Mary is an organic coconut farmer. In her articles, she shares ideas on land management and how to increase the profit from a small farm.
Why We Bought an MTD Riding Lawn Mower
For us, getting a ride-on mower revolutionized work on our coconut farm. My husband had been cutting our grounds with a brush cutter and was finding the work too much. He is 70 years old and is an amputee.
We don't have workers, so the cutting and clearing of our 8-acre farm is down to the two of us. Couple that with a high humidity level and an extreme UV rating, it is fair to say we were struggling to cope with the work that needed doing. The time had come where we needed help in the form of a tractor or ride-on lawnmower.
Before we bought the mower, my husband looked at the other options available to us. A large tractor was out of the question as they are too expensive in Brazil, and in retrospect, we didn't need it. The mower does everything we need it to do. The only exception to this is cutting the bases around the trees. My husband has developed a method for getting pretty close, though. He then follows up with the brush cutter.
Our ride-on mower is the same as the Yard Machine produced by MTD, just rebranded for the Brazilian market. It has a 42-inch cut and is 17 HP. My husband knew the quality of the Briggs and Stratton engine it had, and after scouring the internet for weeks to find the one he wanted, this was the most bang for our buck.
Using the Mower on Slopes
When cutting slopes, which might be up to a 45-degree angle, my husband will cut across the slope, not up and down. The reason for doing this is less strain on the tractor and a more thorough cut. As he cuts, he leans towards the incline to counteract the imbalance and prevent any accidents happening. We have the tires it came with and my husband was initially concerned that they might not be grippy enough. I'm happy to report that he hasn't experienced any slipping or wheel spin unless he has gone into an area which has standing water.
Selecting the Correct Cutting Levels
Because we are a farm and not a landscaped garden, my husband keeps the cutter at a level of 3 or 4. By doing this, the blades are high enough to avoid debris such as small coconuts but low enough to cut off the unruly grass heads and keep everything looking tidy.
We have a variety of grasses and weeds, including some which form quite a dense clump. For these, we pass over them with the blades at a higher level and then drive over them again with the blades set lower. Otherwise, the mower may stall. Just as in a car, it isn't something you want to happen as starting and stopping takes its toll on the battery. Moreover, the jarring, in the long run, wouldn't be beneficial for the machine.
Caring for Your Lawn Mower Blades
Unlike a conventional gasoline push mower, our sit-on mower has two blades housed under a cutting deck.
If you're cutting ground, which has never had a cut, walk across the intended cutting area to remove debris; this may include stones, branches, etc. Here on our farm, there are coconuts, bits of building rubble, and trash that keeps resurfacing. We are in a rural area of Brazil where people commonly bury their household waste. Although twice-weekly trash collection occurs here, the custom of burying or burning trash still exists here. Therefore, we find bits of bottles, cans, shoes, and plastic bags resurfacing from time to time. If you are in a rural area, this may be the same for you, especially if your homestead had people living there previously, as ours did.
Check the mower blades regularly for signs of wear. Because we are on sandy soil, the blades wear down fast. You can extend your blades' life by using a grinding wheel to put an edge on them. Ensure the blades are balanced, or it can cause problems to the mower.
- For the job they do, buying and replacing the blades as needed is the better option as they have been precision engineered to provide you with optimal cutting.
Pulling a Trailer
Once we bought the tractor mower, we needed a trailer. Before, I was having to use a wheelbarrow, or we used our VW Kombi for larger items. Our trailer was built by our neighbor, who is a welder. The majority of materials were sourced here on our farm, these included a wheelchair, fish cages, and a chicken shed door. My husband discussed what he wanted with our neighbor, the weight he expected it to carry, and the welder went to work.
Not only are we using the tractor as a grass cutter, but it is also now a workhorse here on our farm. There is always something that needs moving. When we need to plant trees, everything goes into the trailer including, spades, stakes, manure, compost, trees, and the worker.
