Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Refined Mowing

After years of relying on friends, neighbor kids, the scythe, etc. to mow the lanes and lawn at the farm, I finally bought my first power mower last year, and learned to run a power mower for the first time. (Heartfelt thanks to long-time farm friend M. W. for encouraging me in this milestone step, and training me and an apprentice in safe operation and basic maintenance.)

This decision was part of my focus on being more self-supporting--being able to do necessary tasks myself if need be, rather than being left high and dry if someone else doesn't come through. It IS in conflict with my principle of not using internal combustion engines on the farm...but hey, progress not perfection! While I'm working off the farm full-time, there WILL be a lot of compromises; I've accepted that.

This year I've learned some things I wish I'd known when this mower was first purchased. I use the mower differently than the average lawn-owner, for one thing--I often mow because I want the clippings to feed the sheep or chickens, than because I want the lawn to look nice (though I DO like it to look nice). This means the grass catcher--unused by the mower's previous owner--is a vital part of the system.

Unfortuneately, this mower has a really inconvenient catcher, with a long, easily-clogged neck out to the side, where it runs into posts and other things. I have to stop very frequently in tall grass to unclog the neck of the catcher. Plust the catcher itself doesn't come off easily, other than the neck's attachment to the deck, and it's really awkward to dump the floppy thing over a tall chain link fence to the chickens.

While driving the bus, I watch the pros. Those who pick up clippings have mowers with easy-on, easy-off boxes on the back of the mower where they are out of the way. If I ever replace this one with another power mower, I'll look for one of those.

I also mow in small sessions, just as much as the animals can eat at the time. Putting the mower in a shed each time, and getting it out again, would waste a lot of time and energy. So I tend to leave the mower sitting where I finish mowing, ready to mow the next swath the next day.

For a long time, the mower has been stored under a large, cumbersome half of a plastic 55 gallon drum. So when I was done mowing, I had to go fetch the drum to cover the mower. And I hung the safety equipment on the handle of the mower--which meant mowing with wet hearing protectors sometimes. UV quickly deteriorates most plastics, so I really didn't like leaving my brand new, fairly expensive, and very comfortable hearing protectors out in the sun. But if I put them in the shed, I had to go fetch them when I decided to mow...extra steps, wasted time.

The other day, I had a brainstorm that really makes the whole process more efficient.

The light-weight plastic tub nicely covers the engine, with the safety equipment underneath on top of the engine, out of the weather.

Then it tips over and rests on the back of the deck and a bungee cord across the lawnmower handle, and forms a container to scoop clippings into. It's easily removed from the mower, carried to a pen, and dumped over the fence. And it's even more easily replaced.

When I'm done, everything is safely stowed in a few seconds.
Note that as soon as the tub is in place, Luna moves in, ready to try to herd the mower as soon as it is under way. I strongly discourage this dangerous sport, by firm commands or by a gate when my patience starts to ebb....

1 comment:

Catlady said...

From everything I've heard about Toss, are you *sure* Luna is relater to her??? :D