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The back story, for those just tuning in:

May 30, 2009: The Very Bad Lawnmower

August 29, 2010: Rock 1: Lawnmower 0

I've been researching lawnmowers online during spare moments over the last couple of weeks. My splendid next door neighbor mowed the lawn here at Toad Woods before I returned from the midwest, but that was 6 weeks ago. The property reverted to looking abandoned and I really did have to do something to correct that.

benyalow helpfully suggested setting a forest fire to burn all the grass. Alas, the GT friends who could manage such a trick while still leaving the Zeppelin Hangar standing are most of a thousand miles away, so I turned my attention instead to the question of whether last summer's decisive battle in the 7- Year Rock War had done in just the blade or the whole engine of The Very Bad Lawnmower.

The first "Geri Sullivan, Girl Homeowner" moment came when I approached the mower with Liquid Wrench and implements of destruction and bolt removal. Squirt, squirt. Bang, bang, bang. (The Liquid Wrench bottle advises that judicious application of hammer to bolt can help in the loosening process.) The adjustable wrench didn't do it, but the Vice Grips were up to the task. Color me competent. I love it when tools are my friend.

Blade in hand, I headed to the Sears store in Auburn. The back-up to get on the Pike was the worst I've ever seen -- don't know what was going on there -- but rather than joining hundreds of cars a half-mile back, I quickly hopped back off onto Hwy 20 and took the back roads east.

At Sears, I opted for a heavy duty replacement blade and also talked with Ken Cardinal, an excellent lawn mower sales guy. If the blade didn't do the trick, I've narrowed my choice down to two rear-wheel drive, variable speed, self-propelled models. (Is key start worth $50? Probably not on my budget, but that doesn't stop the temptation...especially after the adventures that followed once I was back home.)

The new blade went on fairly easily. (Thank goodness they print "grass side" on the blade itself.) When it came to starting, the mower was...recalcitrant. Soon it was recalcitrant and noisy, but not in a good way. I turned it back off, confirmed the blade was tight, started 'er up, and set off.

The mower cuts grass, but it's clearly not what it used to be. It balks at even minor thickness, cuts off at every encounter with a small rock or stick, or anything it doesn't like, really. And it doesn't like a lot. If it were human, I'd credit past traumas as the likely cause of its behavior difficulties. Totally understandable, even for a piece of equipment.

I mowed up along the edge of the drive and the road, so there's at least some visual sense of caretaking and tidiness up there. When I came back down, I mowed the front lawn to help ease the poor, cranky engine into the real work at hand.

I only had to restart it 2 or 3 times, a huge improvement over the 6 or 8 restarts up at the top of the drive. Pull, pull. PullPullPull. That key start is sounding better and better. PullPullVroomChunkaVroom.

By the time the front yard was finished, I was wiped. The mower isn't the only part of the equation that's out of both practice and condition.

Twenty minutes or so in a comfortable canvas chair I pulled out of the garage cooled me down and left me ready to see how far I could get on the side flatland and hills for dark and/or rain, whichever arrived first. Unfortunately, it didn't do the same for the mower. There's still gas in the tank, but it wasn't about to turn over and mow, mow again. Not tonight, anyway.

I'll probably give it another try when the rain stops, or at least before I head back to Sears. But at this point, I'm rather expecting that I'll entice a new mower to follow me home shortly. Then it will get its first taste of the horrors that await any lawn mower fated to live at Toad Woods.

Here's hoping it lasts seven summers and then some. The Very Bad Lawnmower truly has been amazing. With luck, its replacement will be, too. Any bets on whether or not I'll ever change the oil in that one? I am going to start it off with the heavy duty blade, just to give it a fighting chance. And because after today, I know I can replace a lawn mower blade.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
So what did they recommend? we took our 15 yesrnold mower in while we were in China and Sears says that they don't stock parts for it anymore. I think that we're both looking for the same thing.
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
Jinx. Buy me a Coke!
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
I can't find either of the exact models online. I'm going for rear wheel drive on the propulsion, 'cause I have hills. I'm going for big rear wheels, 'cause I like them on my current mower. (I forget what their advantage is.) I'm going for the comfort grip handle, 'cause I'm all about the comfort. The engine is 7hp; I currently have 6.75.

It's a variable speed propulsion system -- I adjust how slow or fast with a grippy handle. One review mentioned that it's tiresome to hold, that the reviewer's hand cramps when mowing. I'll see what it's like in the store when I go back.

