I made it home Sunday afternoon with three bags of grass in the back of my Ford Focus.
I had scored big hours earlier.
The first cutting of the season was a bumper crop. I’d have enough grass — and weed — to keep me supplied through the summer.
But what was more rewarding than emptying the three 13-gallon bags of medium grade grass was how it was “harvested.”
I used a lithium battery powered Ryobi push mover.
If all of this sound strange, it was.
I broke no laws. But I did break a lot of assumptions.
The freshly cut grass was for my mulch pile.
Given I’ve gone without a lawn in either my front or back yards for years, I lacked grass clippings to combine with weeds I’ve pulled to create a better grade of mulch.
I’ve been helping Cynthia mow an enclosed backyard where she also has a vegetable garden.
And, if I play my cards right, I’ll be able to convince her to allow me to buy a swing seat for when the great-grandkids drop by for Sunday gatherings.
To be honest, I’ve never really liked cutting lawns.
Some of it had to do with an overbearing older brother who insisted I cut the lawn twice a week when I was growing up. It was after my dad died and Richard had left himself in charge when mom was working.
Richard re-enforced my dislike for mowing by every time telling me I wasn’t cutting it right. He wanted a specific pattern. What can I say? He ended with a double major in architecture and engineering, which explains everything.
After Cynthia and I married, I had no problem cutting the lawn. I take that back. I had some of the same problems I had growing up: Make sure the spark plug hadn’t wiggled loose. Check the oil level. It was hard to start. To prime it, was insane. It was loud. It smelled. It was dusty. Pouring gasoline into the tank was often messy. The lawn mower was also on the heavy side.
The lawn mower Cynthia had when she moved to the country has never been easy to start. It would, on a good day, require six or so tries of pushing the fuel button and pulling the starter rope to get it going.
More than two decades ago, I became a convert to electric weed whackers, chain saws, and such.
The 100-foot cords could be a hassle, but they were easier to start.
Nothing would make me happier than to ditch the mower in favor of an electric one.
Finally, she agreed I could buy what I referred to as “a new toy” and keep it in her garage to use when I mowed the lawn.
The first step was to buy one.
Since I wasn’t’ going to be mowing a half-acre, the entry model for $249 would do.
Compared to what I paid the last time I bought a lawnmower back in the Dark Ages when people were actually embarrassed if their front lawns would give Smokey Bear a heart attack at first glance, there was no sticker shock. But there was a purchase shock. Apparently, criminals have become so bold — and apparently violent when confronted — that not only are they kept under lock and key but the policy at Home Depot is if you don’t go directly to the cash register with it, they take it to the customer service area while you complete your shopping.
It took me less than 15 minutes to assemble.
I did have my doubts whether it would tackle the high grass and weeds that had gone unmoved since December. Even after weed whacking it the previous week, there was still a good six plus inches of growth to tackle.
The grass was also moist, a challenge for even gas-powered mowers.
It also was a bit apprehensive about a few other things. The mower was much lighter. Plastic-based parts outnumbered metal. All of those concerns went out the window the second it started.
And to be clear, it was within a second or so that it actually started. It cut the grass efficiently. It was quiet, not like a mouse, but I could actually hear people talking. I didn’t inhale gas fumes, just the smell of freshly cut grass.
Yes, it wasn’t “self-propelled.” Such a function would drain the battery pack quicker.
Besides, a slight workout with your arms is a good thing.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Quality District offers rebates for buying battery-powered yard equipment but I’m going to pass.
It’s the same reason I wasn’t irked when — three weeks after buying a new 2008 Ford Escape hybrid, — the federal government in its infinite wisdom rolled a $2,500 tax credit for those who bought hybrid vehicles.
I needed the mower. It was reasonably priced. And, for years I didn’t need convincing that everyone has an obligation to reduce air pollution when it makes sense.
The Escape hybrid was a no-brainier. The lawn mower even more so.
It has been known for decades that two-stroke engines without a carburetor were bad news. Research by the federal Environmental Protection Agency established off-road gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers emit roughly 242 million tons of pollutants annually. That is just as much as what the EPA says is emitted by cars and homes in this country.
The EPA research notes just one lawnmower emits 89 pounds of CO2 and 34 pounds of other pollutants over the course of a year,
A study in Sweden mirrors the EPA, noting the carbon footprint of a mower operated for an hour is the same as a 100-mile car trip.
California mandated the phase out of two-strike engines in yard equipment years go. But as deadlines approach, technology wasn’t quite there yet.
The California Air Resources Board — a bureaucracy independent of the legislature and governor — allowed extensions to push back the drop dead date for sales of gas-powered lawn equipment while technology played catch up.
The ban is now in place.
Technology has arrived at the point that it is roughly the same cost of gas-powered yard equipment technology.
Logic would seem to dictate the global effort should first and foremost be focused on ridding the world of gas-powered two-stroke engines.
That doesn’t mean not to keep the push on for non-gas-powered vehicles whether they are electric, hydrogen or some other energy source that isn’t 100 percent carbon based. But taking out the low-hanging fruit nationally as the top priority means the elimination of 242 million tons of pollutants annually in the United States.
The technology and price point are there to do so without crushing the economy or piling on the federal debt.
Impose an attainable and practical objective first with no wiggle room.
And while it is delivering results, it gives the private sector breathing room to come up with zero-emission — or close to it — vehicles that are affordable, meet the air quality objectives, meet range and performance standards people have come to expect to do so without massive subsidies that further bloat the national debt.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.