The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

February 25, 2009

Mowing My Weeds: Why Buy When You Can Borrow?

This was our postage stamp-sized front yard on Saturday. Michael and I thought it was pretty. But I was concerned that neighbors would report it as a hazard. The flowers weeds were over a foot tall and harboring who knows what furry little beings. Something had to be done, and I was not ready to pull it up and start our veggie garden.

I decided to just mow the weeds and leave some green. But we don’t own a lawn mower. Remembering my success with the Craigslist crockpot, I once again subscribed to a Craigslist search, this time for “push mower.” But after several weeks without success, I decided to just go ahead and buy a new one. Michael, bless his conscientiously frugal heart, talked me out of it. “Beth,” he said, “How often do we ever have to mow? You’re going to buy a mower for the one time a year when we actually have rain and the plants grow by themselves?”

He was right. Still, I didn’t want to pull up the weeds and leave a yard full of bare dirt to dry out and look like crap. And then I remembered my own post from October of 2007: Learning to Share (and Borrow). I’d written all about tool lending libraries but had not as yet needed to use ours. This was a great opportunity!

The Temescal Tool Library is part of the Oakland Public Library System. It’s one of many tool libraries in the world. (Check out the list at Local Tools to find one near you.)  Here are some of Temescal’s offerings:

The guy in the photos is the library’s Ty Yurgelevit, who showed me all the tools available and explained that broken tools are repaired right there at the library. But being short of hours and staff, they don’t have time to fix everything that comes in broken, so please be careful with the items you borrow!

Anyway, I wheeled the little push mower home (yes, I was on foot!) and mowed those weeds into submission — for free. In a week or so, I’ll pull some of them up and start a new veggie garden, hopefully sooner and with more success than last year’s. But like I whined in yesterday’s post, I’m not so very domestically-inclined. These projects are always a big deal for me and miraculous when they turn out right. So, we’ll see what happens.

What are ways that you avoid buying new stuff?

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John Anderson
14 years ago has just been created to connect neighbors for borrowing rather than buying, with anonymous postings including a tool category in addition to categories for most items. It also covers neighbors offering and receiving help from one another, categorized as well. It’s free, and very easy to use.

One can search for items and help by distance to the offering neighbor, category, and keywords.

Of course, the key to its use is populating your neighborhood with lots of postings. Doing so through a neighborhood group or a religious or civic organization may be a good way to encourage posting. Do you know people and/or organizations that might have an interest in getting borrowing and giving help going, neighbor to neighbor?

Please feel free to pass information along to anyone.

Disclosure: I have developed this site with my own funding to be of help to all. I hope you can make good use of in Oakland.

14 years ago

Your ‘weed’ yard is beautiful !

14 years ago

My daughter pulled the weeds out of our little patch of earth a few weeks ago. We plan to plant mint any day now, no mowing, just hand picking for tea :)

Cheap Like Me
14 years ago

That is fantastic! I see we don’t have a tool library in our state (Colorado). When my daughter was small, our local library did have a toy library in its basement — a great way to share costs, minimize waste and add some novelty to her play.

14 years ago

I wish we could open a tool library here! That would be so cool. I personally hate human power mowers- ta’int natural~! I use an electric mower most of the time occasionaly fir up the little tractor for bigger jobs! But glad you were able to rent yours, ms. fish Now I must ask- wehy didn’t you save all your cuttings for stuffing pillows???

Green Bean
14 years ago

As you know, I’m mighty jealous of your tool library! I do think that borrowing, trading, and buying used will get us a lot farther, keep our wallets full and our homes clutter-free.

14 years ago

What an awesome resource. Aside from not having to buy tools, think of all the space the library saves – space people dont’ have to heat, cool, clean, organize, and keep secure.

We have a push mower, and when the weeds get too tall for it (which seems like less than a foot, but maybe i’m lying to myself about how tall our yard gets) either one of the neighbors volunteers to mow it, or we borrow their electric mower.

It works out nice – they don’t have to look at our weeds, we don’t have to buy a big expensive mower.

A Slice of the Pie
14 years ago

The idea that each one of us needs to have one of everything is so frustrating. Sharing/borrowing is such a great way to use our resources.

Last summer I put out a note on a local yahoo group for a push reel mower. I was willing to pay, but someone I know and have visited with had one in her shed. She offered it to me for free since she wasn’t using it.

Condo Blues
14 years ago

We have a tool lending library too but it might be discontinued due to city budget cuts. I hope not because I hoped to use their rototiller this year to dig through the rock hard clay soil in my front flowerbeds and plant strawberries. It took me over a week to do it with a shovel but on a positive note, that’s where the name Condo Blues comes from!

If the tool lending library is closed this spring, I’ll rent the tools instead of buying.

14 years ago

It’s a great idea to share things, as long as the things are taken care of by each user.

Speaking of the waste of us having the same things, have you seen The Trashout Squad? It’s a tale of two tragedies, 1)people losing their stuff and 2)their stuff, most of it perfectly good, going straight to the landfill.

Mark Carlton
14 years ago

Wow- good work! And “right-on” Michael for talking you out of buying something you really don’t need to own!

Now that you’re mown- you can mulch, turn and get those seeds sown! WE anna see ton-o-tomatoes this season.

14 years ago

This might sound trivial but it is really working…

I am shopping my closet. I have not bought a single item of clothing since New Year’s Day. I originally planned to do this only until March 1st, but it is going so well and it makes me feel so good, I’m going to try to make it another season.

Over the holidays I hosted an accessories swap with my writing partner. We invited 20 women and asked each to bring three accessories that were in good shape. Everyone then had the chance to sip some wine and “shop” for a new belt, or scarf or piece of costume jewelry to spiff up the New Hampshire Winter Party Outfit: black pants and party sweater.

We donated left over items to Dress For Success. It was a lot of fun, and cheap to do.

14 years ago

Doesn’t your landlord mow the lawn?

Great resource — wish we had one in Boston!

Chiot's Run
14 years ago

I find that telling people you know what you’re looking for you often find someone that has something you can have or borrow. I was given a old reel mower by my parents, it was the circa 1950’s one I used as a kid to mow and I think my dad used it to mow when he was a kid as well. It need a little TLC, but it was FREE.

The weeds are actually good for beneficial insects. You can claim green for beneficials if your neighbors complain. Read more here:

14 years ago

Hooray for push mowers! I got mine off of Craigslist when I lived in Oregon, and I’ve had a blast using it here in Kentucky, where people actually stop their cars to stare at me as I mow the weeds. I love my weeds, by the way–plenty of plantain for medicinal salve, little chickweed and forget-me-not flowers to brighten my day, wild strawberries for the birds and other critters, and, of course, plenty of dandelion balls for making wishes with. The best part is that last summer, I was riding my bike through town and came across someone else using a push mower. We sang push mower praises for awhile, and both agreed that there’s nothing better than that fresh-mown smell WITHOUT the gasoline fumes and obnoxious sounds.

I never knew that tool lending libraries existed. I doubt we have one here…we can barely even keep our library open. :/

14 years ago

Wow, I’m impressed. We used to have a push mower (back when we had a yard), and it couldn’t handle mowing anything more than 6 inches high. “Mowing into submission” sounds about right.