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.
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.
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.