Month: December 2019

You gonna mow that?

Friends of mine recently announced that they are buying their first house.

Now all of the problems they encounter with a home will be their own!


My third question to them was: “Are you going to do your own mowing and stuff or are you going to farm it out?”

“Well, I’ve given it some thought and I reckon I’ll give it a try. It’s not a very big spot of land, shouldn’t be too hard.”

A couple of years ago we gave up the lawn-care racket. When we bought our current house, I went pro.

I got rid of all the tools, implements and equipment – just gave it all away at the curb. Gone! Poof! A huge load off, I tell you that! For sure.

Unless you’ve got a large acreage or get some cosmic joy and overwhelming satisfaction from making mower-wheel lanes in the grass, I recommend that you not do your own mowing.

Your unknowing neighbors and kin may think your putting on Grand Poobah airs, but I differ. There are many facts to be considered that often go overlooked.

Let’s look at how costly this endeavor is. You’re of course going to need a lawn mowing contraption. Let’s say a decent lawn mower is going to nick your wallet for $500. That’s quite a few Dominos. Pies with extra cheese I might add.

You’re going to have to get that heavy and cumbersome beast home. And assemble it. And not hurt yourself, your spouse or your dignity. If you do end up purchasing said machine, I suggest that you keep the garage door closed during assembly – the neighbors don’t need to know what’s goin’ on. They’ll still be able to hear your pained utterances while you try to get Bolt A into Slot Q while keeping Cog M angled at exactly 37 degrees.

You’re not done yet, my Bermuda friend. You’re going to need a gas can. That’s another $20 pop to your cruise fund.

That can isn’t going to fill itself. At regular intervals you’ll need to take it on a road trip to your filling station of choice. One could argue that the cost of the fuel is minor, but it’s the schlepping that is so costly here. A gas can is a messy, dirty, filthy, dangerous and unstable thing. After a month in the garage it will be dusty, dearly held by a community of spiders and covered with grass particles. Those grass particles will be strongly adhered to the gas that you spill onto the can. And your feet. And your trousers. You’re going to smell just great tonight at the Red Lobster.

Yes, you WILL spill…trust me. Even if you stop the fill inches from the top, the nozzle is going to burp, spit and drip. There will be spillage.

That spillage will get into your vehicle. On your hands. On your steering wheel. On your phone. On your wallet. On your itchy nose.

Try not to spill it or tip it over on the drive home. That grandma with the big hair who stops short in front of you easily could lead to a gallon of 87-octane spritzing around the cabin.

Gasoline isn’t the only dead-dinosaur product you’ll be messing with. You’ll need to change the oil every year as well. Buying those cute little three-dollar bottles of oil is only going to impact your chewing-gum budget, but the changing of the oil, now there’s a job only Goober is truly suited for.

You’ll need to run the machine enough to warm it up, but not so much that the oil is hot enough to cook your Thanksgiving bird.

Then you need to Rube Goldberg yourself a way to catch the oil that you’re going to release from that machine.

You will be wearing oil. You will spill oil. You will make a mess of the entire situation. And make sure no furry creatures come about and start to wear and ingest the oil. That’s a bad thing. If you care about furry creatures. And I know you do – you’re not a cretin.

Once you’re done with the oil-change procedure you’ll have a jar of nasty old oil that you need to transport to a recycle center. And you thought that driving with a can of gasoline was a treat – try a Mason jar of 10W30 and 45 mph. And no, it isn’t going to fit in your cup holder. It’s going to be more tricky than that, especially when you realize that holding the jar between your legs is a no-go.

Next up in your misery is sharpening the blade. That first mow is going to give you such a sense of joy and satisfaction! The grass will look crisp and clean and so handsome! But after about six iterations, the blade is going to be dull and you’ll be frustrated and distracted by grasses that have been pummeled, but not cut, beaten but not sliced, berated but not trimmed.

Routinely you’ll need to tip over the mower, use a wrench and block of wood to remove the blade so you can sharpen it.

You’ve got a bench grinder, right? Because that’s the only way to do this job properly. Those gizmos you attach to your drill are toys, meant to extract funds from well-meaning new mowing people. If you escape without metal flakes in your eyes and knuckles intact, you still won’t have a sharp blade. You will have spent a half hour fighting and struggling for no result.

After each mowing expedition you really should clean out the machine. Grass and dust and muck will accumulate under there. It will. But you know what? You won’t clean the machine. You’ll take a glance in the blade chamber and think it’s not too bad, so you’ll just roll the machine into its garage home.

But it’s going to build up. And it will lead to poor cutting. Hard starts. Blockages to the exit chute. You don’t want that. You’ll have to, at least sometimes, clean the deck.

That will involve using a flat-head screwdriver in a way for which it was not designed, to scrape gunk. That will lead to a pile of allergy-inducing deceased vegetable matter scattered on the driveway.

Next, you’ll be brooming that crap up and putting it in the trash can. Try not to breathe whilst doing this else your intake chute becomes clogged.

Mowers cut the big main grass, but what about the small auxiliary grass? The stuff around the sidewalk, driveway, mailbox and moat? For that you’ll need a line trimmer (don’t call it a Weed Whacker or Weed Eater!). That means more gasoline and more oil.

If you get a four-cycle machine, you’re buying more gas and oil just like you do for the mower. But if you get a two-cycle system, you’ll need yet another gas can to keep separate gas for the line trimmer…to which you will carefully measure and add unique two-cycle oil.

This is getting to be so much fun isn’t it? I know, you’re doing a penguin-esque happy-dance right now!