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Lawn Mower Maintenance
As with any machine, there is ongoing maintenance. Getting to grips with what to check and potential problem signs can save you not only time but money. My husband is now quite handy at doing minor repairs and maintenance when needed.
The main user will train their ear to the sounds of the operating machine. This is the same for a car, a washing machine or a lawnmower. The operator knows what it should sound like when it is doing its job. By doing this, if a problem occurs, it is immediately rectified and the machine is back ready for the next job. It isn't just a change in sound but also any change in vibration. This could indicate that there is something loose under the cutting deck.
Check the following regularly as a matter of course for any wear and, if necessary, replace with new ones.
- Air filter
We have had the trailer made for us but there are also other attachments that can be purchased for it including:
- Grass collector
- Leaf bag
- Rakes, threshers, aerators
- Ground levelers, rollers
My husband is continually looking for ways to make every job easier and use the mower more efficiently. This not only saves time but also money.
In the manual we downloaded for our MTD lawn mower, there was a guide showing the best way to cut. A grid pattern is suggested so you are covering the area without missing any ground or driving over an area twice.
Everyone will find their own best way of cutting, including speed and height of blades. Our MTD mower has 7 speeds and my husband has found, cutting on #3 the most effective for our situation.
Using the Ride on Mower as a Mobility Scooter
Although the mower is used for cutting and hauling here on our farm it serves another purpose. Since my husband is disabled, he uses it if he is having problems with his prosthetic. This enables him to still check the coconut trees here on our farm but without the excessive walking involved.
Although this is designed as means to cut grass, on our farm it has become so much more.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Mary Wickison
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 30, 2017:
I already have horses, and rent some of my pastures to cattle, but they are about as destructive as goats--lean over fences to destroy my papaya, lean under fences to rip out my pineapples. I have geese too but they cannot be let out in my bananeira because they destroy the sprouting plants. Sheep are kind of my last hope, but I think you have the right idea on avoiding that 13th salary and all of those holidays! Your mower sounds like the best option.
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 30, 2017:
Sheep may be a better bet than goats, we had two goats and they nearly stripped my siriguela (hog plum) bare!
Goats eat everything except what you want them to eat. We also had a cow and a calf which were too time-consuming for the good they did.
Geese and ducks will also keep lawn short, but are pretty useless on other stuff.
If there is a person with cows or horses near you, often they will look for grazing land or will cut grass to take to their animals. Although we don't charge people to take the grass many people do. Years ago it was R$10 a bag.
A combination of a mower and a brushcutter, in our opinion, are the best bet. There is also no 13th-month salary nor do they have time off for celebrating saints you've never heard of. :)
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 26, 2017:
That might have worked in Florianopolis or SP, but here in Bahia the prefeitura mows football fields with gas weed trimmers. I already have one of those, and as you pointed out they get tiring when you have to do several hectares.
Goats would probably eat the young coconut trees, so I could not let them go in my new orchard, but what about sheep? Did you all look into that?
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 26, 2017:
Another possible avenue for you to try is the council. Here, they use them to mow the grass on the football (soccer) fields. I would think they change them frequently.
As you know, if you ask enough people, someone knows someone who has one for sale.
The man we bought ours from was an agent for Husqvarna and Stihl but sold and repaired other brands as well. Sometimes it's best to get someone to do the searching for you. We told the guy what we wanted and how much we were willing to pay.
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 26, 2017:
You are very fortunate. The only one I have found around this area was brought from Espirito Santo, so I am back to checking Mercado Livre and OLX. It looks like most of them are available in SP or Minas.
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 25, 2017:
We went to a shop to buy a Husqvarna rotovator. We mentioned we were looking for a ride on mower. The guy knew someone who had one for sale. It was about 4 years old when we bought it.
The benefit of doing it that way was convenience. If we had to buy it from OLX or Mercardo Livre there would have been a lot of traveling and security issues. This guy was a retailer and also had a repair shop. He delivered both our rotovator and our mower to our farm which was about 70 km away.
