Lawn From Hell Saved By Mower From Heaven

It’s that time of year again, at least in the northern hemisphere. Everything is alive and growing, especially that narrow-leafed non-commodity that so many of us farm without tangible reward. [sonofdodie] has a particularly hard row to hoe—his backyard is one big, 30° slope of knee-ruining agony. After 30 years of trudging up and down the hill, his body was telling him to find a better way. But no lawn service would touch it, so he waited for divine inspiration.

And lo, the answer came to [sonofdodie] in a trio of string trimmers. These Whirling Dervishes of grass grazing are mounted on a wheeled plywood base so that their strings overlap slightly for full coverage. Now he can sit in the shade and sip lemonade as he mows via rope and extension cord using a mower that cost about $100 to build.

These heavenly trimmers have been modified to use heavy nylon line, which means they can whip two weeks’ worth of rain-fueled growth with no problem. You can watch the mower shimmy down what looks like the world’s greatest Slip ‘n Slide hill after the break.

Yeah, this video is two years old, but somehow we missed it back then. Ideas this fresh that tackle age-old problems are evergreen, unlike these plots of grass we must maintain. There’s more than one way to skin this ecological cat, and we’ve seen everything from solar mowers to robotic mowers to mowers tied up to wind themselves around a stake like an enthusiastic dog.

Thanks for the tip, [Itay]!

94 thoughts on “Lawn From Hell Saved By Mower From Heaven

        1. Such grasses exist, and they go to seed if left untrimmed. It hasn’t really been an issue, as they are smothered by taller grasses. Grass is, after all, just a weed we like (see the cracks in pretty much any sidewalk or driveway or concrete building or….).

          But, even if seed are controlled, grass spreads by rhizomes as well. You know this if you have ever had a neighbor with a bamboo hedge south of the 40th parallel in the US. This requires locality, but, the same way as we got the emerald ash borer and mile-a-minute weed, it can be transported by people, animals, and weather. It is rather disconcerting when a clod of dirt with live plants is on your roof after a windstorm, by the way.

          As to the damage, for a true account of this, see: Moore, Ward, _Greener_than_You_Think_

      1. go back about 75-80 years to WWII and they would replace your grass with clover. it was low maintenance, drought resistant and practically refused to die. Looks great as well. After WWII though chemical companies like Monsanto saw they were losing record profits because nobody needed to buy weed killers.

        They fought to re-categorize clover as a weed, and thus we stand today in our miles of hard to maintain weeds otherwise known as grass.

        1. In Southern California, they sometimes use Dichondra, which is somewhat clover like and stays short. It keeps the chemical companies happy too, because it requires a lot of weed killers and fertilizer. :)

    1. Every grass grows only to a certain length, it’s just longer than most people and bylaws care for. There are a handful of grasses beyond greens and sports field types that only grow to 3-4″ under summer conditions. You’ll have to mow them after heavy rain, but they don’t require frequent mowing otherwise.

      1. “Every grass grows only to a certain length, it’s just longer than most people and bylaws care for.”


        We could get into “Lawns as artifacts of the landed estates created by Inclosures Acts and subsequent displacement of rural workers” but I digress.

        Planting barley as feedstock for your home brewing game would be more to the point.

        (Dunning letter from intrusive HOA in 3…2…1…)

      2. “Every grass grows only to a certain length, ”
        That was one of the 20th Century “revolutions” in agriculture, the introduction of Hard Red Wheat to the Northern Plains. Its shorter stalk allowed more of the plant’s resources to go to developing grains.

        According to the author of “Wheat Belly”, that wheat has more glydon and is of less use to humans and therefore gets stored as fat.

    2. You don’t need to; there are naturally evolved grasses that stop at a convenient length. I have a small patch of such grass in my yard.

      If you don’t mow, other plants seed in on the wind and block the light to them, killing them. Presumably they evolved due to mowing or grazing, they can’t compete with other plants in the wild.

    3. No need, just use native grass that doesn’t need tons of watering. The height can vary widely. I just pull out any grass that tries to grow through my clover and other plants, grass isn’t much of a weed and clover helps to get rid of it. I mow a couple of times a summer. the clover and other plants/grasses/sedge keep the yard looking good. I do weed eat along the sidewalk to clean up the lines but that’s super easy to do.

