Reel Mowers and Lawn Maintenance post Y2K when fuel is scarce -- What are the options? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I purchased a reel mower before I became a GI. My gasoline powered mower was in need of repair, and I was reluctant to purchase the necessary replacement part. Anyway, I obtained this reel mower and tried it out on the yard. It was quiet and somewhat easy to push. I still sweated just the same. I wondered if I had done a beneficial act for the environment. The robins were happy with my labor, but the neighbors probably thought I was a weirdo.

Later I fixed my gasoline powered mower and continue generating acoustic blasts across the neighborhood as I severed grasses. Then I started thinking about the absence of fuel to run this marvelous invention. What if there was such a scarce supply of gasoline that mowing the lawn would be a luxury? How many people now who fret about the height of their lawn grasses would panic when with an absence of fuel they wouldn't be able to mow their yards?

Having a manual reel mower could be a boon to the unemployed worker who seizes upon the many opportunities of cutting yards of neighbors who are willing to trade food and other provisions. But, OTOH, who would really care about their yards if they were desperate and starving? I envision numerous jungles post Y2K. Prairie homesteads. At least the snakes and toads will rejoice.

Another option is pruning and weeding for food and other amenities. God has gifted me with the so-called "green thumb", and I wonder if my abilities will be utilized for community garden/greenhouse projects when my city government calls upon all calloused hands to dig a good deed.

Who reading this post has a reel mower? Do you envision the post Y2K scenario of fuel shortages and unkempt lawns? I think yuppies might be ashamed if they could not upkeep their turf. What would they be willing to sacrifice to maintain PC husbandry?

Please, no sheep or goat suggestions.

Also, I'd like to state that I don't appreciate the pollyannas wasting bandwidth with inane postings. I only post when I hope to obtain expert advice and common sense. The majority of DGIs seem to be whizzing away their time by obfuscating relevant topics with cyberclutter.

-- Randolph (, June 12, 1999


DON,T FEEL ALONE RANDOLPH OLE BEAN, i asked a serios ??? when i 1st came in here,>debt-collectors-&&-y2k, what you gonna do when you can,t pay all your bills,if y2k causes economic disaster?? do you think they,ll go away?? do you know about f.t.c. rules? do you know about a letter of cease & desist? i feel bad for single moms,debt collectors prey on women & elderly. hey i know what i,m talkin about, we won an 11 million$$$$ lawsuit against them. of course if we have no phones or mail, no sweat.

-- AL-D. (catT@ZIANET.COM), June 12, 1999.

Don't have a reel mower, don't think I'll need one. I've used them before, they are good for smaller lwns, not effective for larger ones.

Seriously, think about your concern here - I'll assume it's legtimate. If the troubles last that long (into lawn cutting season - no fertilizer, no watering, no mulching or other care in the early spring) do you expect to have time, energy or interest in mowing the lawn? Mowing lawns is a recent, suburb-level, invention that was simply ignored as recently as the 1910's and 1920's.

If the troubles end by mid-late Feb, the usual things in life will recover by the time lawns start growing, and we will get back to mowing lawns using existing tools. If they extend into May or April, you will be too tired from getting food, water, clean clothing, and shelter to worry about the lawn.

If you want to get a multi-use tool capable of other things than just lawn work, get a scythe. It will be good later for weeds. Be careful, they will also cut legs and feet. Best though, save your dollars for somethings else.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 12, 1999.


What's this about an $11 million dollar lawsuit? Is this for real, or are you joshin' me?

-- Randolph (, June 12, 1999.

Randolph, we once tried an experiment with our urban yard. We let it grow and let the grass go to seed. We were invaded by rats, who enjoyed the natural habitat very much. (Big, big rats.) There is a tool called a weed whacker -- it's not the same tool as a sycthe -- and it isn't very expensive. It is a serrated blade on a long handle. The blade is swung parallel to the ground, back and forth. If you're not into sheep or goats, you might consider rabbits in moveable pens. Or let the kids roll around and flatten the grass.

-- Helen (, June 12, 1999.


I'm quite prepared for a depression. I have lots of hand tools and know how to use them. I don't think my neighbors are prepared. Just this evening I talked to Fern, my closest neighbor. She is a divorced Christian who was amused when I told her about my some of my preparations. I told her about the dangers of Y2K and solar blasts and stock market crashes, but she's not too worried about these events happening soon. Maybe later, but not for several years. Meanwhile, I fret that she and my other neighbors are in the dark...

-- Randolph (, June 12, 1999.

I'd have to say, I would be happy for the excuse not to keep up with the lawn.

-- grinche (, June 12, 1999.


