05312013aA few years ago, I made my neighbor an offer over the back fence.  I told him that if he would stop mowing his lawn, I would stop mowing mine. Then, nobody would know the difference. He, usually full of friendly banter, looked at me with confusion and concern. Confusion was likely due to the fact that my lawn was frequently a foot tall. With seven children between the ages of two and fifteen, plus a husband with hay fever, I was in charge of the lawn, and it was a low priority. The good-natured neighbor was probably concerned about tipping me toward less lawn care.

So, I persevered. When I had enough older kids, we came up with a schedule such that one of them was mowing their assigned section every weekday. I was so happy to be making progress, I didn’t think of what the result looked like, until one day a visiting young nephew asked, “Aunt Laura, why is your lawn always all different lengths.”  I explained and he nodded his head in approval of my problem solving.

With the continued goal of being a good neighbor, and a new riding lawn mower, the lawn has been kept under control most of the time. For one thing, I hate to have it go to seed over the edge of my garden beds. The lawn is never perfect or done all at once, but my kids have encouraged me along the way. They tell me our yard is fun to be in and interesting to look at. Their father has taught them what they needed to know about driving the mower as soon as they were old enough to safely operate the machinery, and they have all mowed cooperatively for me.

Thus it is, that my children are fairly comfortable around small engines and mechanical devices. I was not at their age. In fact, I still am not. In the spring, I sometimes ask them for help when I can’t remember how to work the yard machines. When they help their father with projects, I watch in grateful amazement. When something breaks, they usually see it as an opportunity to spend time with their dad.

It has been a good system for me, but was bound to not last indefinitely. When my husband had shoulder surgery this spring, just a few weeks before the yard needed to be ready for our son’s wedding reception, naturally the riding lawn mower broke. Or, more specifically, a large rock was accidentally run over and we weren’t sure how much damage had been done to the underside. Still in considerable pain and suffering from lack of sleep, not to mention having a right arm that was strictly not supposed to be used, my husband said I’d better take the mower to the shop. Knowing the spring back up at the shops and that I would need miraculous powers to get the mower into the back of the truck, I did a pretty good job of not panicking, at least from my point of view. I must have given off some vibrations, though, because the next thing I knew the dear husband had the 17 year old daughter out disconnecting the mower deck from the mower.

He can be stubborn sometimes and it can be better for me to avoid watching. But after awhile, I decided I was up to checking on them. They were looking rather pleased with themselves as they stood next to the upside down mower deck. My husband still had his arm appropriately in the sling. There was no blood anywhere and all body parts were accounted for. They were just getting ready to take off the bent blade.

It is a fact of life that we have things like “unistrut” laying around. My husband told the daughter how to set up the wrench on the large bolt that was keeping the blade on. Then, he instructed her to slide a length of unistrut over the handle of the wrench. I actually had showed up just in time to hold a wood block such that it kept the blade still so that the bolt would unscrew. This was not the daughter’s first lesson in leverage, so she quickly understood what was going on and conquered the bolt.

D&B Supply had the replacement blades we needed, and the whole lawn mower was put back together before I knew it. Then, I was curious to know more about how they had accomplished all of this. A couple of days later, I asked the daughter if she could explain it all to me. They had used the instructions in the manual, but I was still impressed. I don’t speak “manual.” She translated well.

There were so many steps that had to be done in a certain order, that I sit here still awed that it is all done. On the day she explained, I took photos as she pointed to each bolt, pulley, and lever that she detached and reattached. (Possibly the photos may be of use, but please refer to your own lawn mower manual.) And I thought quietly to myself, I might be able to do this when she leaves home…but hopefully someone will live close by. It’s only taken about 25 years, but the kids and their dad may have finally made progress with my mechanical understanding of the world. It seems that if you are my type of adult female, all you need to change lawn mower blades is a teenage daughter and a one armed husband.  If you are a one armed man, all you need is a 17 year old daughter.

1. Unbolt deck box05312013c

2. Remove pulley belts05312013e

3. Undo Ziptie05312013f

4. Pull hook out05312013g

5. Loosen front bolt05312013j

6. Move gold bar05312013i

7. Loosen bolt with unistrut05312013b

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