Both Gas-free Lawn Care and Native Grass Lawns are about Conservation

gflc7

I started my bike courier service, my reel mower sharpening shop, my blog and the gas-free lawn care service all to promote conservation, and more specifically, to help use less gas.

I most recently started the Gas-free lawn care service because I have all of the equipment for it, and hod carrying was way too hard on my body. In the middle of May the constant heavy lifting at work hurt my knee. So I had to quit the stone mason job. It was good timing as I was just getting busy in my shop sharpening reel mowers. And I had wanted to offer Gas-free Lawn Care since Enviro Lawn Care left town a couple years ago. It just made sense. So I started :

Rob’s Gas-Free Lawn Care and more

Using Reel Mowers, Hand Tools, and travelling by Bike and Trailer only, to maintain lawns quietly and non-polluting, in North Fort Collins! Human-Powered, Gas-Free Lawn Care;

  • Basic Service – Lawn mowing using a Fiskars Reel Mower (human powered), which cuts the grass quietly, and like a pair of scissors. This is better for the grass plant, opposed to the violent, impact cut from rotary mowers (gas or electric).
    • Trimming grass, bushes, and shrubs with hand clippers or shears
    • Edging the lawn with hand edger, able to create an edge with spade if needed
    • (Quiet) Clean-up using broom and rake, no leaf blowers!
  • Additional Services –
    • Yard waste removal, by bicycle and trailer
    • Fertilize with push spreader using organic fertilizer
    • Hauling by bike and trailer (hourly rates)
    • Garden tilling, by hand, with garden fork or rake (hourly rates)
    • Shrub and Tree (low level) pruning with hand loppers or shears (hourly rates)
    • Compost set-up (hourly rates)
    • Minor Xeriscaping and Native planting help (hourly rates)

No more expensive than traditional lawn care but quiet and non-polluting, without burning any fossil fuels at all! Call Rob for a quote at 970-231-6794.


And other things fell into place too, like finding everything I needed second-hand, at yard sales, thrift stores and on Craigslist. That Fiskars mower I have really does work well, and new it costs $250, but I got it off of Craigslist for $100. Then shortly after that, I sold two mowers without even trying, which paid for the Fiskars. When getting advice from Marty who did this here before, he called that Fiskars mower a “real workhorse”.

20160725_135958

Marty suggested getting an electric/rechargeable line trimmer to make trimming faster. But I can’t do it at this point because first, human power works!, and then there are so many environmental impacts that go with; rechargeable batteries, new plastic products, and products from China.

Plus, I keep finding great lawn and garden equipment really cheap at yard sales and thrift stores.


An example of the “and more” part in the photo below, which includes minor landscaping, xeriscaping, pruning, garden or compost set-up, and native planting.

path4
Over a thousand pounds of flagstone hauled by bike and path installed with hand tools

Bikes and reel mowers are great, practical tools for saving oil from being extracted, refined, transported and burned. Using both bikes and reel mowers on a regular basis helps keep us fit also.

But greater conservation, especially of water, can be achieved when sustainable concepts like Xeriscaping and planting native grass lawns, are applied first.

We are in a semi-arid, high desert climate with an average of only 12-14 inches of rainfall per year. We also get more than half of our municipal water supply from the Colorado River, on the other side of the Continental Divide. So Kentucky Bluegrass doesn’t really make sense when Buffalo and Blue Grama native grasses grow so well here without nearly as much water. But Kentucky Bluegrass is what’s planted and many folks rent or don’t know how to change their lawns.

Another component of the “and more” part to Rob’s Gas-free Lawn Care and More, is that I offer to help customers take out their non-native grass lawns and plant native grasses. So if you want a turf-like lawn, I think planting Buffalograss and mowing it with a reel mower makes for a very “green” lawn.

20160707_165536
Cody Buffalograss
20160707_165520
This yard is Cody Buffalograss. It is more turf-like, doesn’t need water and can be mowed to look like a lawn.
20160725_140718
Yard with all Blue Grama. It doesn’t need to be watered and the city allows you to let it grow without mowing it. This yard hasn’t been watered, besides rain, all year and the photo was taken in late July.
Advertisements

Working toward Zero Waste

Equinox Zero waste staion
Blocking that garbage can like a hockey goalie blocking the net!
From Wikipedia,
 The internationally recognized definition of ZERO WASTE adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) is:

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”


 

The goal for the Zero Waste stations for Green Events is to recycle everything that is recyclable and compost everything that is compostable, and then send as little waste as possible to the landfill. We measure this by weight, and the six events I’ve worked we have had a 95% or better diversion rate. This means that only 5% of the waste generated at the event, by weight, goes to the landfill. The rest goes to be recycled or composted.