I was amused by your comment "Or let the kids roll around and flatten the grass". This evening while I was watering my trees and bushes, my neighbor Steve was playing water hose games with his grandchildren. They were having a blast with water guns and spray hoses. Summer fun.

However, he doesn't have a clue about Y2K, but he is a handyman and knows how to make do with what he has. He is very resourceful. Because of him and other neighbors, I think our community will survive somewhat intact if Y2K power failures are evinced.

-- Randolph (, June 12, 1999.


I think unkempt lawns will provide a bountiful harvest of dandelion greens and other edible plants for those who can't obtain CA produce from local groceries. The plus side is that they probably won't expend the funds to have their lawns chemically treated. This means that foraging for edible plants will be somewhat safer.

-- Randolph (, June 12, 1999.

I agree that water, at least in the arid west, will be at a premium. Never-the-less, high dead grass is a fire hazard. I for one, would turn my chickens on it either free range or with a chicken tractor. Or else I'd wack it with one of those hockey stick type sythes.

-- marsh (, June 12, 1999.


Well, obviously smart Y2K entrepeneurs should stock up on scythes for those who want to maintain the cut below the rest. If Y2K pans out to nothing, (which it won't, but here's the twist), then these extra scythes can be used for Grim Reaper Halloween costumes.

Have you ever considered that negative post Y2K scenarios would cause Halloween excursions to be more TRICK than TREAT?

-- Randolph (, June 12, 1999.


Gotta ask...what's a chicken tractor?

-- RUOK (, June 13, 1999.

Lovely vision, Randolph.

Perhaps I will become an entrepreneur by providing a chicken lawn cutting service to well-to-do yuppies, lol. I will collect twice - once from them and once in free feed to make eggs for my family. What a deal!

-- marsh (, June 13, 1999.

Yeah, but you'd have leave all that fertilizer back on the other guy's lawn. Maybe tie little diapers to the chikens? 8<) Best, leave the fertilizer, harvest the eggs, eat the chickens.

A chicken tractor - the mental image is disturbing.

Weedwacker - if you had gas, would you rather use for whacking weeds, or save it to get to the hospital or dentist?

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 13, 1999.

I'm out in the sticks & if we don't mow, the snakes will move in close to the house. It's a mixed blessing having a pond because it brings in the snakes. However, due to the fact that we get an average of 29 inches of rainfall a year, we'll probably wind up with the traditional German "swept" yard ( that's where you go out & sweep the dirt with a broom instead of mowing), a very neat, tidy, barren ambiance.

-- mostly lurking (mostly lurking@podunk.texas), June 13, 1999.

A chicken tractor is a fenced frame with a coop that can be moved from place to place. It provides the feature of security for the chickens from varmits with potability. Some people move them around their fields, letting the chickens lightly graze and fertilize the area, then move on to another. It is called a tractor because it is moveable.

I can see you visualizing a sort of rickshaw plow affair harnessed to the chicken - lol. Course the chickens would be wearing small John Deere baseball caps.

-- marsh (, June 13, 1999.

Here is a link if you want to see what a chicken tractor looks like:

-- marsh (, June 13, 1999.

Oh I get it! you thought I was worried about the chicken _pulling_ the thing from place to place.... No, no, far worse. I was worried about the chicken _driving_ the thing from place to place. 8<)

Now, about those little John Deere hats, ....

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 13, 1999.

Ok - I guess my vision was influenced by the fact that hens are called "pullets"

-- marsh (, June 13, 1999.

No, no, the pullit is what you do to the chicken tractor the pullets are been pulled inside of. Right? Or shoud l get a bullet to pullit out of its misery?

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 13, 1999.

Eggsactly! However, I prefer my chicken power unleaded, thank you.

-- marsh (, June 13, 1999.

Have two things to say.....1. Thanks for the referral to the web site re: Poultry. Since we continue to have problem with Fox (by the way, plannning on adopting another dog soon)...the chicken tractor is great idea...will ask Old Grampa to build one. 2. In the earliest days of WW11 our front lawn and our side yard became our Victory Garden. We ate fresh veggies and lots of vegetable soup from dried veggies. H2O may be a problem but rain water can be saved. Maybe we will all have to learn how to use some muscle and water by hand. Old Gramma

-- Old Gramma (, June 13, 1999.

Old Gramma - A local lady has done wonderful things with rock gardens and various drought resistant succulents and native plants. She was featured in Sunset Magazine. Amazes me because we have freezing winters and snow and they still survive. I don't have the time and TLC to create one, but it's an idea. Could be done in the fashion of a Japanese garden which is more archetectural than other gardens and requires fewer plants.

