Monday, July 26, 2010

Real Life Experience of a Reel Push Mower

Our gas powered lawn mower quit about a month ago. It had been sputtering and stalling for quite some time but we had continued to struggle with it, pulling on the starter cord over and over again each time it coughed to a stop during mowing. Just when it appeared nothing could stop us from making do with such a difficult mower, the pull handle popped off the top of the starter cord, disappearing into some internal place within the mower. Even though this happened when caught with about only 2/3 of my front lawn mowed, I was happy. Happy to finally get rid of the stupid machine with its leaking gas tank, stalling problem, difficult starter, and broken self-propeller part.

Because recent information about gas propelled mowers told me that using a gas mower to mow a typical lawn resulted in the same amount of emissions of a car driven between Boston and Washington DC, I wanted to purchase a more environmentally friendly electric mower to replace our now dead gas mower. But my husband had other ideas. Long tired of the wasted energy used to mow grass, my husband suggested we check out push reel mowers. I was worried we would be throwing our money away as I remembered the one time I had attempted to mow a lawn with a heavy, rusted, jammed reel mower - long ago when I was probably eight- and that memory had cemented in my mind that reel mowers were useless.

Many environmental organizations push the use of electric mowers, some even offering up trade-in opportunities encouraging you to turn in your gas mower for a free electric model. While electric mowers may use cleaner energy and not have the emissions gas mowers do, why settle for any amount of energy use when push reel mowers don't use any energy at all to operate?

Of course, you do have to use your own personal energy to push a reel mower, but with the purchase of our new Scotts Elite reel mower, we are finding it to be no different than what it took to push our old gas powered mower around. In fact, we find our push reel mower to be easier because it is lighter and I have discovered my childhood experience of difficult reel mowers to be a thing of the past. The reel mowers of today are simple to maneuver and you get the added benefit of being able to hear the birds while you mow. In fact, on a recent morning, while mowing my lawn at 6:30am in order to beat the heat of the day (can't do that with a roaring gas powered mower), I actually found myself enjoying the act of mowing. The gentle whir of the blades cut the blades nicely and didn't tear and injure them like a typical mower, and in no time at all, I was back inside enjoying my first cup of coffee as the heat of the day rolled in.

Of course, with a city backyard like mine (shown above), it is no wonder it only takes minutes to cut. But I have read personal accounts from others online who use a reel mower to successfully manage much bigger yards. My entire family loves using our new mower (my husband says mowing the lawn is relaxing now) and we plan on using this type of mower forever more. Why choose to use electric or gas energy when there are great alternatives out there?

There are many great sites online that list the pros and cons of reel mowers and also give reviews. Below are some of the complaints regarding reel mowers I read about:

Some people talked about how the reel mower doesn't cut properly sometimes and causes the grass or weeds to lay down without being cut. I have found this to occasionally happen but I just go back over that area again. Not really a big deal. How many times have you found a missed spot with a gas mower? Plenty!

Another complaint I read about was that you can't get into tight spots with the reel mower. This too hasn't been a problem. In fact, I find that I can get just as close to a fence or building with the reel mower as I could with my gas one.

Finally, some complained that the mower blade gears or handles broke easily, rendering some reel mowers useless. I suppose this can happen with some of the cheaper models, but at $100, my mower is one of the cheapest ones out there and I have not found any part to be poor to date. The reviews for my model (Scotts Elite) cautioned against buying it due to the plastic gears being broken by the metal blades of the mower, but I could not find any evidence of plastic gears and figure Scotts has corrected this past problem.

All in all, I highly recommend the purchase of a reel mower when your gas mower takes ill. Enjoy the freedom of not having to run up to the gas station to purchase gas when your mower runs out before the yard is finished. Enjoy not having to have your mower serviced because it is having mechanical problems. To constantly beg the thing to start, or to breathe its fumes as it belches along.

Enjoy instead the act of watching your kids mow the lawn. The novelty of it all will spur them on, and because a reel mower is much safer for kids to operate than a power mower, before long you'll be spending more time in your hammock than doing yard work. A sweet deal for you along with benefits for the environment.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taming Dakota...How to Prepare for Life with a Labrador Retriever Puppy.

There she is...ready, waiting, deciding whether to jump at me, nibble on me, or run crazily through the house. It is up for grabs really what she ultimately will do. In the face of this, I have decided to take matters into my own hands. Having raised a Lab pup in the past without many boundaries or rules, I understand fully what it is like to live with an untrained dog and I don't want to put myself through it ever again.
In preparation for Dakota's arrival, I rolled up all the rugs and unplugged all of the lamps, tucking the cords up high or behind things- away from small teeth. With the rugs up and away, I made sure to let Dakota out every half hour so she could get with the potty program right away. This plan has worked well for us and after three weeks of training, working up to only being let out once every hour, we are down to about one accident a day. We never hit Dakota or told her "bad dog" when she had an accident. After awhile, she just seemed to know to go outside and has now started to let us know when she has to go by sitting at the door.

