The Grass is Always Greener

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Flack
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The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Flack » Thu Apr 18, 2019 4:06 am

As a red-blooded middle-aged American, I know there is a certain sense of pride I'm supposed to experience when it comes to my lawn. I see it on television and in films, the stereotypical guy who stands back with an icy cold Budweiser in hand, just taking a moment to admire the artistic merits of his yard -- a sculpted piece of artwork on display for all the other red-blooded middle-aged Americans to envy as they drive by.

I wish I was that guy. Actually, I don't. I wish I wished I was that guy. The truth is, I couldn't care less about my yard looks. I get no enjoyment from looking at it, and even less from mowing it. The only two reasons I mow my lawn are to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and to keep the city off my back. Trust me, I hate the heat too, but I look at those yards out west with rock landscaping instead of grass the way Augustus Gloop felt about Wonka's river of chocolate.

Much of my "lawn loathing" comes from the fact that I'm allergic to it. Mowing the lawn will have me sneezing up for two days unless I wrap my head up like a Thuggee guard, so... I don't do it. Every year I suggest we hire a neighborhood kid to mow, and every year my wife says that's a waste of money, and so she does it. After each mowing, she comes in exhausted and I suggest we hire someone next time. But then we don't. It's an awkward arrangement.

(There have been attempts to get my son to mow the lawn. This typically involves asking, begging, days of the silent treatment, and an unfinished job. It's simply not worth the conflict.)

This was at the last house, which had a 1/3 acre lot. The new house has a 3/4 acre lawn, and our riding lawnmower is inaccessible at the moment, which leaves us with a push mower and (at the moment) 6" tall weeds. I don't live in an upscale community or anything, but the lady across the street works full time on her flowerbed, and the guy next door cuts his lawn with scissors so I'm sure they've all noticed.

This brings us to my search for a lawn cutting service.

Before that, I want to tell you this. I cut someone else's lawn once. I was probably twelve, maybe thirteen. A neighbor offered me $20 to mow their lawn, an offer I instantly leaped at. I'm dating myself -- and that's the point -- but at the convenient store near my house I could get a package of gigantic chewy Sweet Tarts and a fountain Dr. Pepper for a buck. If I spent four more quarters while I was there (two on Defender, two on Asteroids) that meant one lawn mowing equaled two weeks of trips to the convenient store. So, I took the job. When I got home my dad went off about paying for gas plus wear and tear on his mower, which of course didn't matter because I had done such a shitty job on the lawn that they never called me back. Point is, $20 was enough to get me to do something I absolutely hated. And it wasn't like I had a dozen yards lined up. It was just one.

So now, I'm looking for that kid -- a kid who wants to mow a lawn and make a little cash. I realize $20 won't get you much these days, but I was hoping to spend $40. Again, I'm looking for the "just enough to my neighbors not to hate me" level of service. I'm not going to stand around looking at it. I'm not going to stand in it. If I had my way, I'd pave the whole goddamn thing and paint it green.

For a moment, I thought I had found that kid. "Looking to make a little money on the side for fishing supplies this summer," reads his ad on Facebook. He came out over the weekend to give me an estimate. $75 was his estimate. "And I don't bag grass," he added.

Maybe (probably) here is where you laugh and say that I'm out of touch with modern prices. I'm not like my older coworker, who thinks hamburgers should still cost a quarter and can't believe anyone would pay five digits for a car (or six for a house) -- I get it, I'm not going to find "teenage me" to mow this lot for $20... but I was hoping for under $50.

I've since had two more estimates of $80 and $100. That last one came from two guys who were recommended to me, one who barely speaks English and was translating for the other. I was told that if I offered them cash I could get a good deal. They said that was a good deal. Adios, muchachos. For $100/week, I could literally buy a used push mower every week and throw it away after mowing.

For the moment, we're back to square one. With no access to our riding lawn mower, we're trying to mow 3/4 of an acre full of wet weeds (it's rained twice this week), desperately trying to knock it down before Easter.
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Casual Observer » Thu Apr 18, 2019 8:54 am

Holy Shit, over $75 for a less than acre mow? That's outrageous, especially for Oklahoma. I could maybe see those prices here in Cali, jesus I can't imaging what they charge out here it must be in the mid three figures so thank god I rent. I used to mow my parents lawn for $10 each time but that's family pricing I guess. I know out here the going rate for home depot mexicans is about $20 an hour so I'd say swing by and pick one up and pay him $40 as there's no way that shit takes more than 2 hours.

