Mowed Over

June 29, 2012   //  Posted in: Backyard, Supporting Sponsors, Tools   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

Hi there. This post was made possible by Black & Decker—they sent me a 36V lawn mower to chase around my yard after participating in the #KICKGAS blogger event in March. The review is my own (both positive and negative), and publishing a review wasn’t required as part of the deal, I just thought it was worthwhile for those shopping for cordless, battery-powered lawn mower options.

Why not start out with a real-life vid, filmed by Pete. I’m not super chatty on camera but I think it gets the point across just fine (I figured any audio would be replaced with music like my tiller and trimmer reviews, but then I nixed the music plan so you could hear this baby purr). Never fear, I did supplement the video with texty captions. So go ahead, enjoy it in silence.

Back up for a minute. A little bit about me and my lawn mowing experience:

  • I was hired as the family “groundskeeper” during high school. It involved mowing my parents 1.5 acres of open, grassy, gloriously woven-with-hard-to-mow-around-gardens in exchange for cold hard cash that I bought things like overpriced American Eagle shirts with. I should probably put this on my resume.
  • Dad claims his lawn mowers were self-propelled but I doubt it. If they were, I never once used the feature. Just another trigger on the machine that I didn’t know how to work. I could fill it up with gas, I could pull-start it, and I could push it. #groundskeeperfail
  • From pushing the lawn mower all those summers, I had great arm muscles. Also, a great SPF-approved tan. And I tried to dribble lemon juice in my hair for eco-friendly hair streaks. For real. Not really relevant here, just a factoids that someday I’ll want to read back upon myself.
  • In the time since I bought my house, I’ve had two gas lawnmowers. One, a freebie find that was rusted out and probably older than I am, but always started, and worked well. Last summer or so, I upgraded to an old one that my Dad had retired but stored away. It’s a little hard to start, but bigger than my rusted out model and still gets the job done. I’m saying this because if you think you have to spend a lot of money to get a good lawnmower, you’re wrong.
  • I can push-mow my entire .10 acre lot in 20 minutes or less. Easy peasy. Why people have riding lawnmowers on <.5 acre lots in the city, I have no idea. And yes, if you do and you can still walk, I’m looking at you.

Until I had tested out the 36V cordless lawn mower at the Black & Decker blogger event, I had still never experienced the thrill of self-propel. In my old age, I’m a little bit kurmudgeonly about giving up all control, but I think I’m getting used to it.

What’s to get used to, you ask?

Well, it goes damn fast. Even on the turtle setting. I haven’t tried rabbit because I’m afraid of running over my dog by accident. As you saw in the video, sometimes he decides thoughtfully to gnaw on a stick in my path. Smartie pants.

Turtle to rabbit on the Black & Decker 36V lawn mower.

When it comes right down to it, self-propel is not my friend. I imagine that most of you reading this are used to it, but for me it’s uncomfortable and feels a little out of control; I can’t pull back and clean up a missed edge easily. I can’t make quick pivots in the grass without feeling like I’m switching gears at the wrong time in a stick-shift. I don’t drive stick-shift either, although I know how to, sort of. Maybe there’s a trend here.

While self-propelling during long stretches of lawn, it’s comfortable. I can see it being great in my parents yard, where you’re pacing up and back the 200-ft. lawn all day, but in the little lawn, I just prefer pushing and maneuvering the mower myself because every 8 steps, you’re turning directions.

And that brings me to my second (and only other) beef: Without self-propel activated, it’s heavy. A full body workout. Heavier than my old gas mowers, most of this can be attributed back to the battery since you saw me pulling the body of the mower out of the shed pretty easily before the battery was clipped into place. Maybe you’re just thinking I’m a weakling now, but I have some muscles. I often carry 37-lb. bags of dog food through PetSmart without a cart, 2x8x12 boards through Lowe’s, and on occasion I burst my muscly knees through my jeans. The above video, and this picture, are evidence of that denim destruction:

Me, mowing the lawn with my new Black & Decker mower.

Pete, on the other hand, loves this mower.

There are some things I do like too:

  • It’s really quiet. I don’t feel like I’m waking up the neighbors if I mow at 8AM. I don’t feel the need to wear ear protection (and I’m kind of anal about ear health in my home improvement projects).
  • The height adjusts really quickly, easily, and evenly. And I can set it so low that it mows the lawn like a fairway (always the part of the golfing experience that I’m most impressed by: course maintenance).
  • It’s the first time I’ve owned a mower that bags (or mulches) the grass. Win. No grass cookies for Cody to eat and digest, it’s just neat and clean.
  • The battery lasts. We were told that the 36V battery would take care of 1/3 an acre per charge, which I realize is a lot less than many of you might have to mow, but we can get through our 1/10-acre lot and our neighbor’s identical lot (because Pete’s nice like that), and only lose one bar of charge. Pretty good, if you ask me.

