Maybe you hate the deafening roar of gas-powered lawn mowers. Maybe you are looking for a cheaper or more environmentally-friendly lawn mower than your current gas hog. Whatever your reason for considering alternatives, from reel mowers to sheep and scythes, here’s the low down on manual lawn mowing.

  1. Scythes. When the Grim Reaper isn’t gathering souls, his scythe is actually a useful, age-old tool for cutting grass. Author Marcel Theroux recently adopted a scythe for cutting the grass in his small backyard, and writes with enthusiasm of “the way that it turns a tiresome chore into a moving meditation….Figuring out how to use it makes you aware of the structure of your own body in a way that I would compare with yoga or tai chi.” The scything videos he points to are, as he promises, fairly mesmerizing.
  2. Sheep. Why cut your lawn when you can get our four-hooved friends to do it for you? Sheep (and/or goats) have been trimming grass for generations. A couple of sheep can keep an average yard fully clipped (as one sheep-as-lawn-mower tester proved), but they’re not exactly precision instruments. Flowers, small trees, and all sorts of other plants you might prefer not be chewed down also catch their eye.
  3. Reel mowers. You may remember the old-fashioned, manually-powered reel mowers from your grandparents’ days. If so, you probably remember them being clunky, wobbly, hard-to-push or otherwise not so hot. Turns out, reel mowers have gotten a lot better in the last fifty years. If you have a smaller yard, a reel mower may be perfect for you.

Sheep and scythes and reel mowers may not be for everyone, but if you’re hoping to ditch your gasoline lawn mower, one of those options may be just the thing.