When I was growing up pushing a lawn mower I spent literally the entire time daydreaming about building a robotic mower but since I never followed through with electrical engineering or coding that wasn't going to be my invention. Now it looks like some major companies have robotic mowers like Husqvarna but those systems are I think in the thousands of dollars. I'm surprised that these things haven't become more mainstream and cheaper lately due to the inflation of lawn care services. I'm pretty sure they're all still using buried wires or some kind of stakes to let the mower know when to turn around. My idea as a kid was to have a remote control so you could tell it how to mow the lawn the first time and then it would just do that same thing. I can't believe that with modern AI and self driving tech it wouldn't be possible to have a system that doesn't use hidden wires and yet knows what to mow and what not to mow. Seems like an area that could support a startup that goes on to make millions with these current labor costs.

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Billy Mays
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Billy Mays » Thu Apr 18, 2019 10:30 am


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Jizaboz
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Jizaboz » Thu Apr 18, 2019 11:38 am

Ya know, I was thinking the same thing about robotic mowers the other day CO. I wouldn't expect it to be the best (Roomba has its limitations) but I was at least hoping for something for like 1000$ or less that would just do a half-ass job safely.

I'm kind of in the same boat as you Flack with the yard situation. I hate it, I'm allergic to it, and I haven't owned anything other than a push mower for like 12 years now once a hand-me-down Sears Craftsman rider ignition went out. The only thing I actually enjoy about it is doing maintenance on the engine and actually hearing it run better afterwards! I suppose it is a good excuse for exercise but I'd rather be skateboarding or even just walking.

Like you I have no idea how much it's costing people around me to have their lawns mowed but figured it was high. Kept saying I'm not going to keep mowing my own grass after I turn 40 but now you've shattered my estimate that I can get someone to mow my half an acre for 50$

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Flack
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Flack » Thu Apr 18, 2019 12:40 pm

So, I used to own one of those robotic lawn mowers. I had a RoboMower (which I think is now just RoboMow). I can't find when I bought it or when we got rid of it, but I did find this blog post where I mentioned it, written in August of 2005. I got rid of it over a decade ago.

The technology was very simple, and the one we owned could be considered first-gen. It involved burying a perimeter wire around your yard (like a wireless dog fence). It had a controller that looked like an over-sized gamepad that allowed you to walk behind and drive it -- I had to drive it to the front yard from the garage and vice-versa. I thing the newer gen ones can automatically "return to base" like a Roomba and charge themselves, but mine had to be manually parked/charged.

The only real technical details I remember was that it had three blades and some sort of tilt technology that would stop them if you tried to lift the thing or if it were to tip over. I remember it mulched the grass so there was no bagging, and I remember that it didn't follow any sort of logical path, but simply bounced around the yard for a couple of hours until it was done. Unlike the newer ones which all seem to be green, mine was yellow, and whenever you started it, it would play "do-do-do-DO-do-DOOO" and then I would say "CHARGE!"

We paid $600 for ours, and it lasted two seasons. If you figure I mowed once a week for six months two years in a row, that's 48 mowings for about $12.50 a mow (not including the cost of electric) -- way cheaper than paying a kid to do it.

The biggest issue we had with ours was the guide wire. When it broke, which seemed to be often, you would trot the thing out and turn it on and it would just sit there. Maybe we didn't bury the wire deep enough, but after a while the dirt would push it back to the top and then the mower would cut it. We spent a lot of time walking around the yard searching for cuts in the wire, more time than we probably would have spent just mowing the yard.

I couldn't find any pictures of videos of the one I owned, but it looked exactly like this one (except it was yellow).

"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Ice Cream Jonsey
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:42 pm

Our place in the city didn't have a lawn and now we're in the forest where you don't mow anything. But when I lived in Thornton, we did have a lawn. When I was living on my own I was horrible at keeping it up. There is a picture somewhere of sunflowers that were literally as tall as my house. The lawn was ignored by me because it was an obligation and I kept putting it off.

I did like the smell of a freshly cut lawn, though.

I think I did look into having someone mow it... one sec, I've got to have the email somewhere.

