Tag Archives: wvhills

Me and the Zero-Turn Mower

(Not our actual mower, but very similar.)

This spring, Frank went out and purchased a new zero-turn riding mower. Mind you, he’s not the one who mows around here. But with that male “bigger is better” mentality, he wanted to purchase something that would cut down on the time his mom and I spend mowing. We mow acres every week.

The first day I attempted to use the zero-turn, I was livid. This new contraption had turned one of my Zen processes into a challenging new game I was not familiar or comfortable with. I ran over rocks, broke a flower pot, damaged things just trying to get the thing in and out of its storage space.

Because the zero-turn has no steering wheel and instead has… What to call them? Toggles? Steering arms? Handlebars? I don’t know. At any rate, after mowing this land for more than 20 years and knowing I could do it with a drink in one hand and the steering wheel in the other — the zero-turn mower created a whole new ball game.  Mowing was no longer an automatic thoughtless process.

I don’t like change. Especially in routines I have down-pat and can accomplish without thinking. One reason I like mowing is because my mind can wander without having to give the task at hand very much thought.  The zero-turn steers differently, turns differently, rides and handles differently. I have to pay attention. Focus. Concentrate on what I’m doing.

In other words, it wiped out all that I love about mowing.

The wider mower deck is nice, yes. Very nice. It seems as though I can cover twice as much ground in half the time. Less time out of the house in the sunshine, away from housework, ringing phones, internet notifications. I might just be riding around the yard, but mowing is often the closest I can get to running away from my life. Mowing was my excuse to just sit and let my mind muddle, a time-out disguised as work.

The zero-turn cut down the time spent, but turned mowing into work again. I pouted about it. Fiercely complained. This financed man’s mower and I were not going to be friends. No sir. I spent the first month of the summer doing all the lawn and yard edges with my old steering-wheel mower, and only mowing the middle of the yard with the zero-turn.

And then the mower belt on my old mower broke, and Frank didn’t fix it.

Gah. Well, I’m not about to replace a mower belt myself.

So I have spent the last two months of this summer getting accustomed to that zero-turn lawn tractor.

Frank did make adjustments to the handlebars so I could manage it better, and I have learned since how to mow very slowly to handle the trimming around the edges. But I can’t quite set in my mind where the exact pivot point of the zero-turn is beneath me. I’m often pivoting too early, or worse yet, too late.

I googled how to drive a zero-turn. Most of them simply stated the obvious.

And reverse? Frankly, I’ve never been that good at reverse even with a steering wheel.  I’m not good at reverse on my own two feet. With the zero-turn, if I just need to back straight up, I’m okay. But maneuvering or turning in reverse still causes me to curse under my breath. I have to do it at the slowest possible speed just to make sure I’m not flailing around like a landed fish.

So, I am growing a relationship with this zero-turn contraption that I cursed in May and bitched about on social media. It’s a fine machine, but we’re not friends yet. It’s damn near impossible to drive it one-handed, which means I have to actually slow down or stop to take a drink, slap a fly, or wipe sweat from my brow. That frustrates me. It breaks the groove.

I also have not yet come to grasp how a “lawn tractor” could or would have bald wheels in the front. Bald. Zero tread. Are they even tires? I don’t know. Hard, slippery things that they are. Because our yard is nowhere near perfectly flat, those tiny smooth front wheels are often spinning in the air. I can see where tread on the front might tear up the lawn in certain zero-turn situations, but come on! This girl needs tread. Uphill, downhill, across ditches, dimples, and pockets. How can you have two treadless tires on a lawn tractor? What’s up with that? Even if it’s just for some kind of show to make me feel better, something decorative if there’s some sane reason for having none. Smooth tires in the country are just — wrong.

There are two places in the yard where the new wider mower deck won’t fit. Spaces which I now have to weed-eat in addition to all the other weed-eating we do. Frank got me a new weedeater this year as well–a man-size, gas-powered creature to supplement my small battery-powered baby I’ve been working with for nearly a decade now.

We aren’t friends yet either.