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Column: The great greening of 2014

Eddy Gilmore's son mows the lawn with a quiet manual-powered lawn mower. (Photo by the columnist)

These past two weeks have produced a flood of green on the landscape. On one run through Hartley and Bagley nature areas, I marveled at every weed, fiddleheads in various stages of development, brand new leaves on trees, marsh marigolds, tiny wildflowers and even insects, as if I were a Martian only now discovering life on this strange blue planet called Earth. At the conclusion and climax of my hour spent cleaving through this atmosphere of paradise, I stood upon the knob at Hartley overlooking all this new life. Peering through the gap between the hills at the ice gathered at the head of Lake Superior, while thousands of frogs and toads in the marshes called out expectantly in jubilant exultation, it was as if all creation was celebrating and calling out these words from the last stanza of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”:

Be embraced, you millions!

This kiss is for the whole world!

Brothers, above the canopy of stars

must dwell a loving father.

Even the growing grass and dandelions in our yards give cause to celebrate as the period of endless muck and grime has drifted away.

A better way to enjoy and take care of your lawn is to use a manual push reel lawn mower. I have always wanted to mow grass in silence in the early morning hours, as a participant within the natural world rather than being wholly “other” behind a disruptive motor. The need to put my son to work on the lawn finally provoked me to decisive action.

On the cusp of spending big bucks on a German-engineered reel lawn mower, I called Duluth’s most famous hippie, Dan Proctor, for his opinion on the matter. Being that he lives off the grid along Chester Bowl within the city, I knew he’d have opinions on these old fashioned mowers. It turned out he had an older model available that he gladly let me take off his hands for a mere $10.

Now I can officially tell you that these reel mowers are life-changing. Rather than joining the chorus of loud and polluting gas guzzling mowers, my 9-year-old son and I fight over who gets to quietly mow the lawn. All you hear is a satisfying scissor sound as the grass is gently snipped. It is perfect for our small yard that is partially consumed by gardens, a patio and a chicken run.

Your lawn will thank you, because the scissor-snipping of your grass is far healthier than the chopping and tearing a regular mower does.

Additionally, the reduction of your impact on the environment will be far from insignificant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a new gas-powered lawn mower in operation for an hour produces as much pollution as 11 new cars being driven for an hour. Furthermore, the EPA estimates that 17 million gallons of fuel are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment, and Americans burn 800 million gallons of fuel are to operate them.

Grab your reel mower from the spot where it hangs in the garage to save space, and you’ll emit zero pollution. Your neighbors will appreciate it as well, even as you mow at any hour of the day, because there is no noise pollution. Think of how many quiet family dinners and outings are disrupted by just one loud lawn mower running within 300 feet of their home.

That brings us to the real question. Are they too hard to push? More effort is definitely required, and it is good exercise. It is more difficult in high grass, so when it grows vigorously you may need to mow twice a week. For a small yard, however, it has proven to be completely reasonable. In fact, I have to limit my son to mowing the lawn just twice per week. He’d do it every day if I let him. I do provide assistance on a small hill, but otherwise a child can do this.

Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. He can be reached via email at See his blog Adventures Near the Woodstove and Beyond at

Eddy Gilmore

Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. Connect with Eddy at