Of course, crate training has really helped with the potty training and given us an opportunity to still have some kind of life away from puppy training. I use the crate at night and during the day for her naps. Initially, I only used the crate during the day for an hour at a time, working up to 3 hours max. once I could see she would be comfortable and happy in the crate. I give her a treat each time she goes into the crate and never use it for discipline, though there have been times when I would have loved to put her in there just to have some peace.

Soon after bringing Dakota home, I found Cesar Millan's book called "Cesar's Way" at my local book swap and my entire family ended up reading it. We all loved Cesar's philosophy and it mirrored our feelings about how we wanted to raise Dakota- humanely but also with rules and boundaries. Cesar talks about how most dogs in America are not balanced because they are raised with affection, affection, and affection rather than exercise, rules, and affection. His words made me look back at how I raised my first Lab and see the mistakes I had made. I have now checked all of Cesar's books out of my local library and find them to be excellent sources of information. The titles of the books I have used are found in the picture above.

It can be pretty tough to not baby at new puppy, especially because they are so cute like a small baby is. But in actuality, a 2-3 month old puppy is much like a 2-3 year old child and should be treated accordingly. That means, from the time you bring a puppy home, it is important to start not only potty training it, but also begin to teach it how to properly walk on a leash, learn commands, and begin to socialize with other dogs that have been vaccinated.
Leash training is not rocket science even though it can feel that way to the person being dragged down the street by an out of control dog. Basically, don't ever let your dog pull on the leash when you walk it. When a dog begins to pull, stop dead like a tree until the dog comes back and there is slack on the leash once again. This may mean several stops and starts over the course of a walk (or even 20 feet), but over the course of three days, your dog will begin to figure out that it isn't going to get anywhere by pulling. This method does differ with what Cesar suggests in his books but seemed to work better for my dog.

Of course, no matter how much training you put forth, puppies still like to make off with shoes and other assorted household things. It is a good idea to keep things up high and constantly supervise young puppies when they are not in their crate. Always remind yourself too that what may seem cute for a puppy to do, won't be so cute when they are full grown. For this reason, I try to keep the rough housing down and the racing through the house to a minimum. Despite my best efforts though, Dakota does seem to get one good romp- ears flying as she slides around the corners- through the house each day.

Here Dakota is at the top of the stairs after having scaled them in a few quick leaps. Just two weeks ago, she could barely climb any stairs which gives you an idea of how quickly puppies learn and grow. I guess that is the most important thing I have discovered about puppies. The easiest time to train them is now. Don't wait. Time is short. By the time they are 8 months old, they are reaching adolescence and won't want to listen to you anymore. Just imagine a teenager without any prior training on how to be civil and that should be convincing enough to spur you to action. Enjoy the ride...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New puppy means the end of the Compact for me.

I vowed not to purchase anything new at the beginning of this year and have been pretty much keeping to the rules of the Compact by shopping at thrift stores for my clothing and picking up used books at a local book swap. All total, the only new things I purchased for myself between January and July were a pair of shoes and three t-shirts. I found it very easy to be on the Compact until I brought a small puppy named Dakota into my life .

Since bringing Dakota home, I have purchased a dog crate, a leash and collar, puppy toys, fluffy fleece bed and other small assorted dog related things. I can't seem to walk into a dog store without making a purchase. I figure these start up purchases will dwindle as I obtain all that I need for this newest member of my family, but I now realize how silly it is for me to continue on with the Compact. Not that I can't do that Compact, just that when I figure I really need something, I will buy it regardless of the Compact. With the fear of puppy diseases, I didn't want a used dog crate and who can bring home a new puppy without getting it a new collar?

Being on the Compact has brought about an awareness of consumption for me and that is what it ultimately is supposed to do. To make people think about how and why they spend. To figure out new ways of obtaining things they feel they need, either through borrowing or recycling. Being on the Compact made me understand that I do a pretty good job of not spending but encouraged me to look at other more environmentally sound ways of getting the things I feel I need. Watching what I buy will not change because I leave the Compact. The joy of finding a cool outfit at the thrift store or browsing the library shelves won't change just because I leave the Compact. I will now be free to spend, but for me the joy isn't in the act of buying, it is in the act of living. I'd rather spend my time walking Dakota than shop. That is the idea of the Compact really. To get people focused on finding joy in places outside of the shopping mall.

The pictures above are of Dakota enjoying her first rainstorm from the comfort of our front porch. She did venture off of the porch for a bit and wondered about the big raindrops hitting her on the head. It is so fun to watch her explore her world as she finds wonder in the things that I have long ago taken for granted.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Welcome Dakota!

We just picked up our new chocolate puppy last Saturday and we are so excited to have her join our family!
Our first at first sight!

Here is Dakota at home...such beautiful eyes...

Dakota wondering what to tear into next...