My milkshake brings all the boys to the Yard - Part III - Getting the Right Equipment

And now, the thrilling conclusion of my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard:

The first lawn mower that I had was a hand-me-down from my Uncle Paul. It seemed that Paul was somewhat of a collector of lawn mowers. Not like a collector like I collect baseball cards or Rizzo collects half-full water glasses on the nightstand on her side of the bed. He just never really wanted to get rid of one or would let anyone else get rid of one because he was convinced he could make it work. He is usually right which is why he took Pop’s old riding mower to fix it and was able to give me an old gas powered push mower.

Of course, there is only so much a smart mechanic can do and this old lawn mower kicked the bucket after the first year Rizzo and I lived in our house so it was time to get a brand new lawn mower. Here’s for all you first time lawn owners out there when you are buying a lawn mower. Get a lawn mower that is self-propelled. The old mower that I got from Paul wasn’t self-propelled. That meant every movement that the lawn mower made was powered by my legs, my arms, and especially my back. I know I shouldn’t complain because it was a free lawn mower and I wasn’t using the ancient, gas-free, spinning blade mower from the 1920s but let me tell you something; a self-propelled lawn mower will change your life. With the self-propelled mower the front wheels spin very much like a front wheel drive car without the steering. It is a drastic change from a standard lawn mower and simply having to walk behind the mower as opposed to actually pushing the mower will save you time and energy.

My mower, a Briggs & Stratton 550E Series, 140cc, 21" Self-Propelled beast.

My mower, a Briggs & Stratton 550E Series, 140cc, 21" Self-Propelled beast.

After mowing the grass you have to make sure all the edges are clean and that you trim all those placed in the corners where a lawn mower just can’t reach. For this you will need a weed eater. I suppose the most appropriate name is an edger but I grew up always knowing this piece of equipment as a weed eater. It wasn’t until I started writing this particular blog that I decided to find out where the term weed eater came from and what it was commonly used to describe an edger, or weed trimmer, and I am appalled that I have been calling this device a weed eater all my life.

You see, weed eater wasn’t the common name of the device but was the name of the company that invented the string trimmer in 1971. Weed Eater is a brand name! I don’t think I have shared this particular fact with you good people but Rizzo knows all too well how I hate to refer to common goods by the brand name. I don’t use Q-Tips, I use cotton swaps. I don’t use Kleenex, I use tissues. I don’t drink a Coke (even coming from Georgia) I drink a soda pop. Of course, this doesn’t apply if I am literally using a Q-Tip, or using a Kleenex, or drinking a Coke but I try very hard not to use brand names as the product name. So now I’m going to have to train myself to call my piece of equipment a string trimmer or an edger instead of a weed eater. Damn you, George C. Ballas, Sr., inventory of the string trimmer and founder of the Weed Eater Company.

Edger and trimmer.

Edger and trimmer.

You will have a few options when deciding upon your string trimmer and most, if not all, will serve you well. I think the most vital decision to make is whether or not to use a gas or electric edger. A gas edger will give you more power if you plan on using your edger to chop down small trees or cut through metal. However, I suggest you go with the electric edger. It’s not entirely due to my desire to help the environment by using less fossil fuel, especially since I use a gas powered lawn mower, but this doesn’t hurt. It is primarily due to the fact that most string trimmers don’t use just gasoline. Oh no, don’t you just go up to the local Shell station and fill up your gas to use in both your lawn mower and your edger. You must concoct a potion that is for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to run your trimmer. From the Weedeater website:

“The fuel-oil mixture ratio for all Weed Eater products is 40:1. You can obtain this ratio by mixing 3.2 oz. of two cycle air cooled engine oil with one gallon of regular gas. Over a period of time oil will separate from gasoline. To properly insure oil and gas mixture, we recommend thoroughly shaking your oil and gas mixture before refueling your unit.”

Why couldn’t regular old gas be used to power this little engine that could? It seems to me in a world where my phone has more computing power than the entire computer system that was utilized to send a man to the moon that an engine should exist where a string trimmer can run on regular gasoline and not require us to become witches before simply keep our yard looking good. Come on scientist, stop worrying about curing cancer and get me a gas powered edger that runs on regular 87 octane. (In full disclosure, Weedeater describes why this mixture is required but that doesn’t change the fact that the mixture shouldn’t be required).

Once you have your battery powered edger in hand (that sort of sounds dirty) it is time to get to work keeping that grass cropped close to the curb and keeping those weeds from popping up against your house. I suggest breaking out the string trimmer every other yard work day. Some people may disagree but I don’t think trimming is necessary every time you mow the grass. Yes, this may result in some stragglers growing a bit longer than desired along the fence line but that is okay. You know why? Because we don’t all have an extra hour to do some trimming every week and want to hit the market and because I’m lazy so get off my back about it.

The final regularly scheduled part of lawn maintenance is trimming the hedges. To accomplish this unenviable task you have two options, the manual hedge clipper and the electric/gas hedge clippers. If you are doing all of your work manual hedge clippers then, my friend, you are doing it all wrong. To prove it to you let’s do a little test. Pick up two books of about equal weight, each weighing in at a pound or two, nothing crazy just something to hold on two with a little weight to it. Got it? Ok now stand up and holding one book in each hand hold your arms straight out in front of you. Are you in position? Ok, good. Now stand like that for 30-45 minutes keeping your arms straight out in front of you holding those two books. Don’t worry, I have plenty of time. I’ll wait. 

Waiting

Waiting

Did you last the whole time? How do your arms feel? Your shoulders? Your back? Hurts like hell doesn’t it! Well that is what it is like to use manual hedge clippers to try and keep your yard looking good and I even challenged you to a short period of time. No you know to go out and buy yourself some electric hedge clippers. This will cut your hedge trimming time down to almost nothing (almost) and save you the pain and sorrow of using manual hedge trimmers. Don’t forget to purchase a 750-1000 foot extension cord so you can reach all your hedges. Why so long? I’m glad you asked. You will, inevitably, get your extension cord tangled into so many knots that it will look like the string of lights Clark hands Rusty in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. However, if you have an extension cord that could reach from your house to Montana (if you are in Montana insert another state’s name that is far away here) you can just leave it tangled and still get your work done.

Old fashioned hedge clippers

Old fashioned hedge clippers

But don’t throw away that old manual hedge clipper. Sometimes you just have a few stray branches that start growing out of your bushes like the rogue gray hair that you start plucking in your late 20s or early 30s somehow believing that will keep you from going gray (it won’t). For those pesky little guys you need to have the manual hedge clipper on hand to avoid pulling out the entire ball of extension cord for just a few clips.

Now that you are equipped with your self-propelled lawn mower, your electric string trimmer, and both your manual and electric hedge trimmers, you are ready to tackle any yard work task at hand. Good luck, my friends.

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