Lots of people in S. Cal. use iceplant on hillsides and it is so pretty when it blooms.

-- marsh (, June 13, 1999.

Hey AL-D for a small portion of that 11 Mil, I teach you a little syntax.Hmmmm what do you say?

-- ! (!@!.!), June 13, 1999.

We never use chemicals or ferilizers of any kind on our lawn and it's very lush and pretty. Our front lawn is so small (by choice) that we use a reel type mower. But we have about three acres of back lawn and one side that we mow with a rider. Another large section is all wild flowers, and one section is our square foot garden and compost piles. We allow certain weeds to grow for salad and medicinal purposes. Burdock, Lambs Quarters, Poke and Dandelion for salad. Sassafrass for tea, Plaintain for poison ivy and oak, Milk weed, Dame's Rocket and Queen Anne's Lace for beauty, bees and butterflies. Actually I too wouldn't mind having an excuse to not have to mow so much.

There is nothing but acres of woods behind our house, and yes, we too have "Big Rats." Luckily we have 9 cats, and seven are good mousers and ratters. The other 2 are senior citizens and don't hunt much anynmore. I think this would be a very good time to consider having cats, guineas and chickens, which are hell on rats, ticks and insects. Of course that means stockpiling feed.

-- gilda (,), June 13, 1999.

My family and I live in a "yuppie" neighborhood. My husband and I bought a reel mower this spring for next year, it is a Scotts mower, one of the best you can buy. Yes, I think me and my yuppie neighbors will care about our lawns. We live in MN, and if the lawn grows much past 2 inches, the mosquitoes are unbearable! I have a feeling that we will be approached ALOT next year by our neighbors who want to borrow it. Even if next year is bad, my neighbors will still want to "keep up appearances". There are some families here who have leased luxury vehicles, buy their kids $500 Doc Marten shoes, the whole she- bang to give the impression of wealth. Believe me, they would never put up with dandilions, rats, etc. Their image, and egos, are way too big for that. If gasoline prices are sky-high, or it is non- existent, they will try, as long as they can, to live the way they currently live. Thank God I only have a mortgage to worry about, and my ego is not so huge that I am ashamed to be seen behind a push mower! To hell with keeping up an image; I'm trying to concentrate on survival! Maybe next year, the mower will provide us with a bartering edge that will prove invaluable.

-- luann (, June 13, 1999.

yep- I've been mowing the blueberry field- between the rows- and came in to ccool off a bit- it's HOT up here- not used to this..

anyway- been thinking about the same thing- no gas perhaps- how to mow the blueberries- will probably use my scythe. Or my grass wacker- have both. Could use the reel mower too i suppose- but that only works if the grass is real short- let it creep up a bit and forget it.

If you go the scythe route BTW- get a good lightweight one- an Austrian one is what i reccomend- american ones are often too clunky. the Leonard Orchard supply catalog sells nice ones.

Also helpful in some places are grass shears- I use them a lot in the raspberries- enough to get major blisters.

-- farmer (, June 13, 1999.


My brother lives in one of those neighborhoods that have all those rules pertaining to lawn appearance. He even has to mow the lawn a certain way: he has to alternate between back 'n forth east to west, backn forth North to South, back n' forth diagonally, and in a circular motion. Why? I dunno.

-- Tim (, June 13, 1999.

I never heard of the chicken thing called a "tractor" but the group of us that meet monthly about Y2K are going to be building one of them this next meeting. Some of us plan to have one. We have good plans out of countryside magazine. "chicken tractor" sounds funny, but it is a good idea with or without Y2K.

-- Gus (, June 13, 1999.


Your post reminded me of my years spent living in the country surrounded by woods, wild weeds and flowers everywhere along with myriads of mosquitoes, deerflies and horseflies.

Ever seen a deerfly? Rudolph.

Ever seen a horsefly? Pegasus.

Ever seen a damselfly? Tinkerbell.

Ever seen a dragonfly? Chinese New Year parades.

-- Randolph (, June 13, 1999.

I think that mowing the lawn has it's pros and cons.

Pros include getting enough material for my ever-hungry compost piles, and keeping the gnats/rats/etc populations down.

Cons include it taking precious gasoline (or precious grains to make alcohol if you covert the mower to alcohol), precious labor/calories to maintain, and it may give away that you are living there, and have food (starving people are less likely to want to do the lawn, eh?).

-- Bill (, June 13, 1999.


Your description fits most of my city's neighborhoods' lawn care accurately. One next door neighbor has her grass chemically treated so that no weeds or clover grows, only grass. I like clover, and the bees very much enjoy clover blossoms. I'm not inspired by plain grass. In the twenty-four years she's lived there, she's never planted a garden. I live on a corner, and my neighbors frown upon such ideas as having large open gardens. They like plain grass yards with minimal vertical vegetation.