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 25, 2017:
You mention the expense of tractors here, but what about riding mowers? Any tips on how and where you searched? I have horses and also rent my land to cattle ranchers but am seriously considering this purchase.
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 05, 2017:
We are flexible but thinking of buying a sailboat. I want to travel.
george on November 05, 2017:
where do ya'll think your moving to?
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on November 05, 2017:
There are many cars here which run on ethanol but they always need gasoline for that initial kick off. I have been told that ethanol dries out rubber seals.
Brazil is a huge producer of bio-fuel and encouraged its use by making it cheaper than other fuels.
Regarding the coconut water, no it's very healthy and refreshing especially if you've been working outside.
Just to let you know, our farm is for sale.
Fletch on November 04, 2017:
I believe the premium gasoline has 25% ethanol which would be a cleaner in and of itself.
I use the new one micron filters on my fuel pumps available today for both gasoline and diesel. I change them more often but think they are well worth it.
I live in the upper midwest in the US and when 10% ethanol came in the early 80s we had to change fuel filters very often(like once a week for a while) from the gasoline varnish built up in the surfaces of the fuel tanks in the older vehicles, it did not bother the newer ones. I still own three of those older trucks from then and they are not used often and have not had new fuel filters in years. Once clean they stayed clean.
If I lived where you do, do you suppose I could grow tired of drinking fresh coconut water? Naw, I doubt it.
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on October 25, 2017:
You've brought up an interesting point. I wasn't sure of the percentage of ethanol in the gasoline but knew it must be fairly substantial.
After having many problems with the gasoline, not just in our farm machinery but also in our old VW Kombi, we use the gas which has a cleaner in it. This too we pass through a fine filter before putting it into our mower. Often we find small particles of grit which will cause problems if not removed.
My husband has had to strip down carburettors to clean them and that was due to the regular gasoline. Since we have changed the gas it is much better.
I also know, that for some of our machines a higher octane is better. We are limited to what we can get where we live, so we opt for using a premium gasoline with the cleaner.
Thanks for reading, and your question.
Fletch on October 24, 2017:
The common gasoline of Brazil has 27.5% ethanol. Is this what you use in this lawn mower? Thanks.
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on May 26, 2017:
My husband is continually tweaking his method of doing things on the farm. In order to save gas, he will often cut on his way to where he wants to go and cut another section on his way back. He says, if the grass and weeds are kept low, the machine is using less gas than when he leaves to grow. If he doesn't have anything to mow, he will remove the cutting deck completely to make the machine lighter. That also gives him a better ground clearance.
Now is a busy cutting time as we are nearing the end of the wet season. He will have to cut as the water recedes otherwise it will be a job for the brush cutter.
Thanks for your comment.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 25, 2017:
A riding mower is definitely a necessity for anyone who has acreage. When your husband uses it as a means of transportation on the farm, does he raise the blades?
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on April 27, 2017:
You're right about the turning circle on those. We looked into those before we bought. For us, partly due to our location, the availability and price were prohibitive. Plus we knew ours was robust and going to give us years of service.
Thanks for reading and your information.
Georgeetaylor on April 27, 2017:
Enjoyed reading your article as always. I want to let you know that the "zero turn" riders are more efficient than the regular riding mowers. Investigate them and you will find you can get closer to the trees and turning around is a breeze.
As always, I thank you for sharing.
Mary Wickison (author) from Brazil on April 23, 2017:
Although we have a lawn around the house, the majority of our cutting is in between our coconut trees. Because we have buried our irrigation pipes, we need to cut on top instead of plowing.
Although it is a lawnmower, we use it in lieu of a tractor.
Hope your Sunday is peaceful.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 23, 2017:
Well, we have completely gotten rid of our lawn, so this really isn't something I can learn from. Oddly, I don't think I've ever ridden a riding lawnmower. Seems like it would be kind of fun. I'm babbling now, so wishing you a happy Sunday.