Vendors in this town are pretty good about buying the most eco-friendly products (utensils, cups) they can. Before the event I go around to the vendors and figure what can be recycled and composted. So besides figuring what waste goes where for the waste stations, I sometimes do this at their counters..compost me

Fortunately, most paper products can be composted, including waxy cups and paper plates with food. Paper is a natural carbon source so it actually helps balance out the nitrogen source from food, like adding dead leaves.

Although the fork in the photo is made of plastic, many vendors are getting utensils made from corn, which can be composted. You can tell if a utensil is made from corn if it bends and doesn’t brake, and typically it won’t be white, but beige. Plastic utensils break when you bend them.


 

20150920_101946My favorite part of working these events, besides satisfying my neurosis of conservation, is the way people react to my neurotic behavior. I really do block the garbage can with cardboard and eyeball everything being thrown out. I’ll make people wait in line so that I can make sure everything goes in the correct bin. And most people appreciate it. I get many people telling me “Thank you for doing this”, or they will pull their kids aside to watch me be OCD over trash.

So the international definition tells us that the concept ‘Zero Waste’ is not literal, but a goal, to guide us toward Zero Waste.

For bringing the Zero Waste concept home, besides recycling, I think a home compost system is key. Even if you don’t garden, you you can still use your finished compost to fertilize your lawn, trees, shrubs and flowers, while you avoid throwing food into the landfill. See.. A Home Compost System is the Backbone to a good Garden!

 

Push (Reel) Mowers are greener, like bikes, but also cut better!

There are obvious benefits of push (reel) mowers:

  • Push mowers don’t require gas – According to the EPA, Americans use over 800 million gallons of gas per year mowing their lawns and spill over 17 million gallons of fuel, more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
  • Push mowers are quiet.
  • Push mowers don’t pollute or stink up your air – A new gas powered lawn mower produces as much volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour, again, EPA statistic.
  • Push mowers are similar to bicycles by being simple, human-powered machines that are easy to maintain or renovatecropped-bike-trailer-mowers.jpg
  • Push mowers are lighter than power mowers.
  • They are less expensive and cost less to maintain and operate than power mowers.
  • No cords or batteries are needed.

But also…scissor cut

Reel mowers cut blades of grass just like a pair of scissors would. There is a back blade, the bed knife, and the moving, reel blades. This smooth, precise cut is better for the grass plant than the cut of a rotary power mower, gas or electric, which cuts with a violent, impact cut, leaving the grass blade jagged and rough.

Golf Courses use reel mowers because of how much better it is for the grass plant. But golf courses usually use tractors to pull multiple reels.

Putting Green push mower

Here is a Putting Green Push Reel Mower, it can cut as low as 1/4″. That is why reel mowers are used for putting greens, the grass can be cut that low when it’s cut with a pair of scissors, or something similar.

Then with the simple gearing between the wheels and the reel, you power the mower by pushing it, which spins the reel, mulawnmower gears 2 - Editedch faster because of the gear ratio.

Any reasonable sized lawn can be mowed with push (reel) mowers. Thicker, lusher lawns might need to be trained, meaning it may take a few times. But these mowers work great on lawns with native grasses that don’t require as much water.

In the West, if you incorporate more xeriscapng and native grasses in your lawn, a push-reel mower is the best choice for your; lawn, grass plants, air, ears, and world!


Craftsman, Scotts, & AmericanScott’s, Craftsman, American and Great States are all built by Great States, and range from $90 – $130 new. All four brands are solid, work well, easy to work on and and have the same replaceable parts (that you can get through Great States website).

Brills became popular 10-15 years ago. They are German made, well-built and designed to be very light, which has it’s pro’s and con’s. They don’t work as well on lusher lawns with Kentucky Bluegrass. They slide and don’t cut so well on thicker lawns, from my experience.

Where an older, heavy one will keep it’s traction and power right through thick grass.