I've only used a self-propelled mower once, about a decade ago. My sister had (and perhaps still has) one. There were just two speeds of propulsion, and I hated it even on a flat lawn -- it felt like the mower was running away from me, and that it was out of my control. From everything I've read, the variable speed systems are much better. Hope so! At least now we have the dead man bar so if the mower does run out of my hands, it will stop. That wasn't the case with my sister's mower.
Aug. 7th, 2011 10:22 am (UTC)
In the long ago
My grandfather had a mower with front wheel drive. It had a one speed propulsion system, but I quickly learned that taking a little bit of weight off the front wheels allowed the wheels to spin at full speed, and it would pull itself forward at the speed I wanted to walk. Of course, anybody that did not figure out the trick, mowed the lawn at a very brisk walk...
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
Foo. My lawnmower, which I always set high up and which has mowed over the aluminum bottom legs of the trampoline scores of times, hit one of them dead on and became a hideous undead lawn mower. Before we left for China, I dropped it off at Sears repair. On our return, five of the six messages on our phone were Sears's robot saying it was finished.

I checked the web page, which said the repair shop was open until nine, and got there ten minutes after they closed at six. The web page continues to propagate this lie. I went in earlier the next day and got the mower. Turns out they didn't really fix it. Couldn't get the part, whatever that was. That gasp was the sound of the Craftsman myth heading for the Hall of Heroes.

So I was kind of glad that it's been hot and dry here, because our lawn stayed short and brown and I didn't have to mow it. Now it's rained a couple of times, and it's shaggy on the edges, and I'm going to have to put gas in that awful thing and let it shake my head off and hope that the blade won't come flying out to cut through my shins.
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)
Flamethrower and a supersoaker. Plus a waterballoon cannon as backup.
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah!

Come right over, please.
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
Wish I could, darlin'. Best of luck to you on the lawn wars. I do so love my tiny urban greensward. 20 minutes and it's done.
Aug. 7th, 2011 05:12 am (UTC)
The thing to remember is you first set small fires close to your buildings, so that the closest fuel is exhausted.
Aug. 7th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Good point.

How do you keep the small fires small?
Aug. 7th, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, well, for those you set even smaller fires. In advance. Just so.

Whoops, gotta run!
Aug. 7th, 2011 04:04 am (UTC)
I do not find the grippy bar on our self-propelled mower to cause hand cramps. Perhaps I don't mow long enough.

If you find your mower stalling a lot, you may need a new air filter. We did, but then we live in a very dusty place.
Aug. 7th, 2011 06:22 am (UTC)
I know you are a very Competent Girl Homeowner but might it be worth asking your kind next door neighbor to take a look at it? Maybe there is some small adjustment that would help make it slightly less balky.
Aug. 7th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am far from a competent Girl Homeowner. Fortunately, I am blessed with a sense of humor and tolerance about my homeowning skills and lack thereof.

Good idea on getting help from my neighbor. I could start by asking him to help me change the oil as that's sure to be a good thing, yet it's something I've never done.
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
High kudos to the Skilled Homeowner! (And even higher kudos for your stubborn determination!)

Mowing the lawn was a kid's despised weekly chore, when I was growing up. Getting started provided great shoulder-strength exercise, as the mower never caught on the first (several) attempt(s). Once you got it going, you had to navigate an irregular lawn that was highly lumpy, with bits of bedrock poking through here and there that just loved to catch the blade if you weren't paying attention...attention which could be hard to maintain, given the thirsty mosquito population with which we shared our highly wooded property. The shade and acidic soil encouraged moss more than grass; we kids always thought would be preferable to let the lawn go completely over to moss (softer to walk on, and no mowing required) but alas, Dad never bought into that plan.

There are many aspects of apartment life for which I do not care -- but being free from lawn-mowing responsibilities is not one of them. ;-)
Aug. 7th, 2011 11:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, the lawn of your childhood sounds ever so much like mine, right down to the thirsty mosquito population!

I deliberately left two clumps of ferns and an oddly-shaped bunch of sedge in the front lawn. I like ferns and sedges.
Aug. 7th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Geri, thy name is competence and thy lawnmower shall be a lawnmower of renown.

Having a smaller lawn of the type found in 1960's suburbia, we manage with a small owner propelled electric (with rechargeable batteries). I think the brand name is Newton.
Aug. 9th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
About the key start -- our mower has one and it was brilliant for about the first month, but then the starter battery ran down which means the key start won't work until we plug the mower in to charge it again (which I never remember to do in a window that results in a charged starter when I'm ready to mow) and also the key never seems to be where it ought to be and, in short, I end up pull-starting it all the time. So the big thing is to be sure that you can easily work the pull starter regardless of whether you end up with the optional key starter.
Aug. 11th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
Maybe you could get a goat? Geese? Find a neighbor who owns a horse or cow?

Being deathly allergic to fresh-cut grass, I tend to stay away from mowers.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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