Last month I broke down and finally bought a rechargeable string trimmer and wasted an hour reading the instructions, $99 plus tax and probably a couple of clicks off my hearing chart as well. When we first bought this large-yarded house and dreamed of Going Green, the plan was completely off the grid, no gas-powered tools, no petroleum-based (or other) chemicals. Well, one and a half out of two ain’t bad, right?
As my amused readers know, the first artillery purchase in my lawn-taming battle was a reel mower, a snazzy-looking, easy-cutting but bolt-dropping exercise machine that is absolutely perfect for a medium-sized, flat parcel with not-too-tall grass. Not our yard, alas. (Or not with me doing the mowing, double alas.) So as early as last summer when we first left to go on vacation, I had to call our old landscaping service because, frankly, you needed the heavy guns by that point.
This year, we reached that point a full month earlier. When gardeners start dropping business cards in your mail box and a contractor offers a free mowing, you know it’s time to throw in the organic cotton towel. On Tuesday, we had a professional team come by and whack away. Wow, who knew we had such a nice lawn?
But back to the trimmer. Although I had the push mower, I realized even last year that with the design of this property, i.e. a standard suburban set-up made for power-tooled garden maintenance, doing all the weed pulling, lawn edging and leaf clearing would be another Herculean task.* I began, as I always begin things I know absolutely nothing about, with Research.** Some people go to Home Depot and ask the nice orange-aproned folks for advice. Others chat up family or friends or total strangers in the checkout line. Techies exhaustively browse the Internet, price-comparing and feature-evaluating until the digitized cows come home. I, of course, did all of this and decided what I really needed was the Stihl Lithium-Ion Battery Powered String Trimmer because they had a picture of a gal operating it. Must be perfect for me, right?
Well, frankly, I may never know. When I went to the closest lawn & garden store (that’s right, not a box store but a genuine small business catering to the local gardening services community), they must have thought I had just come in for change for the meter. They did not expect me to ask for the product I asked for; in fact, although they carried Stihl, this product was so new, no one else had asked for it, they didn’t carry it and it would have to be ordered.** Luckily, I had my clipping (so to speak!) from, I think, Mother Earth News and gave them all the relevant info including my name and phone number so they could call me “as soon as it came in.”
That was ten months ago and after a few other tries, never heard a thing. Oh well, back to the box store….
Spending absolutely no further time on research because the bad grass was that bad,***I got over to HD for a quick feature-and-price comparison. I did not see the Stihl I had obsessed over so I focused on two things: 1) battery time for use and re-charging and 2) expandability (using same tool for different applications, i.e. trimmer and leaf blower and snow blower and margarita-maker, whatever.) Since battery power seems to be the most crucial feature in the world o’ lawn trimmers, I have to say, I got more caught up in that than maybe I should. As you probably know, Home Depot has these tags whereby you can see at a glance which product is Best, Better and Good. I did not end up with the electric trimmer designated as Best in the Actually Trimming Category. Oh well. That would be My Bad.
After getting a little freaked out over the warning labels (17 separate Warning! boxes for the trimmer, two more warnings and a caution for the battery), I gingerly slotted the 18 volt lithium-ion pack into the recharger being careful to avoid fire, heat, damp or wet locations, pilot lights, paper clips, coins, keys, nails, screws and not to crush, drop or damage the battery on its path to the charging unit now situated in a well-ventilated area. Phew! Why did I want a lithium-ion battery again? Oh, right. I was worried about battery power. Hmmm…
Sometime later when the Charge Indicator Light glowed the appropriate color in the appropriate pattern, after removing jewelry and any other dangling objects, I prepared my armor: long pants, wool socks, Doc Martens, work gloves, safety glasses, 44 SPF sunblock, straw hat. Securing all children and pets from the area, I made a mental note to update my last will and testament and then ever so carefully, placed the battery into the trimmer handle. Emerging from the garage into the implacable sunshine, heart pitter-pattering, I stepped onto the lawn and squeezed the trigger.
Which brings me, finally, to the hyperbolic title of this entry. Fully realizing that I am generalizing to a dismaying degree, I, nonetheless, have decided that Men like Power Lawn Tools because, well, they work. Are they the best thing for the Environment? Nooooooo. But if you think of the Lawn as the Enemy, then you can fulfill the role of Warrior and convert that couchless task to something steeped in meaning, even heroism. (“Look, honey, I saved you from a thousand weeds!” “That’s nice, baby, can you do something about that stopped-up toilet now?”)
Strapping one of those suckers onto your back, man-handling those mowers over the spaces of your dominion, these are things that may appeal to Team Testosterone in ways I can only imagine. I got a small glimpse of it, however, when I first turned on the battery-powered string trimmer. Attempting to look like I belonged in that brotherhood of gardeners that so smoothly swing the machines to and fro, topping tall grass, eliminating weedy fringes, I failed. Miserably. The darn thing is HEAVY. Oops, I forgot to check that part on the compare-and-contrast chart. And, moreover, it shakes so much I could mix James Bond a drink if there wasn’t a Warning! about avoiding alcohol while operating. Now, admittedly, our grass was savannah-tall at this point and although I tried to “start at the top” and work the weeds down, within minutes, I was so pooped my arms could barely hold the thing up. I had “trimmed” about 1/50th of the area I set out to trim. I had intimidated the ducks and my daughter with the very noise of it. And, beneath the gentle whisper of the spring breeze, I could hear the grasses laughing.
Just think, my biggest concern was running out of battery power.
Happy Father’s Day!
*What, you mean Lawn Maintenance was not one of the original Labors?! Okay, well, it shoulda been.
**Arguably the most fun part. Certainly the least sweaty.
***As previously noted, the Bad Grass is that tall, seed-coated stuff that the reel mower just pushes over but doesn’t really cut. It’s too tough for the ducks to eat and the rabbits use it for evasive maneuvers but not snacking.
Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes
Photos by Lori Fontanes and Pamela Rosenburgh