There's one neighborhood where the residents are forbidden to mow on certain days of the week!

Of the lawn mowing businesses servicing the city, two are predominant. I think whichever obtains the most stabilized fuel before the upcoming gasoline shortages could well put the others out of business. There are people too busily engaged in social functions to lower themselves to mow their yards. If their wealth survives, they might be willing to pay premium prices for lawn maintenance.

In the MI-OH-IN tristate area along stretches of highways and roads there are numerous abandoned farm houses. The grasses reach full maturity. I can envision this widespread throughout country neighborhoods during a fuel shortage, but here in the city, I suspect some of the "elite" will pay dearly to maintain their "image" and status. Bunch of phonies.

-- Randolph (, June 13, 1999.


I agree with your points. I would like to stop mowing the grass and allow it to become a meadow. I've planted many trees and bushes and have been soaking them deeply with city water to establish their root systems in case next year there are severe disruptions in electrical and water utilities.

The problem is that the city and neighbors would never tolerate a meadow. I live on the corner of a main route to the main city park, and thousands of people pass through the neighborhood from Spring until Autumn. The city enforces a rule that yards must be mown and not allowed to reach certain heights; if this ordinance is disobeyed, the city crew will cut the grass and charge the bill to the owner/renter.

I hope that the city would ease its policy in the event of a fuel crisis.

-- Randolph (, June 13, 1999.

I think maintaining some semblance of neatness in a yard will be an important morale booster for some of us, kind of like having some make up available or being able to shower. I bought a reel mower when I first bought my house. But there was too much lawn, too many weeds (they just roll over and laugh), and too many bumps, so I grudgingly switched to a gas mower. Since then I have manually eradicated most of the weeds and greatly reduced the amount of lawn.

If gasoline becomes generally unavailable, I will switch to the push mower next year, and probably assign additional areas to field. Tall grass invites ticks and Peter Rabbit. Also, grass clippings are an important source of mulch for me (I bought a grass catcher for the reel mower). Plus, I will look forward to being able to mow at times of day when I would otherwise have been bothering my neighbors.

-- Brooks (, June 13, 1999.

Those of you who have seen a grass fire will understand that keeping things cut short around the house is a smart thing to do.

-- David Binder (, June 13, 1999.

Reel mowers will come in very handy as part of an insect control program. Tall grass will bring bugs, some of which are not very good neighbors. Just look back a few days at the "chiggers" posts. As well as ticks, fleas and other unwelcome pests.

Either you'll need a reel mower to keep the first 25 feet from the house cut back, or a flock of geese.


-- Wildweasel (, June 13, 1999.

Hi Randolph,

I just found this thread in archives & love the whole thread. Hope you're still getting replies in email.

I'm so sick of yuppies around me who give their lives (leisure time) to being sure their green carpets are never more than half an inch long I could scream. Who decreed all of America had to be properly swathed in short green yuppie lawns, anyway? I like wild flowers, wild edibles, (someone mentioned dandelion greens - love 'em, so do chickens - got chicken feed?) - and other things (not snakes) that pop up in natural grass. I encourage such by only mowing with my old-fashioned quiet rollie-blade mower as rarely as possible. And scythes - all shapes - are a great thing. We got along with just those for thousands of years. I've used one in the past; neighbors thought I was nuts and would have run me out of the county - I told them "This is not the suburbs" (it wasn't then) and ignored them. Now, different location & much older body, I have to hire a man with an eardrum-splitting smelly monster machine to mow it into submission - I resent him. I resent every hard-earned dollar I give him. WHY "no sheep or goats suggestions"? What do you think God put that grass there for in the first place? Yuppies? Nopie. Short green = "morale booster" in 2000? Phooey. You're not going to be having picnics on it.

Let it grow. Who knows why you might need it?

-- Scat (, June 28, 1999.

wow - glad this thread surfaced. Been searching for a real mower without success. Can anyone point me in the right direction? I wasn't impressed with the Craftsman models - and nobody else in town has them.


-- justme (, June 28, 1999.

Be careful with your chicken tractors. Make sure the chickens have been in and trained to the tractor before sticking them in there, and put 2 at a time at least. (Start em' at an early age, and do it regularly). Put an old, untrained chicken in there or a chicken away from the flock, and they'll freak themselves out to death. Had 2 die that way.

-- karen (karen@karen.karen), June 28, 1999.

Oh, and weedwhacker = sling blade.

-- karen (karen@karen.karen), June 28, 1999.

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