Posted by: lialeendertz | May 31, 2010

The first cut

Sharp edges. So proud...

Mowing the lawn. Oh yeah. This is a blog post about mowing the lawn. And if that doesn’t get the juices flowing, I will be moving on to cutting the hedge in a bit. Too good to you.

A while ago I set out my aim of making my garden self-sufficient, carbon-neutral, and part of that aim is to avoid using petrol- or electrical-based tools for the primping and preening jobs. This means using hand tools, and push tools, burning my own cake- and cheese-based energy instead of that stored away as oil and coal for billions of years. For a nice long while it was cold and nothing was growing, and it was all theory, but now plants are bursting forth irrepressibly, and I have had to swing my me-powered tools into action.

I take the push mower out of the shed; I push it and pull it about for a bit; I put it back. No wires, no expense, no use of resources, no emissions. It’s easy and satisfying and surprisingly quick. The kids, who used to hide indoors when the big mower came out, run around on the lawn while I do it (I know, health and safety nightmare. YOU try telling them.) I appreciate that it’s a bit of a token gesture: the amount of power I formerly used in my garden must be miniscule in comparison to the amount I use in the house, and the fact that I drive, occasionally. But it’s a start. It’s focusing the mind.

So the lawn is a doddle, a joy, in fact. I can’t quite believe I didn’t harness this lovely, simple technology earlier. The hedge though, is another matter. We have two BIG hedges, both privet (I know, hideous, but I can’t get rid of them because the sparrows love them). The one in the back garden is about 25 ft long, and ranges between 8 and 10ft high and I have been staring at it with increasing horror as it grows and  grows. Cutting it is one of the jobs my husband used to do with a big, heavy, stinking petrol hedge trimmer, but can’t do at the moment (I wrote about this here, if you’re puzzled), and such things take on a significance, and weigh upon me, becoming more than they are. The other problem is that there is no nifty push-mower eco-equivalent for a hedge trimmer. You get your shears, and you move your arms in and out, and then in and out some more, until all blood drains from them and giving in and just letting them drop off seems appealing.

In fact, of course, it wasnt that bad at all in the end. The shears were sharp, the job was quick. I reckon it actually took about the same time as Michael used to take over it (although this is mainly because he tends – generally, in all things – towards much higher standards than me: pushing the clippings under the hedge and calling them mulch is not his idea of clearing up after, for instance). So this is how goes my adventure with person-propelled garden machinery so far: not as daunting as it seems, much quieter, simpler, with a good feeling of taking care of business, and with that half packet of shortbread nicely worked off.



  1. Not saying that you have any, but using hand shears for hedge cutting is great for toning the bingo wings. I couldn’t live without my petrol thirsty, un-green hedgetrimmer. Too many hedges. And I don’t need to trim my bingo wings.

  2. I do my hedges with shears and secateurs on the laurel but they are still quite small at the moment. Just bought a new electric mower for the garden as last one died, wonder if a push mower would work on my slopy back lawn

  3. Ive managed to chop thru 3 wires on the electric hedge thingy so now got the long trimming attachment on the strimmer. She’s still not expecting me to live long

  4. Good thinking; hedge clippings pushed under hedge as mulch.Now why didn’t I think of that?

    Been trimming my hedges by hand for years now and as I have many (mainly box) I spread it over a week or 2 otherwise my biceps will rival those of Wolverine; not a pretty sight for a woman. 😉

    Still mowing the lawn with electric mower but it’s on its last legs. As soon as they collaps I will get handmower too. Like mowing by hand and also love the sound it makes. XX

  5. Well done, that girl! Never mind that it is a tiny drop in the ocean of global warming, it is more than many would contemplate. Now you just have to do that hedge twice a year for the next three or four decades, the lawn every couple of weeks over the same time period, let’s say another 399 times, then you unplug the telly and the dish washer, oh, and get rid of that gas-guzzling campervan and you are half-way to being a respnsible citizen of planet earth!

    OK, you knew I wouldn’t be able to resist. I am actually impressed, and pleased you enjoyed it. And hedge clippings as mulch is absolutely tge right thing to do. And lastly, ignore Roland and his bingo wings – couple of years from now you’ll look like Arnold Swarzenthingy.

  6. A short post but it sent me rambling round my house and the internet. Well it wasn’t exactly your post but Yolanda Elizabet’s comment about the sound of a hand mower. It’s a sound of summer, belonging to it as much as buzzing and strawberries and gnats. It (the sound) is mentioned in one of Edwin Morgan’s poems (I think) where he hears its ‘ruby tones’ (I think) wafting from a neighbour’s garden (I think). It’s in his collection of poems (I think) called ‘From Glasgow to Saturn’ – which is supposed to be in our poetry bookcase – but isn’t. I’ve been ploughing through the bookshelves, dipping in and out of Stephen Spender’s poetry (in case it had migrated into another book) and into Angela Brazil’s ‘The Third Form at Miss Kayes’ (in case it had migrated into a story in another bookcase). No-where. Can’t find it on the internet either so you’ll have to take it on trust (which one should never do) that Edwin Morgan and I both like the sound of other people mowing their lawns with hand mowers.


  7. Now look what you’ve done. Gone and made me feel guilty about my little rechargeable Bosch box trimmers.

    Not to mention my nifty little electric lawnmower that gives me dinky stripes on the lawn.


    I’m going to turn off the kids’ telly now – just to compensate.

    You will be able to hear the screams.

  8. Lia, what a wonder you are, especially to all us power mad things. Actually to cut costs I am taking shears to ground cover in the wood this year to save bill on Mr Strimmer Man. Like your kids the birds don’t mind me doing it and I can hear them while I am doing it!
    Fancy arms a bit more toned too!
    Best Wishes

  9. Roland – natrally I dont have any, but you are right that it will keep them at bay. Shall attack the front hedge with renewed vigour.

    Helen – reckon your lawn is the perfect size for a push mower, slope or no.

    MarkD – you want to get yourself a pair of shears

    Yolanda – a convert! Hooray. I hope you do.

    Gilly – you’re right, it’s not much, but it’s all kind of part of the same idea, trying to make the garden make sense on lots of levels. Next, the rest of my life.

    Esther – I hadnt really thought about the romance of the noise, having only been up close to it (not that great) but you’re right, from up the street it is the sound of summer’s past (and future)

    Dawn – oh dear god no, not the telly?! Surely something else could give?

    Robert – using shears to clip woodland ground cover to the sound of birds singing sounds blissful, if bloody hard work. How big is this wood? One can take these things too far…

  10. Good girl! A bit of hard work never hurt anyone.

    I’ve gone completely lawn free and the only implements I use now are secateurs and shears. Things may take a little longer but I get a good precision cut and I get to spend more time in the garden. Bonus! I find that sheep shears are also excellent for edging the lotty.

    No bingo wings here! 😉


  11. I love your sentence about the way your husband has higher standards. That could have been written about my husband and me with no alteration except he is not called M.
    I admire your stance. I eat most of the things I grow and would rather wrap myself in a sack than use a tumble dryer. Does that in any way mitigate my use of a petrol mower? Ah well, never mind.

  12. I’m not quite sure why it has taken me such a long time to get round to reading this post but it has.
    I used to have a push mower ages ago- I didn’t use it much as it was a bit blunt and the fly was more fun (in my defence it was in the days before Eco-awareness when we just burned fossil fuels to pass the time and with not a smudge of guilt)
    I do remember the rather satisfying whirring noise it made .
    I am glad somebody still makes the things, nowadays you should be able to harness all that whirring to charge an iPad at the same time.

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