As we approached closing, the bank stopped maintaining the lawn. Not that I really blame them, as it's an extra expense on a house they are already losing money on, but it posed a problem for J. & I. By closing day, the lawn that had been neglected for several weeks (see pic), and the house was starting look abandoned (again!). Decision time, we've got a lawn...now what? We figured our options were:
1 - Buy a gas powered mower, and pollute away for the sake of convenience & raw cutting power. 1b. - Hire a service that uses gas powered lawn equipment. Since we are trying to make sensible and sustainable choices, this option was right out.
2 - Buy an electric mower. This option is a good balance, but is still not a completely green option, since our power company uses coal for energy. It's still better than gas, but not quite zero guilt.
3 - Buy an old-fashioned reel mower, powered by nothing but my own 2 arms/legs. We have a winner...I think!
I stopped off at the Lowes and picked up the "Task Force 20" Reel Push Mower" . Saturday was IKEA day, so the lawn had to wait until Sunday.
Sunday Morning, I assembled the mower, clipped on the bagger, and cut my first swath of grass. Looking back at my path, I was not too pleased that most of the grass had thwarted my attempts and was just lying flat in front of the mower (a la steamroll). I went back over the path in the reverse direction. The grass continued to defy mowing. I went in for another cut. With only slightly better results, I begin to get concerned. If this is how it's going to be, then a reel mower is just not going to cut it..litterally and figuratively. As the hours wore on, I did refine my technique a bit, and get into a 'vacuuming' motion..back and forth, and that seemed to help, but overall I was feeling defeated, and not happy that it was taking my 3-4 times as long to cut the lawn as it would with a powered mower.
After a few hours of struggling with the front half of the lawn, and J.'s romps through the grass running with the mower, our progress was good enough to make the house look less abandoned. I was bemused the next day to see that the area of the neighbors lawn that I was doing my turns in had been trimmed quite neatly by the reel mower, and it made me realize that the reel mower can work very well, but there are some things you have to know first.
(1) Reel lawn mowers work VERY WELL, and they are easy to push around a yard that is free of debris.
(2) Reel lawn mowers work best on a yard, not a jungle. Our lawn was way too overgrown for this to have worked well. If you deal with something like this, it might be a good idea to borrow a powered mower for the first time, and then maintain it with the reel mower.
(3) Reel lawn mowers handle wet grass suprisingly well. When mowing, the grass was dewy, and it rained while I was mowning. With a powered mower, the wet grass would have had me stopping every few minutes to clear the wet grass out of the underside of the mower, which is no fun. And forget mowing in the rain with an electric mower..that's just a Darwin Award waiting to happen. With the reel mower, it mostly wasn't an issue.
Overall my experience was positive...and I feel good about using the mower in the future, and think it will work for both the environment, and my pocket book.