Pictures don’t lie, but they can deceive.
A recent column about how I keep in shape with a push mower instead of a gym membership sparked a number of calls, emails and Facebook comments taking me to task for bagging clippings.
Flummoxed at first — I didn’t advocate bagging in the column — I quickly identified the source of the misunderstandings: my photo of my vintage Lawn Boy with a bag mounted to the back.
Allow me to explain.
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I bought the mower used, and the mulch plug was missing.
Bagging clippings was out of the question. Why rob my yard of the free nitrogen and soil-amending properties of the decomposing grass? Why add work by pushing a heavy bag of clippings around, stopping to empty the bag, and then later pushing a spreader around to apply fertilizer to make up for stripping the soil of natural nutrients? No, thanks.
So I had a friend fashion a makeshift plug using a metal plate and two pieces of heavy foam to keep the plate jammed in place.
But the engine won’t engage unless either the factory plug or the bag is in place, so I have to put the bag on to mow.
I realized as I responded to the tsk-tsk brigade that mounting the bag over the blocked hole is a metaphor for how my attitude toward replacing stuff has shifted since I moved to a rural county.
Before, I would have looked up the part number and ordered a new mulch plug on Amazon without thinking, even though the part plus shipping costs more than I paid for the mower.
One of the things I admire most in my Chase County neighbors is their reuse and repair mentality. When something breaks, they don’t run to the store to buy a new one. They try to fix the one they’ve got or find a used one that will do the job; old tools and machines are sought after at auctions around here.
Part of the reason is economic: Money is always tight for most farm families.
But it goes deeper than that. Not being wasteful is an important value, and practicality is prized over ostentation.
I struggle every day to follow the frugal ways of my adopted home, but the thought of tourists or even locals drawing a false assumption about my mower bag ate at me.
I succumbed to temptation, found a used mulch plug on eBay and bought it.
I tell myself the unnecessary expense is justified if just one person sees me mowing bagless and is inspired to do the same.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience the old thrill of shopping-as-problem-solving when I clicked “Buy it now.”
And, even though the part hasn’t arrived yet, I’m already enjoying the idea of how much prettier my mower will look when I can finally bag the bag. Old habits die hard.