Monday, July 6, 2009

A Tale of Two Lawnmowers

Shortly after I bought my cabin, I also bought a refurbished riding mower. There is a guy along the way to the cabin who buys and sells lawnmowers and other small engine yard equipment, fixes them up, and sells them. I have a pretty big lot (230' x 80') so a rider mower seemed like a great idea and I picked this one up for $200. (Up in the country where my cabin is, there are a lot of these "home businesses." I hired one handyman based off a plywood sign in his front yard, it is kind of how things go up there.)

Anyway, the mower worked well for a couple of years, and then one summer day, it died. My then-husband hired a friend of his to see if he could fix it. They went up to the cabin, picked it up, brought it back to the friend's house and he worked on it for a few weeks and then brought it back. It needed a few new parts and also had a huge mouse nest nestled in it.

So again, the mower works for awhile and then sure enough, once again, it dies. By this time, I am separated from my husband, so I ask a friend of mine go up to the cabin and help me out with it. He determines the battery is in need of charging, and once again, the mice have built a home in the mower... actually more than a home, this is a mouse mansion! It took us quite awhile to get all the bits out. But, eventually we get it running again and I am once again able to mow my lawn.

Then last fall, just as I am about to do the last mowing of the season, guess what happens? You got it, the mower dies again...

I know what the problem is, of course, it's those dang mice! My shed is anything but critter proof - it keeps the snow off, but not much else. It is obvious that the lawnmower is just too big of a temptation to them for nesting. I tried putting moth balls and Osage oranges (a folk remedy) on and around the mower to keep them out, all to no avail. So now what??? Fixing it again just seems like a waste of time. I can't keep the dang mice out! What to do? So, I leave it, knowing snow will come soon and I can safely ignore it for a few months.

But eventually spring comes, as it will, and before long my yard is a foot high. I eventually have to cut it... with a weed whacker.

Let me add a little confession right now: I know nothing about mowing lawns. Seriously, I am so lawn-clueless. See, when I was a young girl I had terrible allergies to cut grass, weeds and pollen, so when most kids were earning a few extra dollars of allowance money by learning how to mow the lawn, I was inside the house hiding from allergens. My allergies lead to asthma attacks, so my folks were justifiably worried about it, and while this was good for my health, it wasn't so good for my knowledge when it comes to lawn maintenance. I never mowed as a kid, then I lived in an apartment after college, and I bought my first home(s) when I had a husband who enjoyed mowing. I didn't even know how to run the lawnmower... let alone repair one. (I seriously had to read the instructions on the mower the first time I did it. I had two goals at the time - 1) make the lawn flatter and less embarrassingly long and 2) not kill myself in the process.) You might be able to see how all this yard stuff just makes me want to pull my hair out!! I know I can learn to do it... if I can just keep a mower working!

Fortunately, my neighbor occasionally mows is for me, so it isn't as bad as it could be. In part he does it because he is a good guy, but also in part because mosquitoes breed in the long grass and he is trying to save his own skin. I feel rotten about it, but I just don't know what to do. What can I do? New sheds cost thousands of dollars, which I just don't have. The tractor mower is too big to shrink wrap. I'm stuck.

Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine sends out an email that she is moving and selling a lot of her things. One of the things she was selling? A lawnmower. Not a rider mower, just a regular push mower, but a nice one that she gave me a more than fair price on. I went over, took a look at it, and bought it from her. I figured that it is small enough that I can keep it in the mudroom of my cabin, at least for the time being, until I figure something better out.

She agreed that I would take it the following week, and in the meantime, she would use the mower herself to runs some of the gas out of it to make it easier for me to transport. That same weekend I decided I had better take the weed whacker up with me to the cabin to do whatever damage control I could. While I was there, I saw my neighbor. He had mowed again, thank goodness, and when I profusely thanked him, he told me the grass had gotten mighty long. I don't think he was chastising me, but that's how it felt. I ended up telling him my lawn mower trials and tribulations. He then then offered to take a look at the mower for me. I was willing, though I told him I had another one on the way, but he had been laid off recently and said it would make a good project to tinker with. So, we rolled the mower out of my shed and over to his property.

This weekend I picked up the new-to-me smaller mower from my friend and headed up to the cabin for the long holiday weekend. I hadn't been in the cabin 15 minutes when the neighbor knocked. He said, "Well, I fixed your mower, and I have a proposition for you." It turns out that there was more that just one thing wrong with the mower... some of the problems hail back to the first time it was worked on. In addition, my mower model is no longer made, so parts were a little hard to come by. The result was that my neighbor had to get mighty creative in coming up with bits and pieces from other mowers, but eventually he prevailed. Oh yeah, and he also cleaned out the mouse nest... it was so big it filled a 5 gallon bucket halfway! I told you - mouse mansions.

He hadn't planned on buying any parts, but one thing lead to another and before long, he had spent over $100. He felt pretty bad, knowing that I didn't have the money, but said it became an obsession, seeing if he could get it running again. He then offered two choices - I could sell it to him or, I could give him the mower, and he in turn would mow my lawn with it. I leapt at the second choice. I mean really... I give him a worthless (to me) lawnmower and in return he mows my lawn for as long as it runs? Deal!!!!!!!! He has applied for a job in another part of the country, and if he gets it, he will have to move. If that happens, he'll give me the mower back, but until that happens, he'll take care of the yard. Awesome!

Of course, now I have a smaller mower in my mudroom... but I have no doubt I will find use for it too. I'm telling you, I am repeatedly amazed and grateful for all the wonderful people in my life, friends, family and random neighbors alike. How did I ever get this lucky?

Photo by: Lawrence Whittemore


FB @ said...

That is SO sweet of him.

Wow :) What a great neighbour.. and to fix the mower for free and to do the yard !??! I wouldn't pass that up.

RTC said...

Fantastic! Your lawn is being taken care of and you have a back up mower.

Anonymous said...

I say this with 100% respect (and definitely no ill will) -- but my guess is that you are a very attractive lady. :)

Dawn said...

FB - I agree! I think I am going to bring him a treat next time I go up. :)

RTC - I know! It is the best.

Anonymous - Hahahahaa!! Thanks! I'm not sure if that is what's working for me (especially considering that when I am in cottage-mode it means scrubby clothes and looking like I just woke up most times) but hey, I'll take it. Good thing I know he is happily married! :)

An ostrich named Sam said...

It's great having neighbors like that!

Anonymous said...

Aw! SUPER nice of him!!! :)

Moonblossom said...

When I got my first lawn mower I had no idea how to use it, so I just pushed the button to start it and ran it over the grass and prayed nothing was under there. When I got married my DH told me I was doing it wrong I needed to go side ways and make pretty lines I said who cares about lines its short that is all that matters :)

Dawn said...

Amen Moonblossom! I know people who make gorgeous patterns in their lawn... me, I just want it flat. :)

Bouncing Back said...

It must be a lawnmover problem month. Mine just died last night!

I am lucky too. My one neighbor uses his riding mower to mow most of my lawn, I use my push mower to mow where he can't. Thank goodness for good neighbors!

Dawn said...

An ostrich named Sam - I couldn't agree more!

Frugal Dreamer - I thought so too, next time I go up I am bringing him a small thank you gift.

Bouncing Back - Isn't it great? I am so very grateful.