Our house was built in the middle of a field. Around the house is a bit of lawn. Beyond that is what was once a hayfield. Some years of neglect have left it overrun with Buckthorn and some sort of thorn bush. I was mowing the field on Columbus day weekend. Columbus day also has great visuals. I call the stand of trees in the photo “The great wall of flame.”
I once tried taking the lawn tractor down there, but the Buckthorn stubs gave it flat tires, and there is no way a finish mower is going to cut down this stuff. One of the neighbors let me use his Kubota tractor with 4-foot brush-hog one year, but he usually keeps it up (down?) in Maine. Instead, my other neighbor Win and I bought a DR Field and Brush mower. This is a walk behind mower, not for the faint of heart. Our model has an 11 HP motor which spins a 26 inch long, 1/4 inch thick sharpened club of a blade. It will cut down pretty much anything it can push over.
Math quiz. Assuming you have an acre of field to cut, and there are 640 acres to the square mile, and 5280 feet in a mile, and the mower cuts a path two feet wide, how far do you have to walk behind the mower?
Actually it is more like two acres. Anyway, we try and mow twice, once early in the summer, and once around Columbus day. This isn’t really enough, because the brush is five feet high, consisting of tangled thorns, Buckthorn, witch-grass, and so forth. The DR will cut this stuff just fine, but it isn’t pretty. If you cut a full swath, inevitably you miss a bunch of it, and if you don’t, the drag on one side tries to slew a 300 pound machine sideways, and you literally get dragged off into the weeds. This is particularly troublesome when you try and mow half a cluster of thorns. The thing starts pulling to one side, then you have to lean towards the uncut side to try and swing it back, then the thorns grab on to you.
Did I mention the “operator presence lever”? It is a sort of deadman switch on top of the left handle. If you let go of it when the machine not in neutral or the blade is engaged, the motor will stop. The lever on the bottom of the left handle is the clutch. Squeeze both and off you go. The trouble is a tendency to grab harder when the thing is getting away from you, which doesn’t work. This usually happens when I try to mow under the 3 foot high overhanging branches of some tree. I’m hanging on for dear life and the machine is pulling me onto the pointed ends of the branches, Oh, and when you do get the mower backed out from under the tree, then stop to catch your breath, don’t forget you left it in reverse.
Every year, I find two ground wasp nests in the field. Never in the same places. They don’t like it when you mow overhead. Here’s where the operator presence lever comes in handy – you just run, and the mower will shut down. Usually you can sneak back in half an hour or so and gingerly drive it away because the noise doesn’t seem to bother the bees. One year I left the mower parked on top of the nest and it took me two days to work up the courage to try and get it back.
The DR people have a great video they will be happy to send you. It shows, among other things, a 60ish gray haired lady running a field and brush mower. I think I do not want to tangle with any lady who talks about how easy her life is now that she has a DR. Walking behind the mower on flat ground in a straight line is easy enough, but turning is not. The day after spending three hours mowing I try to move as little as possible, because muscles I didn’t know I had are still aching.
You can get lots of attachments, but we don’t have any. The DR is a mower, it doesn’t actually seem fazed by much of anything. The 17 HP Deere lawn tractor tends to bog down in tall grass, but the 11 HP DR just drives right through the 4 and 5 foot high brush. It is intimidating in its approach to tall plants. It doesn’t notice them.