profited through hard labor and enforced environmentalism, you could spread out the learning opportunity over individual chore times throughout the week.

But, otherwise, you'll probably need a power mower for lager plots of land.

Or a few goats. (Please consult my sister on this.)


So, anyway, this April 22, I marked the day by sending my husband into our basement to revive our reel mower after its long winter's nap, and then I put muscle to metal and mowed the lawn.

Silently. Swiftly.

And with a prayer for the polar bears upon my lips.

After which, I enjoyed a luncheon of whole wheat crackers, peanut butter, and chow chow.

Happy Earth Day!

And for Mommy Warriors, a bicycle lawn mower! Although the Treehugger site says that reel mowing does use lower body already, so maybe I will get those firm thighs and buttocks by the end of summer.


Theresa said...

So how much do you earn for each reel mower you sell? ;)

Actually, it's a great idea. I hate the noise of lawn mowers and leaf blowers, as you well know. And just think of what you can save on gym membership fees. :)

Blog Antagonist said...

You mow the lawn??? God, please don't tell my husband. I have him convinced that is man's domain and we do not need to disabuse him of that idea.

That said, I remember when the lady next door to us died when I was about ten. Her children hired me to cut the grass in preparation for putting it on the market. All they had was one of those old timey mowers and it took me an entire day to mow. I got $10. I was so p.o.'d!!

But I do like the idea of not polluting the environment with noise or exhaust. I did a post once on leaf blowers and how terrible they are for the environment.

Jozet at Halushki said...

Every time a reel mower is sold, Al Gore sends me a few Green Stamps. I'm saving in them in my Green Stamp Savings Book, and I'm trying to earn enough for a solar-powered tanning bed. :-D

anne said...

So, is this what you give mom to keep her busy when she comes to visit you? Seriously, if the woman knows you have a reel mower she'll be on it like a goat on a lilac bush (one of the downfalls of goat-mowing). Maybe that's why she's got those biceps.

Good for you on the reel mower.

And good for polar bears!

Jozet at Halushki said...


Yes, along with my children being able to mow the lawn with my (comparatively) ultra-light reel mower, our 69-year-old mother can also mow my lawn. Don't think I don't make her shovel snow, too.

Signed, Seestor

Mad said...

We have a reel mower. Bought it new 7 years ago and it's still going strong. It could use a good sharpening. Ours is a sexy turquoise Gardenia number that off sets most summer fashions and is a perfect complement to the winter-white of polar bear fur.

Jill said...

I bought and assembled my first reel mower last weekend! I love it. :)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We actually have a neighbor that uses a reel mowever. We still don't talk to him though because we're in a parking war with him. And we will prevail!

Rima said...

I like how the mower in that picture frames the woman's lithe, reel-mower toned legs.

Also, this is the longest and most entertaining piece about reel mowers that I have ever read.

Dani said...

You many have a convert. We just had to change the oil in ours, and it seems each cheap, gasoline mower we buy only last a year or two. We are limited in times we can cut, because we are so close to our neighbors.

I have one question though, what about when the grass in the backyard gets a little tall? Will I have to do some pre-mowing?

I have actually been thinking about this for a while, and you may have mentioned this, but it's better for the grass too, isn't it? Something about they way it cuts.

Jozet at Halushki said...

Dani, yes...if you let the grass get too long, you'll have a harder time cutting it.

I generally find that unless we have monsoon-like rains and the grass grows a foot overnight, I can get away with mowing once a week, just like my gas-powered neighbors.

And yes, a reel mower will scissor the grass, while a gas mower will hack it (unless there are newer, kinder gas mowers I'm not aware's possible.)

Another option is an electric mower. They need to be charged overnight, but only use about $5.00 of electricity a year and are quieter than a gas powered mower.

MamaMo said...

I SO have my eye on a reel mower at our local garden shop. I have to borrow our neighbor's gas mower for the first cut, 'cause the "grass" (read: misc. weeds) is almost two feet high already, but I can't wait 'til I can purchase that little baby and start mowin'!

Anonymous said...

Love this. Tips on how to make one's husband use the reel mower greatly appreciated. Perhaps if it had a little cupholder for a beer?

Noelle said...

I love you for doing this. It almost makes me wish that I had a lawn to take care of.

mothergoosemouse said...

I've never mowed the lawn in my life, but I'm so intrigued that I'm about ready to grab your paint brush and bucket of whitewash.

Mommy Warrior said...

I love the idea of saving the polar bears and working my muskles at the same time, but does anyone make a pedaling reel mower? My ass and thighs need it way more than my biceps.

mamatulip said...

