Long preparation makes for short work

Be prepared for the unexpected when it comes time for the first lawn-mowing of the season.

I could go on about how ridiculous I think it is to waste time and money maintaining a crop that’s worthless except for that brief period in spring that produces a pleasant spread of green around the house.

I could rant about how lawn fertilizer is bad for the environment, how growing a biological monoculture is an affront to Mother Nature, how lawns are a waste of water, but the truth is I just hate mowing lawns.

If I could have sheep, genetically engineered to keep quiet and eat nothing but lawn grass and blackberry bushes, I’d happily live on acres of green.

Easter Weekend we finally crawled out from under winter long enough to cut the grass.

With a little time to spare between hours of long weekend self-indulgence, I yanked the mower out from under the lean to out back.

When I trained for the Tour de Rock last year my wife took over lawn mowing duties. She does a much better mowing job than I do, but machine maintenance is not her forte. Then again, it’s not mine either, so I was annoyed, but not really surprised to find the mower’s drive system (It’s self-propelled, 6.5 horsepower. Insert Tim Allen man bark here) had seized up.

So that needed fixing before I could start it, but just to get at the mechanism I had to excavate a thick layer of old grass paste glued like concrete into the machine’s every nook and cranny.

When faced with such stiff opposition a man reaches for another powerful tool – the 4.5 horsepower pressure washer (more man barks), which hadn’t been fired up in about a year either.

Fortunately my wife and I just cleaned out the garage, so I only had to dig under a 1980s-vintage bicycle wind-trainer, a pair of old work boots I swore I’d tossed on the garbage the week before, tent poles (stuffed in the work boots), an old aquarium and two sets of snow tires to exhume the pressure washer.

Some fresh gas, about 20 pulls on the starter cord and I was blasting grass paste out from under the mower and all over me, so now I’ve got a power washer that works great, a mess on the lawn, I’m covered heat to toe in wet globs of grass goop and still have no idea if the mower will start.

With the machine flushed clean, nothing appeared broken or even badly corroded, so I retrieved my can of what I call “spray-it-on-thick-and-hope-for-a-miracle” stuff. No, it’s not WD-40. That’s for displacing water, dissolving gunk out of metal mechanisms solvent won’t touch and melting the latex gloves I wear – when I remember – to keep grease off my hands.

Some guys swear by penetrating oil. I swear by Fluid Film, made from wool wax – or possibly a “natural lanolin base”, depending on whether you read the can label or the manufacturer’s on-line literature. It’s anti-corrosive, non-conductive, works on everything from garden tools to naval weapons systems, is non-toxic (so it really shouldn’t work on anything), smells good and priced as if each can is blessed by a host of angels working night shift at the factory.

It also works like a hot damn, when applied liberally, on seized up lawn mowers.

My anticipated five minutes to gas up and start the mower had stretched to more than 90 minutes to get things running, but a tank of fresh gas and about 30 pulls on the starter cord and the mower was purring like the day I bought it on sale at the big box store.

I had just enough time to cut the front lawn before friends wandered in unexpectedly with a healthy supply of gin and tonic, which put an end to any activity involving power tools for the rest of the afternoon.