When I was a youngster, one of my first outdoor chores was mowing the lawn. I desperately wanted to mow with the Briggs and Stratton motivated rotary power mower, but my parents didn’t think it wise to let an 8-year-old push that cutter around the yard. Instead, they ordered a clunky, heavy, difficult-to-push reel mower for me out of the Sears Roebuck and Co. catalog. That poor excuse for a machine quickly made me hate mowing for the simple reason that it was really difficult to push … especially with the grass-catcher attached. A neighbor had a Tecumseh-powered reel mower. The engine made the reel and the wheels turn, so the mowing appeared effortless … from where I stood anyway. Eventually, I turned 10 years old and was able to graduate to our old power mower. What a relief.
Last year, while mowing the lawn with one of our many vintage garden tractors, I fell into a moment of reverie relating to that old reel mower. Luckily I snapped out of it before I ran over the tree seedlings that Kate and I planted in the spring … but the reel mower concept crept into my thoughts frequently. I wondered whether that old Sears mower was really a piece of junk, or whether it just wasn’t adjusted properly, or heaven forbid, I was just too small and weak to make it work correctly.
Earlier this year, I received a compelling PR pitch from Sunlawn, a company devoted to conscientious garden solutions. It seemed that they had a lightweight self-sharpening reel mower, and they wanted me to try it out. I didn’t tell them how much I loathed the concept when I was young. The thing finally arrived last month, and I put it through its paces last weekend.
Wow, the Sunlawn LMM35 does everything the PR blurb says it does. I used it to do the final mowing in hard-to-reach places in our yard. It munched its way through the leaf-covered grass with little effort on my part. This machine would be a perfect primary mower for folks with a small lawn … or a strong and eager daughter or son with energy to burn. At 17 pounds, cutting with the LMM35 took less effort than pushing the ancient stamped-steel power mower affair that I had been doing the trimming work with.
I can’t speak to this reel mower’s long-term serviceability, but with a 2-year warranty, the company obviously expects it to last. I can say that my experience with the LMM35 was sufficiently positive that I will use it next season for trim work (possibly more) and that not having to deal with gasoline and oil and smoke and noise and vibration was really a treat. The whirring click of the blades was mesmerizing at times, and relaxing at others. This reel experience was definitely at the opposite end of the happiness continuum compared with 44 years ago.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.