OK, the dude mowed my lawn the first time for $25 but wanted $100 to do it a second time and in the future. That's where the chain of communication ended, I guess.
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by bryanb » Thu Apr 18, 2019 10:06 pm

Because my father was older and had a bad knee, I had to take over the family lawn mowing duties at a fairly early age. I didn't enjoy the process of mowing then and I don't enjoy mowing my yard now, but it's an activity I've done so long I'm not sure I could bear actually paying someone to do it for me. I still have a gas push mower, and it's an old gas push mower now. The noise is headache-inducing, the fumes are sickening, and because it's an old mower I constantly worry it won't start again whenever it suddenly stops. The maintenance is kind of tiresome too. I cope by avoiding mowing as much as possible. When I do mow, I never mow the entire lawn. Thus, at least part of my yard always look unkempt 100% of the time. One of my neighbors is an old man who works in his yard constantly. He doesn't have Internet access, he never subscribed to cable TV...he's got a radio and lawn tools. That's enough for him. I'm sure he hates me. On the other hand, I've actually been a bad influence on my other neighbor. He used to mow his lawn the day after I mowed mine, but he's stopped caring completely now. It's a once or twice a year process for him now.

When my current mower finally dies, I'll probably go electric. I know I'm going to hate changing the batteries, and I do wonder how well they're made considering all the electric mowers I've seen have been all plastic and very cheap looking. Still, the maintenance would so much less and it would be great to not deal with the noise and fumes any longer.

One thing I will say is that mowing with an old-fashioned reel mower can be kind of enjoyable. It feels almost like you're communing with nature even as you're actually destroying nature. Unfortunately, my lawn has weeds and sticks and stones oh my. My reel mower just can't cut it very well.

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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by ChainGangGuy » Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:06 am

I've got a guy. Thirty-five bucks. While it's true Victor will occasionally miss various swaths and sections of the lawn semi-mowed and has been known to simply drive over non-lawn items, like the corrugated pipes extending off the gutter downspouts, I still find great value in the service he offers. Other lawn care professionals might opt for that desired striped ballpark look. Victor's method and patterns can be a bit more haphazard at times. The front currently features a chopped diagonal pattern, the back has a gnarled swirl pattern, as if he lost control of the riding mower momentarily or was deliberately recreating Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' in shades of rye grass, zoysia and dandelions. Thirty-five bucks well spent.

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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by AArdvark » Fri Apr 19, 2019 6:42 am

I actually enjoy cutting the lawn. Since we moved from a postage stamp lawn in the city to an acre in the country I had to get a rider. It takes about an hour, depending on how much futzing around I do, trying to get every single square foot of grass to look right. If I use the push mower to do the tight parts in the front it'll be another half hour. One of the biggest factors, I think I mentioned this elsewhere, is that all my neighbors are retired or semi-retired and they have LOTS of time to perfectly maintain their yards. Plus they all seem to have attachments (that I'll never afford or want) that sweeps or vacuums up every random leaf or twig. Matter of fact, I hear the guy across the street right now has started up his Cub Cadet and is preparing to do his lawn, even though it's only mid-April and the grass hasn't even started growing yet. ( I saw him mopping out his garage floor last year if that gives you any indication of the state of his home tidiness)
I have an old Sears reel mower and used to use it on the lawn back in the city because it made the grass look like a putting green. Too much work now, but it was cool for a while. I remember a commercial for a push mower that floated on air. I could never find anything about it except for a clip from America's funniest Home Videos where a guy was using one and he stumbled while cutting his grass and the thing flew away on him.

I just looked and I think I'm remembering it incorrectly


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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Casual Observer » Fri Apr 19, 2019 9:23 am

ChainGangGuy wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:06 am
Victor's method and patterns can be a bit more haphazard at times. The front currently features a chopped diagonal pattern, the back has a gnarled swirl pattern, as if he lost control of the riding mower momentarily or was deliberately recreating Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' in shades of rye grass, zoysia and dandelions. Thirty-five bucks well spent.
CCG brings up a good point. What pattern is preferred for lawn cutting? My favorite was going around the perimiter from outside to inside, simply because it was more mindless for me. Going back and forth row by row always seemed tedious because of more turning back and forth.

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Ice Cream Jonsey
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:14 pm

My father is a big lawn guy. It skips a generation though. His father (my paternal grandfather) died when my dad was 14 or so. I never met the man, obviously. My dad claims that he took to mowing because it was a prideful thing - he didn't want the neighbors to think that the family, which then consisted of his older brother, sister and mother, were in any sort of need when his father died.

