Real Men Use Reel Mowers

picture of a reel mower cutting grass.

I have been mowing the lawn for about 20 years.  I remember when I was first old enough to start mowing the lawn in grade four or five and how I excited I was.  I loved it!  For some funny reason that love of mowing hasn’t left me.  Now at the age of 30 I still really love mowing the lawn.  (I think my wife enjoys it too, because on occasion we’ve argued about who would get to mow the lawn.  Yes, I realize that’s absurd, but we are maybe not completely normal people.  And I should take this moment to point out that although my title is directed at men, I don’t mean to exclude women from this argument.  I can only speak today about myself though, and I am a man.)  Anyways, moving along with my point, as much as I love mowing the lawn I also have a love and awe for the Earth, and would like to instill that sense in my children.  To protect them, their future, and the Earth, I choose to use a human-powered push mower —often called a reel mower—instead of a gas-powered one.  Here are three reasons why that is a good choice.


I’m not going to regurgitate too much information here, but to put it simply, gas-powered lawn mowers are worse polluters than cars.  This is partly because they are not regulated the same way as cars.  For example, most mowers don’t have catalytic converters, which use a chemical reaction (involving a catalyst) to rid the exhaust of some of the more harmful byproducts of combustion.  Add to this air pollution the gas spilled by millions of people when filling their machines (I’ll admit I’ve done this on several occasions) and you have a hard time feeling like you’re actually caring for your lawn so much as waging a small environmental war on it and the Earth.


There’s a wonderful strange sense of power that I feel when I operate a loud machine, be it a motorcycle, jet ski, or gas-powered lawn mower.  The noise and vibrations are full of potential and the sense of control is balanced with a knowledge of possible harm that could come from misuse.  However, any time I’m not the one operating the machine I simply find the loud noise to be annoying.  Granted, I tend to be bothered too easily, but really, on a beautiful afternoon when I’m enjoying the small amount of nature that exists in my backyard, I don’t want to have to listen to the loud drone of a lawnmower.  I want to hear birds, bees, squirrels, and my children. Thus I’ve become rather self-conscious when I’m the source of the noise.


I do not know anyone who has been injured by a lawn mower.  I’d like to keep it that way.  I’ve had some close calls (involving trying to unclog a mower on its side…) but that’s it.  I’m sure the companies that make home power machines would also like to be able to keep it that way.  But I like to mow the lawn when my kids are playing nearby.  If they come over to where I’m mowing I want to know that they are safe.  A gas-powered mower does not give me that feeling of safety because it is not safe, at least not for kids the age of mine (1 and 3).


Safe enough for a child to operate!

There you have it, three reasons not to use a gas-powered lawn mower.  Are you convinced?  Maybe not, but let me try one last reason.

I’m going to be honest; those are not the reasons that keep me from owning a gas-powered lawn mower, or even an electric one.  No, my motivation is much less noble.  I use a human-powered reel mower because I like to feel like I am the one who is accomplishing the task of cutting the grass.  It is my power that is making my lawn look nice.  It is my physical strength turning the reel that catches each blade of grass, cutting it against the straight edge of the mower.  Yes, I have a manly preoccupation with needing to feel accomplished.

In the same way that I’d rather ride my bike to a destination than drive there, and I’d rather grow my own food or make it from scratch than buy it, the knowledge that my own body can power a tool or machine that allows me to perform a task is invigorating and empowering.  It gives me a huge and inflated sense of pride.  It makes me feel like a man.

Ironically, people who know me know quite well that I’m not a very “manly” man.  And yet I find my masculinity often lurking just below the surface, seeking out new ways of proving that I am capable of any task I am given.  Mowing the lawn with a reel mower, commuting on my bike, growing a vegetable garden, baking a loaf of sourdough—these are tasks that give me a sense of accomplishment and pride.  They connect me directly to the environment around me, allowing my inner man to feel like his prehistoric predecessors must have felt when they did everything, every day, with their own power.


Look at him go! 

Thus I claim back the small things that I can from a dominating and suffocating culture that would try to rob me of my dignity by telling me to sit back and let someone or something do the work for me.  I find meaning in my daily actions and arrive at the end of my day with a clear sense of my own strengths and abilities, as well as my limitations.  How’s that for a real reason to use a reel mower?

Kitchen’r Jon lives in Kitchener where he blogs and tweets about his attempts at living an intentional life rooted in his local community.

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  • Pauline Faul

    Thank you for the great story and history of your youth. Well! I am a woman and much older then you are and I do remember the non gas, mower. Yes that was my job as a young 10 or 12 year old girl…. GIRL….. My job, not my brothers’ to mow the lawn… Isn’t it funny how we all want to go back to the basics..mother earth simple life.

    And yes we also saved water from the rain to water our gardens and plants along with veg and leaves for compost….very little to no chemicals. So Kitchenr Jon its nice to hear the gentle sound of a push mower is still fun. I am at least 34 years older then you. Thanks for the story. Pauline Market Coordinator of Mill Courtland Neigbourhood Market. Mill St. Kitchener

    On Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 2:17 AM, TransitionKW

    • Hi Pauline,
      That’s a great story too! I’ve been glad to see since moving to town that many of my neighbours (men and women) also use push mowers. They add a wonderful sound to a day, on top of all the other great sounds that fill the summer air.

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