You’ve put it off long enough, the grass is too high and regardless of how much you don’t feel like doing it, nor how high the heat and humidity, nor how tired you are nor how you’d much rather be organizing your spice rack instead, you must do your duty and mow.

For this you’ll have to change clothes into, well, an outfit that was flashy and swell in the ‘70s, but now is only fit for sweaty, dusty, dirty and grimy yard work.

The mowing will be hard. Even if we assume your machine start easily on the first tug of the cord, you’ll be walking back and forth in monotonous and unfulfilling transits about the property. Your mind will wander all over tarnation. What else can it do? It’s not truly mindless work – you need to stay awake, but the mind will go off to ponder topics that ought not to be pondered. (What does happen to astronaut’s tears?).

Are you overlapping enough or not enough? Are you throwing clippings in Beuregard’s yard (he gets decidedly miffed when you spray clippings on his Camaro)? Are you pitching stones into the road and cracking windshields?

Your feet, ankles and knees will hurt. You’ll step “funny” and it won’t be hilarious. (Unless you go full-on ballet mode and make a body-on-turf impact that amuses the neighbors).

When that eternal moment arrives when you feel assured that you can cut the engine, you’ll next be on to firing up the trimming machine.

If you weren’t wearing protective gear for your eyes and ears before, you’ll need them now (that’ll be $23.95).

That trimmer doesn’t have an exit chute you know – the WORLD is its chute. And that means you, my friend, will be wearing those clippings on your person. The clippings mostly will cling to your pants (you weren’t wearing shorts, were you?). You’ll need to take a broom to yourself before you step into the house…you just will. But you’ll only succeed in removing the clippings on your frontside…the anterior is where all of the clippings that will litter your living room, bedroom and bathroom will persist.

This is so much an adventure, eh? You begin to see why people procreate so that they can make their offspring tend to the task!

Line trimmers can look like some level of fun to operate. But they are tough on the arms, shoulders and back.

Line trimmers constantly beg for your attention. The line needs to be replaced nearly constantly and I don’t care what system you’ve got, it’s a pain. It’s dirty. It’s challenging, and never is successful until at least five attempts have been made. Oh yeah, and that’s about $10 per spool of line…don’t forget that.

You realize of course, that you’re going to be experiencing this joy at least every other week, assuming you have a slow-grow field of weeds…every week if you have a Type-A plot.

Just think of everything else of more value or interest that you want and need to do instead of mowing.

The basic mowing chores may take an hour per week…likely more. Certainly more when you need to get gas, sharpen a blade, add line, diagnose a failure, etc. and etc.

While you’re at work you’ll fall under the demands the lawn puts on you. You’ll envision the tall grasses, swaying in the wind, guiding your mind to say “I should mow tonight.” You won’t be able to focus on the conspiracy theory being spouted in the adjacent cube because you’ll be justifying in your head the putting off of mowing for “just one more day.”

You’ll end up putting it off until Saturday. In your wisdom you’ll figure you’ll get up early, before it’s too hot, and just get it done.

Until Saturday morning when you’re having the best dream about bunnies, coffee cake and massages.

It will be that same Saturday that your spouse has an idea for something amazing, fun and enlightening to do almost anywhere else than home.

You’ll either do the mow and be hot and nasty and tired or you’ll put it off and feel guilty. Don’t forget to avoid eye-contact with the neighbors when you leave – you know 14-inches is too tall for grass in your neighborhood, right?

Do you have an HOA?

That nice vacation you’re on right now? The grass is still growing you know, even while you’re sipping fancy island beverages. When you come home, the grass is probably going to be tickling your elbows – do you really want to come home to that?

Ah, ah, ah! Do not talk to me about electric cutting gear. That’s only going to save you on the petrochemical side of the equation. You’re still going to break a hip and burn hours of personal time doing the dirty work. A rechargeable mowing machine is false economy.

The other hazard of doing your own mowing is snakes. They’re out there. They lurk. They want you. They will get you. They just will, it’s what they do.

You realize now that you should hire a professional mowing organization. You clearly understand the wisdom of my points. I am right.

Yes, it costs money. But you’re spending a lot by doing it yourself. Just consider these costs for your first year:

Gas Can$20
Safety Gear$23.95
Time$1,040 (1 hour/week x $20/hour x 52 weeks)

That’s dang near $2,000.

You’re going to say “But uncle Earl, I’m not going to buy machines every year. After the first year it won’t be that much.”

That’s sort of true, but you’ll have to be budgeting for the replacement of those machines. They don’t last. Fastidious maintenance will extend the life, but that’s costing you in deprived leisure hours along the way.

You’re thinking maybe you’ll compromise and hire Teddy, the 14-year-old down the street. Well, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Teddy is going to stick his hand in the machine to unclog it and you’ll find yourself paying for his missing phalanges, not to mention the dent in that BMW Z4 that was driving by at the exact moment ole Teddy hit that pebble.

Hire a pro. They have insurance. They’re more responsible. They’ll mow while you’re at work so it will be like you’ve hired your own little magic show! You leave a mildly fuzzy lawn in the morning and return to robins singing with glee!

Now, there are many benefits for you, not the least of which is the furthering of your leisure time and opportunities thereto. But you’ll also be stimulating the economy, providing an income to people and maintain a consistently manicured appearance and high value to your home.

Mowing is a trap. Heck, the American lawn is a trap. But we’re stuck with the second part, the first part can be fixed.

Step up. Make some calls, get them hired and scheduled. And live!

Now let’s talk about plowing that snow….