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   electric lawn mower
Friday, May 31 2013
For the past several years, I've been cutting the lawn with a 120 volt plug-in electric weed-whacker. Having done it this way a dozen or so times, I've finally decided that the method is too slow and labor intensive. The results are also a bit uneven, though the weed whacker is capable of more precision and detail work than a normal lawn mower. So today I decided to buy yet another lawn cutting device, my sixth to date. The others have been as follows:
  1. A 4.5 horsepower gasoline-powered Bolens lawn mower (May, 2003). After running into numerous rocks and other hard objects, the blade could not easily be removed from the drive shaft. When I finally did replace the blade, it turned out that the drive shaft had been subtly bent, rendering the mower essentially worthless.
  2. A hand-powered spool mower (Spring 2006). The damn thing was just too hard to push, particularly if the grass started getting long.
  3. Another, supposedly better spool mower (June 2007). It worked better, but the drive mechanism started slipping against the ground, making the cutting spool spin ineffectively.
  4. A scythe (July 20th, 2009). This was the tool my father used to "mow" the "lawn" of our childhood home. (We would then rake up the resulting hay and put it in the hayloft to add to winter feeding options for the goats.) It turns out a scythe is a lot of work to weild, and it's hard to make a lawn look like it was mowed in the conventional suburban sense of the word.
  5. An 120 volt plug-in electric weed-whacker (also July 20th, 2009). This worked well, but as mentioned above, it's just too slow. Also, when cutting more than a trivial amount of grass, one finds oneself frequently having to fiddle with the cutting line to make sure it's deployed to the right length or replaced when it runs out. This exposes the user (me) to whatever the juices of the plants that have been whacked, and this can include Poison Ivy.

I drove into town and thought the mower I was seeking might be at Home Depot, but it was not. So I bought a number of adhesives, a replacement for our cracked & leaking hummingbird feeder, and a pop-up assembly for the upstairs bathroom sink (the existing one has never really worked). It turned out Lowes had what I was looking for: a 13 amp Greenworks 120 volt plug-in electric lawn mower (retail price: $189).
Back at the house, I took the lawn mower out of its box and unfolded it into its lawn-cutting shape (it can be collapsed into the form it was in inside the box without the use of any tools). I then proceeded to mow the lawn. I'd known from my experience with the weed whacker that the 120 volt tether is not much of an inconvenience. I use a 100 foot extension cord, which allows me to easily reach all parts of the lawn that I want to mow. And if one has basic competence, it's easy to avoid severing or slicing the cord with the cutting end of yard tool. Meanwhile, the user's guide that comes with the lawnmower is full of the kind of advice seemingly aimed at those without basic competence. For example, it tells me never to mow in a circle; instead it tells me to go back and forth with the cord always lying in the cut part of the lawn. But if one is paying attention, cutting in circles is possible as well. You just have to pay attention to where the cord is and not run over it, something i have to do anyway given the hoses and dog toys that already litter the lawn. Actually, though, since I had the blades set to cut the grass fairly long, I technically could run over the cord so long as it was lying flat against the ground. For most people, though, electricity is voodoo magic, and, in the absence of knowledge, they depend for their survival on rituals and taboos. Normally it takes me about two hours to cut our tiny lawn with a weed whacker. With the new mower, I did the job in somewhere between 20 minutes and a half an hour. But I didn't bother with running around and trimming the little bits with the weed whacker. The Greenworks lawn mower performed well, experiencing little difficulty even when plowing through long, thick grass. It's surprisingly quiet, making a little less noise than a vacuum cleaner, and it seems to obliterate the grass it cuts, turning it into mulch that soon disappears into the living grass. The only annoyance was that occasionally vibrations from the the motor would loosen some of the hand-tightened nuts that keep the handle attached to the mower.

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