I wasn't quite sure what a reel mower, was either. This is the creature of which I speak.
I hate lawn care. It's really the main reason I miss being married: my husband LOVED that stuff. As soon as I bought my house I had to start cutting the grass, and I developed a deep hatred for it. I even hate the mower. Just thinking about repeatedly fighting with priming the gas and pulling the cord until I sweated before cutting a single blade pissed me off. In short, it was one of those chores I spent about 10 times longer putting off than doing.
My friend J said recently she mowed the lawn at 11pm because she felt like it, and I said, "I bet the neighbors loved that." (Although I warmed to the idea anyway, because mine wake ME up all the time mowing.) She said, "I have a reel mower, jackass. Like I have time to mess with maintaining another damn gas- and oil-drinking machine." I asked what one was, and on description I was put off. I remembered my dad cutting our grass with an older reel mower and it looked awful.
But the more she talked about it, the more intrigued I became, and she offered to let me try it. Which is another point in their favor. They weigh nothing and I can toss one in the back of my little roller-skate Yaris. So I went and got it and gave it a shot.
These things are the shiznit! If
- You have a smallish yard
- You don't mind having a stray weed or strand poking up here and there
- You are willing to have people laugh at you while you cut the grass
Those all apply for me. Particularly point 2 would bother many people, but for me, it's a matter of stray bits here and there or the Kansas prairie for a front yard, so, yeah. I do not require anything near perfection inside or outside the house, because...I LIVE here.
I find reel-mowing rather soothing actually. It makes a nice soft flop-flop noise as you mow. You can listen to podcasts without ruining your hearing. There is none of the awful vibration and stinky gas/oil smell. I don't find it any more physically taxing than my push mower---maybe even less because I don't feel as if my teeth are being shaken out of my head.
So I returned my friend's mower and bought my own at the local hardware store. It cost $100 and came with a sharpening kit, which they said I'd have to use maybe once a year. It doesn't seem to require a knowledge of rocket science. Chalk a point in the reel mower's favor, compared with maintenance on the gas mower plus having to actually, you know, buy gas (more annoying than expensive).
And for those who care about such things, AS WE ALL SHOULD, gas mowers are apparently really awful for the environment. I wouldn't use a reel mower just for this reason because I would feel tortured if it didn't have all these other merits, but as it is, it's a nice bonus.