I don’t know about you, but mowing lawns is my least favorite chore. I save up projects to do on my weekends and truly resent the time involved in maintaining the lawns at our two business locations in Rochester, VT while keeping another two acres of grass and fields in check on our rural homestead. I will build decks, gardens, patios, ponds and expand the parking area; anything to lessen the mowing chores. Goats or pigs are probably in our future somewhere.
Despite my best efforts last year, I paid $1500 in mowing services. This did not make me particularly happy either!
After researching options online, here are my conclusions.
First, for us a standard push or self-propelled mower is out. Too much real estate to cover and though I often act like one, I am not a kid with boundless energy anymore. Looking at the ride-on mowers made me somewhat depressed. Was I turning into yet another silver-haired guy endlessly riding around on his mower waiting for his next medical emergency?
I came dangerously close to buying a well- rated and reliable $2,000 ride-on with a 52” deck before finally coming to my senses. What I needed was a small zero-point turn mower. These are those often-giant mowers that the professionals ride or stand on that zip around the yard in about one-third the time of conventional ride on mowers. A smaller nonprofessional gasoline zero-point mower starts at about $3000.
Now for the hard part.
I made a personal commitment this New Year’s to systematically phase out internal combustion engines in my world. Whenever I buy a new motorized device, I pledged to go electric with my purchase. Starting with the biggest purchase, a leased 2020 Chevy BOLT (which I genuinely enjoy driving), it became clear that the next step in the chain had to be electric mowing. And so, I switched gears and decided to go electric.
Electric lawn care has taken a huge technological step forward this year. Most major brands have at least a couple of electric offerings in their mix. Maybe you enjoy fussing with finicky small engines that sit in a cold garage eight months out of the year, but for most of us; probably not our favorite hobby. What if there was no gasoline to mess around with and to inhale, no oil to change, no spark plugs to check, clean and replace, no starter fluids and no replacement starter ropes or dirty carburetors? And especially, what if we eliminated the unfiltered emissions that we exhaust into the same atmosphere that all of us depend on to stay alive?
Fortunately, one company has risen to the challenge. RYOBI makes a simply awesome lower cost rechargeable zero-point turn mower. It is carried by Home Depot. I bought mine at pre-season sale prices and paid $3150. The sales tax was mostly covered by the additional 5% discount received by putting it all on a new Home Depot credit card.
How good is it? Well, a zero-point mower is very fast, a kind of souped-up electric go cart with two grass cutting fans underneath. It is steered by using two levers rather than a wheel, which takes a couple of hours of practice to master. The RYOBI mower has a low-speed button which is terrific for newbies like me still developing his chops. Despite my best efforts, I quickly drove the new mower into the ditch alongside our winding rural driveway. It turned out that the machine was light enough to muscle out without a tow. Test #1: Passed the drive-into-the-ditch test.
Test #2 came when I plugged it in to charge overnight. I had not yet cleaned out the barn to make room for the new machine, so I kept it outside its first night on campus. And of course, it rained. A hard and steady rain at that. Cautiously I wiped down the seat and body with a towel. It started immediately and without complaint. Test #2: Passed the left-out-in-the-rain test.
The third test was a big one. Like many zero-point newbies, I soon drove it into the pond. Well more like I got too close and it slipped into the pond but let us not make excuses. “Learning curves” can be brutal. Running for the tractor, I pretty much convinced myself that I had just destroyed my new toy. I quickly returned to find the mower bobbing in the water pretty much where I left it. The thing actually floats! Winching it out, I dragged the thing up towards the house and toweled it down. Cautiously I turned the key, and it started immediately! Test# 3: Passed the drive-into-the-pond test with flying colors. Amazing.
Now I look forward to riding my electric go-cart speed mower. It is fun and does a great job at anything short of a brush hog’s work. It took out young canes just fine but shut down the blades when they came in contact with small saplings. Smart machine! Apparently smarter than the owner operating it. The RYOBI charges quickly at twelve volts (compared to the car) and runs for 2-1/2 hours or more on a single charge. That’s over two acres of mowing.
If you want to reclaim YOUR weekends while having fun and reduce not only your carbon output but your cancer and asthma loads through zero emissions, I highly recommend the RYOBI zero-point mower as an affordable residential and small-business-property option. The RYOBI is reliable enough for professional use in high density residential areas where noise can be an issue and a smaller mower is called for. You know, considering how much I enjoy the mower, maybe I won’t expand the deck this year after all.
Larry Plesent is a writer, philosopher and natural products formulator living and working in the Green Mountains of central Vermont. Read more at www.vermontsoap.com/category/blog/.