Something New

As a teacher, I pride myself on taking an interest in learning in general, not just learning about things to which I am naturally inclined.  So, a few weeks ago, while Rob was in the throes of thesis madness, I realized there was one simple, useful homekeeping skill I had never even attempted to master: mowing the lawn.

How hard could it be?  I asked myself.  I'd heard a colleague complain recently that in the four years her family lived on an expansive piece of property, neither her husband nor either of her teenage children once started up the lawnmower.  I was half impressed and half ashamed.  Maybe this is morbid, but I remember thinking, "If I die tomorrow, I don't want Rob to be able to say I never mowed the lawn!"  So that evening I pulled it out and relied on my knowledge gleaned from years of watching the men in my life -- father, brother, husband -- complete the task.  I also called them each for advice several times.

So, here are the mistakes I made, and I hope you can learn from them:

  • If the handle is bent over backwards, you're not actually supposed to use it that way.  (I tried this.)  There are screws on either side that need to be tightened so that the handle will stay straight.

  • You need to prime the engine (pump fuel into it) when it's cold.  (On my mower, you need to do this anytime you start it.)  Look for a little red button that's squishy; when you push it (hard!) you should hear a sucking, liquidy sound.  Push it a couple more times.

  • There's a smaller metal bar by the handle that needs to be squeezed against the handle before the engine will start (it's a safety mechanism, so that if you walk away the lawnmower won't keep running without you.)  Squeeze it while you pull the cord.  Pray, cross your fingers, or do both!

  • Our cord is picky.  I knew this from watching Rob grunt and swear at it.  You have to give it 5 or 10 good pulls before the engine catches.  If your grass is pretty long (mine was, both times) you may need to start the lawnmower on your sidewalk or driveway and push it into the grass after it's running.

  • If the motor dies while you're pushing it, and you haven't let go of the handle, there are a couple of possible problems:

  • If the grass is high and / or your mower blade is low, there just might be too much grass for the mower to handle.  You can either raise the mower blade or just go slowly, and if the motor starts to die down, tilt the mower up so the grass inside can fly out.  If it gets really bad, lay the mower on its side and rotate the blade manually a couple of times to make sure it's working and there are no huge clumps of grass blocking it.

  • You might be out of gas.  Duh (but not totally duh; my mower quits when you can still see gasoline inside.)

That's all the information I needed.  If you need more, Google can probably help.  And if you're laughing at my former ignorance, well, my lawn is freshly mowed at this very moment, so what's up now?  I'm feeling pretty good about myself for having learned a new skill.  I might even add it to my resume . . .