Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Mown down

After the very first day whacking weeds.
It’s time for a mown—sorry, moan. I’ve had a really terrible time taking care of the lawns and such, and have for weeks. The main reason, though is unusual: There’s been way too much rain, too often. Because of that, The lawns became just another massive project I could never get finished: That project is now done.

The problem started in September/October, a period in which we had a lot of rainy days in Hamilton. While it didn’t necessarily rain all day when it rained, at one point it rained at least part of every day for more than two weeks—and then every few days afterward. This made it nearly impossible for me to mow the lawns. Take many days of rain and no chopping off the top of the plants, and the result was obvious: Long grass and (mostly) weeds.

In early November, I decided I simply had to mow the front lawn, even though I knew it was too moist, because It looked absolutely shocking—almost as if it was an abandoned house (not entirely exaggerating). I swear that within a mere two hours the front lawn had gone from, “gee, they really ought to mow their lawn,” to “OMFG, why haven’t they mowed that for the last four months?!!” Okay, it wasn’t really two hours. More like a day. At any rate, I was strongly motivated by the desire to avoid neighbourhood shame.

The lawn was so long that I had to tilt the mower up to get across the lawn, then put it pack on all four wheels, with the cutting deck set to its highest level. Worse, because the lawn was so damp, the grass and weeds kept clumping underneath. I had to stop to clear it out four times, just on the main/largest part of the lawn.

Then, I went to mow the smaller part of the lawn, on the other side of the driveway (that side’s maybe a third of the total lawn area). I didn’t get far before the mower died: I’d used up the battery. Then, heavy rains rolled in before the battery was recharged, so I stopped for the day.

The next morning, which was a Saturday, I went out to mow what was left, mainly because a neighbour’s house was for sale and the first open home was that morning (I’d want my neighbours to make sure their sections were tidy if my house was on the market). However, with all the rain the day before, the grass was extra gluggy. I had to stop to clean out the underside four times. The battery, on the other hand, was still about a third full when I finished.

I mowed the front lawn every week after that until I was finally able to lower the cutting deck, and that allowed me to wait nearly two weeks before mowing it again. On Monday, around two weeks later, I mowed it again.

The worst part, however, was none of that: It was the back garden (yard). Because of all the rain and no mowing, the back lawn took off. Before long it was mid-calf in height, then knee high, then, in the case of some weeds, nearly mid thigh. What to do?

I contemplated hiring someone to come in with a brush cutter (basically a high-powered weed cutter, something that’s kind of like a lawn mower on a stick. I wasn’t keen on that idea because those are always petrol-powered, and I’m trying to keep it clean and green. I also couldn’t have a lawn mowing service come it because that’d mean a ride on mower, and the builder made the gates too narrow for one to get through (side note: I’m going to hire a builder to re-do the gate, making it wide enough for a ride-on mower to get through).

So, wanting to keep things fossil fuel free, and because I’m stubborn and more than a little cheap sometimes, I decided to do it myself.

First step was to attack the weeds with my line trimmer—after I figured out how to re-spool it, a story I’ll skip over (you’re welcome). Then I went out and attacked the weeds, whacking them down lower and lower in three passes. I used up all three 18v batteries for that machine (two of which are really only suitable for drills and the like), and I still only got part way toward the back (see the photo; the taller “grass” in the background is where I stopped when the last battery died).

Next, I took the lawnmower and went over it with it tilted as high as I could and still push it without falling over. Then back on that same row a little lower, then a little lower, then flat at the highest setting. That means that each row took four passes. Interestingly, I didn’t completely drain the battery doing that—just nearly.

The next day it poured again. It also rained part of several days after that until about a week ago when it started raining at least part of every single day. As of Monday, the stuff I’d mown had grown back to the point it was long again. The weeds I hadn’t yet whacked down also grew taller than in the photo.

During the deluge days, I decided to get more of the “good” batteries for the line trimmer (they’ll provide longer runtime), along with a new 36v battery for the mower (also longer runtime). Both will be usable with any other tools I buy (definitely planned), but the main thing is that when all of the three “good” batteries are fully charged, I thought I’d be able to finish the part I didn’t whack down the first day.

I went and bought the batteries on Monday, And I went out back to attack the weeds, though I only had time to charge one of the new 18v batteries. I got much farther, but still wasn’t finished. I mowed the part of the lawn that was cleared. That evening, when it was cooler, I went out and mowed the front lawn.

Tuesday, with all three 18v batteries fully charged, my plan was, first, to finish the first pass clearing the weeds, and, hopefully, use the two batteries for the mower to get the whole lawn back to a respectable level. However, rain was predicted for Wednesday (again…), and I thought that if I don’t finish Tuesday, I didn’t know when I’ll be able to.

So, I went out back and spent a couple hours chopping down the weeds, even making the ones I’d attacked on Monday a bit lower. Then I got the mower and mowed until I used up the first battery. I put in the new one, but my back got so sore from having to bend over to raise up the front of the mower that I stopped to rest, which was probably a good idea because of the heat alone.

I closed all three activity rings on
my watch yesterday—the "Move"
and "Exercise" twice. I also closed
all three rings on Monday.
I went back out in the evening, when it was cooler, determined to finish the damn thing (because of that predicted rain), and I actually did! I even used the line trimmer to get some of the weeds at the fenceline. I went inside and collapsed.

Through this process, I’ve continually thought about hiring someone to mow the lawns for me. I haven’t done that for the usual reasons (they use petrol-powered machines, I’m stubborn, and I’m cheap), but the fact I’ve spent nearly as much on additional batteries as I did on the mower means that I’m committed to doing the lawns myself—or, maybe that ought to say that I should be committed, because it's probably at least a little bit nuts that I haven’t just given up. But, then, sooner or later, when I get older, I’ll have to stop, and I just don’t want to be like that right now.

So, this has been a lot of hard physical work, with a lot of frustration slathered over it from the clouds. But in the end, I achieved my goal. I now have to work on actually making the yard look nice, and there is a lot of work to be done, but the very hard work of cutting down the weeds is now done.

As with so many other projects, this one has been hanging over my head for many weeks. Every time I let Leo outside, or just looked out the window, I could see the huge job I had to do. But, it’s now finally done.

Oh, and that rain that was supposed to happen today? It didn’t. It was clear and sunny (and a bit hot), so I could have finished it today after all.

The rest of this week will be inside chores and projects so my house is all presentable before the holidays. I’m not expecting any visitors, but I want the place tidy just in case. Besides, it’ll make me happy to see it that way.


Roger Owen Green said...

I relate. Rain is a pain, even for a power mower, and impossible for a reel mower.

Arthur Schenck said...

Very true. At one point I was thinking about how petrol powered mowers often have higher torque than a battery powered one does, and so, they can often power through thicker lawns than mine can. However, that's not automatically true (depends on the engine of the petrol mower), and I also realised how much easier it was for me to clear out the underside of my mower because I just flipped it on its side and scraped it away with my gloved hands. I didn't have to worry about petrol leaking out, and all I had to do to restart was to press the start button. I've used plenty of petrol mowers that were more stubborn to start if the engine was hot.

I can't remember if I said so at the time, but I thought about getting a reel mower, mainly because they're cheap (compared to powered mowers). I didn't know if it was a good idea because the ground under my "lawns" is very bumpy and rough, so I thought it might be too hard to use. I bought the battery mower, and the rest is history.