The same is true with the heavier, more expensive Fiskars model, the StaySharp Max Reel Mower, which retails for $250. They are more expensive and a little harder to work on, but are probably worth it. I’ve only worked on a couple Fiskars, and although they were harder to work on, they seem very user friendly and customers said they work very well. The Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower has heavy reel blades for keeping momentum and powering through thick grass and it also has inset wheels so it cuts to the edge.

old mower new roller
I had a friend turn a new roller on a lathe for a customer this past spring.

If you can find an older (1930’s – 1970’s), heavier, push mower at a garage sale then have it sharpened professionally,  you are re-using and you have the older quality. The older, heavier ones work really well when sharpened and tuned up, they just don’t adjust to cut as high as newer ones, but don’t necessarily need to.  A larger roller or longer hangers will raise the bed knife, and therefore raise the cut, also.       


Below, on the left, are two push (reel) mowers that work great, one from the 1930’s and one from 1940’s. Then on the right is a reel mower made in the 1950’s, with a motor on it, because we really need a chainsaw to cut butter!

1930's and 40's era mowers

1950's era mower

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog!

A Home Compost System is the Backbone to a good Garden!

composter and leaf compactor openIt also helps reduce the greenhouses gases your food waste emits rotting in a landfill.  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/01/150122-food-waste-climate-change-hunger/

When we throw our food waste into the trash, sending it to the landfill, it decomposes anaerobically, or rots, without oxygen. This puts off ten times more methane and more carbon dioxide, harmful greenhouse gases, than food waste decomposing aerobically, with oxygen, in a good, home compost system.

Leaves are an integral part of a good traditional system.

By using a combination of:

  • yard waste, especially dead leaves for a carbon source
  • food waste, like fruit, vegetables, and coffee grounds
  • garden waste, with nitrogen rich biomass and clingy dirt full of working microbes

..we can create the perfect, local, organic fertilizer for replenishing our garden from all nutrients taken last season.

Traditional composting is basically just combining carbon, ‘brown’ material like dead leaves, and nitrogen, ‘green’ material such as food waste and garden waste, with oxygen, and a little water.

So, if you collect most of your leaves and store them next to your compost, it’s easy to layer, or ‘lasagna’, your food waste with dead leaves.leaf compactor

Here is the leaf compactor I made with some free bricks, a couple pieces of plywood and cinder blocks. I was able to compress almost a whole yard of leaves into that small space, a little at a time. The plywood in the back is important for protecting the house.

For my composter, I found a shop drawer on the side of the road with a ‘free’ sign on it. I put a lid on it with plywood and hinges then extended the divider. For one person this wcomposter openorks well. It can be closed, which keeps animals out and keeps a little more heat in.

  1. I add food waste and leaves on the right side, to start the compost process.
  2. Then I use the left side to finish, continue to turn and add oxygen, and maybe water.
  3. I just use a shovel to turn it weekly, both sides separately, adding oxygen and combining the materials.
  4. Once a month or so, or when I need finished compost or more space, I take the bottom layer of the finished side out. I shovel the top layer into an empty bucket, then take the finished material from the bottom. I usually put it directly on the garden, wherever there’s space, throughout the year.
  5. Then I do the same to the right side, the ‘add food’ side. I put the top, newer layer into a bucket,  and move the bottom layer to the finishing side. Then I dump the top layer from the bucket into the bottom now, add some leaves and it’s ready for kitchen waste.

I drilled holes in the bottom so that worms can get in and out and then I put it in a sunny spot for maximum warmth, both helping the compost process.

You can easily find instructions online for building compost bins, especially made with used pallets. Pallets work well because the gaps allow oxygen and you’re re-using materials.

There are so many ways to set up your compost system, from a store bought unit to multiple bay systems, just do what works for you.

Another benefit of having some type of compost system is that it reminds us of how much food we waste. Which helps me waste less.

I don’t put any meat in my compost. But I don’t eat too much meat and try not to waste any. 

Other Tips

  • Banana peels are bad about attracting fruit flies. Freeze your banana peels before composting them and they won’t attract fruit flies.
  • Store bought composters work best when adding dead leaves with food waste also.compost heating
  • Covering my composter with a blanket and black tarp helps to add and trap heat which also speeds up the compost process. This especially helps in the winter.