I always accepted that, but typing it out, I think pops also just enjoyed mowing the lawn. I don't have kids but it is my understanding that mowing the lawn for an hour or two is also a great way to get away from the family. PASS THE SALT FAMILY!
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Casual Observer » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:42 pm

This thread has gotten me thinking. Looking back, my time mowing the lawn was actually pretty relaxing. Yeah, it's hot and smelly and tiring but I could exist on autopilot, thinking about whatever I wanted (again, usually how could I automate this shit).

Grass cutting also led to my first beer. After finishing the mowing one day at age 15, my dad handed me one of his Beast's (milwaukees best for those who don't know the nickname). That was the start of my alcoholism and also I'm proud that over the next ten years I influenced my dad to not be so fucking cheap and buy some real beers.

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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by AArdvark » Fri Apr 19, 2019 3:04 pm

Hint: Jim Beam sometimes drives the lawn tractor while I simply watch.

THE
DRIVER'S SEAT
AARDVARK

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AArdvark
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by AArdvark » Fri Apr 19, 2019 3:05 pm

He smells like peat and deep cherry quiche with a nose

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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Casual Observer » Fri Apr 19, 2019 3:22 pm

AArdvark wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 3:04 pm
Hint: Jim Beam sometimes drives the lawn tractor while I simply watch.
Shit, I know that feeling except with a car.

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Flack
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Flack » Fri Apr 19, 2019 4:15 pm

Well, today's story has a happy ending.

After work today I took the push mower out back and worked on the yard for an hour. It rained here both Wednesday and Thursday, so not only is the grass wet, but the weeds that were 6" tall are now a foot. The mower dies every 10 feet unless you go super slow and do wheelies and attack the weeds like you're Don Quixote.

So after an hour I'm about to die, so I take a break. Then the kid comes out, sees me on my death bed, and offers to take over. (I just found out that my wife told him she was turning off his internet until the lawn was done, so don't think there was any goodwill going on here.) Five minutes into his mowing, I look across the yard and see this:

Image

The neighbor either felt sorry for us or simply got tired of living next to the jungle book, and swooped in with his industrial zero turn monster and knocked out everything that was left in about ten minutes. Then he spent another ten minutes going over the parts I had done, which looked terrible compared to his part.

So, Good Friday, indeed.
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Casual Observer » Fri Apr 19, 2019 4:26 pm

Flack wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 4:15 pm
Well, today's story has a happy ending.
Nice story but not what I understand to be a "Happy Ending"

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Flack
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Flack » Fri Apr 19, 2019 6:40 pm

Well, I forgot to mention what the guy charged for the mowing.
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by ChainGangGuy » Sat Apr 20, 2019 1:38 pm

A few of us have mentioned the supposed, sensed ire of our neighbors. Are any of us troubled by it?

Though the weather is considerably rainy and unseasonably cool this weekend, my neighbor (Nick) has carefully placed out several ornamental trees for planting in a row parallel to our property line, perhaps in an attempt to obscure their view of 5000 Pine Creek. I'm being out-of-sight-out-of-minded, here!

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Jizaboz
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Re: The Grass is Always Greener

Post by Jizaboz » Sat Apr 20, 2019 11:25 pm

Wow am I wrong about how fast stuff grows in OK compared to NC. Too bad certain things are still illegal there because you could grow some huge tomato and pot plants there.

.GOV/MIB disclaimer: I have met Flack and he does not consume marijuana and he sure as shit doesn't consume raw tomatoes.

Current situation at my house: neighbor behind me still hasn't mowed this year and it just rained again. Good luck to him.
ChainGangGuy wrote:
Sat Apr 20, 2019 1:38 pm
A few of us have mentioned the supposed, sensed ire of our neighbors. Are any of us troubled by it?

Though the weather is considerably rainy and unseasonably cool this weekend, my neighbor (Nick) has carefully placed out several ornamental trees for planting in a row parallel to our property line, perhaps in an attempt to obscure their view of 5000 Pine Creek. I'm being out-of-sight-out-of-minded, here!
The neighbor to the right of me took forever to mow but the did. The one to the left of me has planted bushes surrounded by pink flamingos to block out the view of the neighbors to the right of me. Not making this up.

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