Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Toy shopping part 1 : mowers

For the grown up children in the family, the most fun part of the renovation has to be all the wonderful new toys that they get to play with. With 9600 sq metres of grass to mow, a small electric handmower really wasn't going to cut the mustard - and all the renovation work needs tools as well. July saw a massive shopping spree with some very happy gentlemen wandering around hardware shops with more glee than a posse of 10 year olds in a Lego store.

It's been an interesting balancing act : ensuring that the tool is utilitarian & effective, yet at the same time is good value for money, hardwearing enough to stand up to the wear it's going to get, and has enough engineering to reduce some of the hard work out of the equation. 
The first item on the shopping list was the ride on lawn mower : the previous owner had committed to leaving behind her old one, but had changed her mind and sold it pre-d day. We are lucky enough to have a super family store near us that stocks an amazing range of these items : Breider Tuinmachines is one of Noord-Hollands best little companies in my opinion. The store is generally manned by father and son, who are helpful, cheerful and more than willing to advise on options.  We still had to go through a steep learning curve about what's good and what's not good in mowers : 
  • Do you want to mulch or collect your clippings? 
    • Collecting leaves a much neater finish overall and when you have to drive over areas of non-lawn, means you don't end up with needing to brush them down/remove cut grass from pathways.However you do need to constantly run back and forth to the compost heap, unless you choose the same approach as the last owner who randomly dropped the clippings in the weed banks as she drove past. 
    • Mulching puts the grass back into the soil by dint of chopping it very finely, but you are guaranteed to be traipsing grass clippings back into the house for the next day or so - and the animal paws will all be green!
  • Are the blades at the front or in the middle? 
    • At the front gives you much more visibility when cutting and it's much easier to ensure you cut straight lines and maintain your pattern, but the price tag is higher
    • Many lawnmowers are now 'zero turn radius' with big swivel components at the front which allow you to mow much faster and to spin on the spot at corners  - but again, higher in price
    • Middle is cheaper and fine if you are doing long lengths of repeated cutting
    • Does it have reverse? Essential if you have lots of trees and bendy areas to manoever around
    • How quick is it? How powerful? Although you would normally mow at about 4mph (7mph on ztr's) when you are zipping from location to location, you really notice the lack of speed. And if it's slow when mowing and it's a big area.........
    • How hard is it to clean? Because you will need to clean the blades and declogg the grass cuttings from the blade housing. 
    • Can you tell if you are about to run out of fuel? Not that much of a problem for us, as you are never that far away from the house, but if you had a very long plot it might be a worry!
    • How big is your mowing area - and how big is your blade? A small blade can take a mighty long time and it's amazing how much it adds up!

     As it was an unplanned purchase and not in our initial budget structure we decided to opt for a secondhand Husquarna ride-on with a 6 month warranty. It's not been trouble-free, but Mr Breider drops in after he's done in the shop and fixes it promptly every time. With it we also got a set of noise cancelling headphones, something that I'm super grateful for after an hour of boucing around trimming the orchard fields.

    Of course, it's not enough to just use the ride on  - you can't get close to the canal water on the sloping edges and you can't get too close to the flowerbeds for fear of cutting the few remaining flowers. So we also had to get a petrol powered Flymo. It's an entirely different experience than an electric Flymo, and reminds me so much of the hovercrafts that I used to ride between Dover and Calais on day trips. It gently hovers just above the ground whilst belching fumes until it warms up. It's super efficient at cutting grass and building forearm muscles at the same time.

    So, take up gardening, save on gymn fees, get fit! Who knew?

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