Aw yeah, maintaining charge.

I’ve had this mower for about a month now, so the review isn’t based on my first user experience. If you’re in the market and you have additional questions, feel free to drop a note in the comments and I’ll be happy to try and answer.

If you’re looking for a quiet, eco-friendly, cordless lawn mower solution (and happier with self-propelling action, which I assume most of you are), consider the Black & Decker 36V mower. 


DIY Network: Picnicking Like A Pro

June 28, 2012   //  Posted in: Beach, DIY Network Projects, Tools   //  By: Emily   //  one response

… although, what’s there to be a pro about when you’re picnicking?

We’re picnic lovers. After all, we spend our days hunting beach glass, getting manicures and pedicures by trudging through the natural sand, and, well, eating a lot of hamburgers and hot dogs all summer long.

In this week’s post on DIY Network, I showcase a few of my recent picnicking finds. Tools of the picnicking operation, if you will. Tools that can turn even the novice picnicker who brings a turkey sandwich to the beach into someone who’s going to find themselves sitting out underneath a tree lathered with SPF 30 and tending to their grill whilst chomping on three bean salad. Just check it out, and start to plan for the weekend.

Life is good. Go have a fun picnic.

Life’s good. Have a picnic.

When Wicker Meets Silver

June 27, 2012   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty, Deck, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

Without fail, every time I visit my Grandma I leave with a trunk load of random goodies. That random assortment can be everything from Mini-Wheats and succulents, dog biscuits and curtains, to frozen perogis and 1960’s lights. And it’s almost always awesome/delish/nice to have.

One of my latest visits wasn’t much different; I’ve (and we’ve all) become adept at deflecting items that we don’t actually need for ourselves, but when I saw a wicker basket sitting behind her house, I claimed it as my own and smuggled it home for safe keeping.

“It’s just trash,” she told me “and it’s been sitting out here for a year, that’s not something you want.” But I did. I wanted it more than the glasstop table she was counter-offering with. And so I took it.

Freebie wicker basket, gettin' ready for its time to shine.

Having survived last summer’s beating sun, the ice and snow of winter, and the rains of the springtime, it was still in surprisingly good shape with just a few frayed and snapped pieces. In fact, being naturally aged made it smoother and more attractive, kind of like a beach cottage’s weathered shingles. Wicker’s radical.

Freebie wicker basket, gettin' ready for its time to shine.

Pretty as it was, I still wanted to update it a little bit to make it my own, and I decided on adding silver accents to the base of the basket to make it shine, and make it look a little more modern.

After thoroughly washing it with dish soap and the hose sprayer’s JET setting, I used a simple brush to get in the crevices and applied leftover oil-based Rust-Oleum Aluminum paint to the wicker. Stationed in the breezy backyard and propped up on a cinderblock (a cinderblock that now permanently looks like it was wrapped in tin foil), I kept the wet paint from getting covered in grass and dirt. Working outdoors in the breeze kept the fumes moving too, making the job totally manageable and clean.

Painting the basket silver!

The initial intent was to paint the inside and outside only part way up for a color block effect, but once I got started I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, and considered painting the entire thing silver. Instead of going that far, I took the silver up a bit further, making the basket about 75% silver and keeping 25% natural weathered wicker.

Color blocking with silver? Still pondering how it would look at this point. Like my friendship bracelet?

The wicker-to-silver balance was finally starting to make me think differently about the piece; I liked it.

Painted wicker basket.

I’m still a huge fan of this aluminum paint; it’s concentrated enough to make anything it touches turn to silver including your hand and knee and that left butt cheek on your running shorts that you accidentally touched to the wet paint when you were leaning over to clean the brush. It’s also runny enough to flow into tight places, like where pieces of wicker overlap and are hard to wiggle a paint brush into, and it never becomes the least bit gloppy.

Painted wicker basket!

The basket itself could serve many purposes; maybe eventually a real laundry basket (since based on its shape, that’s probably what it was used for originally), or maybe stuffed animals or extra pillows and blankets, but for now it has found a home beside our sliding glass door on the porch as a place where we can kick off our sandy and dirt-covered sandals all summer long.

Refinished wicker basket filled with sandy beach shoes.

It sits far enough beneath the eave that rain isn’t so much an issue unless it’s a northern-blowing wind. And it’s already sat outside in the weather for a year, so what’s a few more months.

Basket filled with sandy beach shoes.

How’ve you been making use of found treasures?