Crow’s Nest: Consider the reel mower

July 25, 2013


Consider the simple hand-pushed reel mower. Crow’s Nest Preserve is 600 acres, has miles of trails, and not insignificant lawns around several historic houses on the preserve. So there’s no way we could use a reel mower on the preserve.

And yet—a few times a year we do.

I speak of the barnyard at our visitor center barn as the “golf green” of the preserve. Its grass needs to be well trimmed and neat for foot traffic. I subscribe to the theory of landscape design that areas further from the buildings should be more wild than those places very close, so the barnyard is kept pretty tidy. The 60 x 60′ barnyard sometimes gets mowed with just this hand-pushed mower and a little bit of sweat.

Most weeks we use a commercial walk-behind mower in the yard and barnyard, but occasionally we pull out this reel mower. Our equipment is stored almost a mile up the road in another barn, and sometimes it isn’t worth going all the way up there to get the power mower.

The reel mower is quiet and relatively safe to operate so I can be mowing while our four-year-old is out in the yard. I enjoy the quiet snipping of its blades and the sounds of nature instead of the roar of the gas mower. I like not using gasoline. The reel mower has so far been entirely maintenance-free (11 years).

A reel mower makes a sharper and finer cut than a powered rotary mower, though it doesn’t scatter the clippings as evenly.

I like that it is a bit of a workout to use, though ours is much easier to use than the cast-iron ones of my youth. I feel like I’m gaining a benefit myself while doing something positive for the preserve. Newer designs than ours feature edge-to-edge cutting and are even easier to use.

Most summers I ask the intern to give it a try. It’s likely something they’ve never experienced, and generally they appreciate the opportunity (if only to understand how much easier it is to use a power mower).

Someday I’ll have a smaller lawn and this is the only kind of mower I’ll use.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on July 25, 2013.