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The Pleasures of Using a Manual Mower

Posted by Stacy Reece on

The Pleasures of Using a Manual Mower

I grew up using a riding lawn mower. It was perfect for my undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. I could ride on it and think about things and not worry about making a mistake. Just go round and round the yard until I had that tiny sliver of grass in the middle of the yard that I would attack with a great sense of satisfaction as I made it disappear under my blades.

I’ve always enjoyed living in a place that required me to cut the lawn. Whatever problems I had, I could work them out while I was mowing. I felt like I accomplished something with my day if I got the yard mowed. It smelled so nice and green. Whether it was a riding mower or a push mower, I loved the feeling of having a freshly mowed yard in my rear view mirror.

I’ve had a terrible lawn mower for the past few years. The carburetor kept gumming up, and I had to stop and fix it every time I mowed. So I got a lawn service, which felt like cheating. Somewhere during the pandemic, my service went out of business and left me to my own devices.

During the pandemic, I, like so many others, got back to basics. What did I really need and what was a joyless luxury? Sourdough starters require far too much dedication and discipline for me to use as any kind of therapy. I did try it again last year, and proved the point to myself once again. Besides, I make amazing biscuits, so I’ve got plenty of bread-making street cred.

When my lawn situation became a genuine issue, I looked at the problem through my pandemic eyes. Did I really need a motorized lawn mower? What was up with those manual mowers? Did they still make them? It turned out that you can get a new one at a garden center for about a third of the price of a regular mower. 

And you know what? They are kind of fun. They are easier to maneuver around corners, and you have a lot of flexibility about when you can mow. Usually, getting the lawn mower out is a huge ordeal. It’s such a pain, so you make the decision to mow everything in sight while it’s out — and so that you won’t have to wrestle it out of its storage space for another couple of weeks. And then there’s the whole procrastination game. Is the grass too long? Can it wait a couple more days? Do I really have what it takes to wrangle the mower out of its cubbyhole today?

With a manual mower, it’s so small and tidy I can prop it up in the tiny red barn and pull it out whenever I like. If a certain patch of my yard is more overgrown than I’d like, I can pull out the mower and knock it down in just a few minutes. I don’t have to feel guilty I’m not mowing everything in sight, since I can grab my mower any time I like.

Some days, I feel like I have not accomplished enough, and that makes me feel guilty. My manual lawn mower allows me to alleviate that feeling in 15 minutes or less. I can mow an egregious patch of grass and get in some cardio all in one fell swoop. It’s a twofer.

The manual mower also makes me extra green. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use 800 million gallons of gas each year mowing our lawns. Gas mowers, because of the nature of their engines, emit not only carbon dioxide but also carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. These add up to 5 percent of our country’s air pollution.

When my neighbor caught me using my manual mower, he accused me of being a hipster and causing the property values to go up. I just smiled and waved. Bless his heart, he doesn’t know it’s the cheapest therapy on the market.








  • Ah, a manual reel mower! They cut so nicely, ’though a big yard makes their use difficult. You are right, though, Stacy. Yard work is great therapy, and freshly-cut grass – esp in the Spring – smells so good. Too, seeing those trimmed strips of lawn is so satisfying. Thanks for the story.

    Berkeley Boone on

  • I know what you mean Stacy. Out of sheer boredom during the pandemic, I started planting flowers and bushes all over the yard. Added the lawn chemical service to fix my grass from years of neglect and then it happened. It grew lush and green again. I’m having to mow it twice a week to keep it from looking like it has a bad haircut. I trashed the clippings bag and just let it mulch on.
    The plants have taken over. Hostas, Hydrangeas, Dutch Iris and Lilacs. My attempt at growing a hardy dwarf Gardenia was a failure with these Ohio winters. So I added the lilac bush this year.
    I’m going to try your suggestion of using a manual mower. My trusty Wally World mower is probably fifteen years old and is begging to retire.
    Garden Therapy is the best for what ails ya’

    David Charles Clubb on

  • Stacy,

    Brava, lady! I once had a rotary mower (my husband used the lawn “tractor”), but I would surely perish these days in the heat and humidity if I tried to use one now. I’m not an early riser and my yard is bigger than it looks! So I salute you, and meanwhile, hope that my yard guy hangs in there. So far so good!

    Thanks for a great essay.


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