Dude. I am so putting one of these babies on my wish list.

furiousBall said...

i've got a manual reel mower too and i love it.

lildb said...

we're in the process of switching over to one of those.

also, we're going to purchase a reel-mower to go with the toned hottie reel-mower-er.

p.s. THIS post, *ahem*, this post would make an *excellent* cross-post on environmental earth-saving-y stuff over at, uh, um,



this is a rad post and i like it.

(and i knew that girl in the photo wasn't you, because you're prettier. yes. you are. shut up.)

Variations On A Theme said...

I LOVE mowing the lawn (and weedeating), but I really want an electric mower. We had a reel mower when we lived in an apartment in an old house with about 1/8 of an acre of land. We're also on 1/3 acre now, but the yard is full of holes and dips, etc, and the reel mower got stuck with every little rut, and after several failed attempts with the reel mower, we found a cheap gas mower some guy was selling in his front yard, so we bought it and sold out.

I've been working out, though, and I'm actually developing BICEPS (which is really cool and exciting to me), so MAYBE I could do things with that reel mower I couldn't do before. Unfortunately, we already sold it several years ago. I might make a trip to Sears, though....

Thanks so much for the reminder!!! You may have saved even more polar bears with your post!!!!

Jess Riley said...

Oh, you're making me feel TERRIBLY guilty!!! We just bought one of those horrid polluting lawn mowers on Sunday. I wanted one of those neat-o reel mowers, but J ... well, he has mistakenly tied his masculinity to our lawn mower. And have I mentioned our yard is the size of a pat of butter?

Jozet at Halushki said...

Well, you know, Jess, for a small donation, you can "adopt" a goat on my sister's farm. It's like a carbon credit for gas-powered lawn mower owners. ;-)

Katie Alender said...

Hmm... we have a small grass yard with a gravel overflow issue from our little zen garden. Perhaps one of these reel mowers is the way to go. Your arguments are highly convincing!

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

You're my green hero. I'd be pushing that thing for all of 20 seconds when I'd give up. But I'm lazy like that.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I used one of the old-fangled types when I lived in my grandma's house. Unfortunately, it didn't cut anything well but was so neat to use! My husband has an old ride-on mower that is so scary that we have to keep the kids inside when he's mowing. I may have to get one of these to get my exercise while the kids ride their bikes up and down and up and down and up and down the driveway for hours on end.

saltgirl said...

woohoo! biceps here I come! My lawn is only the size of half a tennis court (wild strawberry and dandelion in the rest of it) but my mower is your grandmamma's mower. More weight - less reps - isn't that the key to big muscles or something? Pack a 20 pound toddler on the back and I should be the next Mrs. Universe!

Carey said...

Cute! We had one of those when we bought our first house, all the neighborhood men chuckled at my husband and even the guy who sold it to him...he eventually couldn't take the blow to his ego and caved into buying the air-polluting-gas-guzzler. ;)

dianeinjapan said...

Ah yes, one of the nice things about living where we do (our neighborhood, at least) is the total absence of mowers and leaf-blowers. Woo hoo!

But when we lived in Texas, I tried to convince my husband to buy a reel mower. We ended up compromising on an electric mower that all too soon crapped out on us (meaning him--my own sole attempt at mowing left some of those rather child-like unevenly-spaced rows you referred to). If we needed to buy a mower today, I do think I could twist his arm enough to get him to purchase one of the fancier reel models.

Don Mills Diva said...

I would love to get a reel mower! My husband is always tikering with our mower and it's such a hassle - I'm a gonna try and convince him...

PS - I am always worried that my son will throw himself under our power mower - it freak me out...

Shawn said...

You know ... we need a new mower and since we're an aspiring all-green family this might be a perfect fit. We do have a pretty big plot of land but not an acre, for sure. I love the idea of being able to mow quietly ...
I love that about it.

Great post! Hope all is well. See you on June 1, right? ; )

Professor J said...

Yea! Happy belated earth day! I have a rechargeable electric mower and I was feeling pretty virtuous, but you have me beat!

lyzurgyk said...

I had to cut the lawn with a reel mower when I was a kid. My recollection is that it sucked.

However after reading your post, I'm thinking about buying a house just for another chance to appreciate the joy of reel mowing!

Mac and Cheese said...

Nicely done, except for the wheat crackers. Doesn't a work-out like that deserve a nice bowl of ice cream?

womaninawindow said...

My husband is intent on this being our next mower. Since he's in the habit of throwing our mower when it malfunctions and this is often, the throwing causing more malfunctioning, of course, it should be about 2 days before we're in the market for one.

Mrs. G. said...

I can't decide which I am more impressed by: the fact that you used the reel mower or that you know what chow chow is. It's full on love now.

Mom101 said...

For maybe the first time ever this city girl just wished she had a lawn.

Rook said...

Okay, put up a pic, or the rumors start spreading.......

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