        1. I just hope you don’t have anything that could ignite that bed of remarkably flammable pine needles. I at least hope that your climate is wet enough to defuse that threat.

      1. “Lawn Mowers don’t leave “little surprises” all over the lawn.”

        A month ago, I found one of the exhaust valves for my Ford Flathead V-8 lying on the neighbor’s lawn.
        I think I might have set it on the mower deck while pulling the valves, and it subsequently rolled between the mower deck and the frame. I’d given it up for “lost”, until I saw it there on the grass. It must have been a hard corner combined with a slope that rolled it out. The valve is good enough to re-install when I’m ready!

    1. Around here (Massachusetts), they use goats for the tough stuff: brush clearing or fields of poison ivy like you find on the Vineyard or the Cape. There’s a company called “Goatscaping”. I’ve seen them in the highway cloverleafs, too.

      You can shear them, too apparently (though I’m not sure a sweater made from the hair of goats which have been fed a steady diet of poison ivy would be such a good idea)

  1. For over 30 years I have watched one landowner mow a hill and haul loads of debris to the curb for the city to pickup. He has a few acres in woods that the city gave him after they got rid of century old holdings for a never built street plus the lawn of the corner lot. No composting, just haul it out like it’s waste. When he and now his son mow it’s up and down the hill whilst sitting on the mower. Wheel ruts exist where he shifts into going uphill, more ruts where going over the same spot again and again while turning in a big square.

    The energy cost of going up that hill again and again is high. You would not do that if you had to push it. Wheel ruts are a setup for gully erosion. Break all habitual patterns when mowing. I see wheel ruts on a lot of driven over lawns. Why not mow on the level of the hill. Contour plowing was developed for protecting the soil, mowing is just a farming practice. Thirty years same path, dirt streaks allover.

    I am not fond of using a string trimmer as they shed those pieces of filament everywhere. There are chain heads for replacement of string cutters and would be much safer under that deck.

    1. Sounds like he needs one of these, a pulley and a counterweight on the other end of the rope so he’s not lifting the weight of the mower up the hill each pass, just countering rolling resistance.

    2. Yeah, I would have suggested mowing along the slope rather than up and down it as well. Excellent point about erosion. You might even be able to use one of those robotic mowers, if you programmed the path carefully.

  2. We got a superior grass that never gets long, it spreads happily as long as you do not walk to much on it. Its called moss and now covers around 90% of our garden ;)

  3. I came up with a concept for a relatively low cost pull-behind brushhog, I was never able to find the time and resources to prototype it because it would have been cheaper than anything I was able to find on the market. It’s really simple:
    I was going to get a couple of hedge trimmers and mount them on a rolling platform mounted behind a riding mower with the deck removed for ground clearance. The hedge trimmers were originally intended to be battery powered electric, but then I realize used gasoline ones would cost about the same on craigslist, and offer better run time.
    When I can finally get my own land, I’ll probably build one to use till I can afford a tractor and brushhog

  4. You people are why they should require an IQ test for government benefits or some other sort of entitlement. Mow your freekin gas and enjoy the sunshine. Personally I love he Engunity of the hillbilly weedwacker!

  5. I don’t know. Decades ago touring England I saw the heavenly Flymo lawnmower. No wheels, the speed of the blade kept it aloft. Now, where did I see it. Walking the grounds of Windor Castle. The landscapers were mowing those 45 degree inclined tower greens that lead to a moat. Yes, he had a rope tied to it and was swinging the mower. All of which, I’m sure, build character.

  6. Late and buried but just saw this and it reminded me of some of my earliest memories.

    Circa 1984 my family home had a ridiculously steep back garden with a couple of terraces before climbing upwards for quite a distance. My dear old Dad’s solution was to stand at the top in a pair of spiked golf shoes and lower his Flymo (rotary hovering mower) on a rope then proceed to swing in a side-to-side fashion while winding in the rope by hand.

    He mastered the technique and it was soon copied by our neighbors!

    Good job Dad

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