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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Weedwhackers, banana plants, kyphosis, and palm pilots in the dark.

I've been lost in a weedwhacking fog for days. I had one that worked perfectly for years. Then it smoked and died. I tried to revive it, unsuccessfully.

So I went to Home Depot and bought another one. I bought the one there were the most of, what a bad idea. It was a Toro Piece of Junk. I got it home, put it together, got more gas, put the gas additive and the 2-cycle oil in the gas, put the gas in the trimmer, and fired it up. Second time I tried to start it, the starter cord got tangled inside the housing. Fury, rage! End of weedwhacking for the day.

The next day it rained all day. So yesterday, Zed and I took the string trimmer back to Home Depot. I had lured him there (he hates Home Depot) with the prospect of selecting more vegetation for his Manly Zone of Agriculture. Of COURSE it is too late in the year to be planting stuff, but the garden centers are full of unsold merchandise.

His eyes widened with delight when he saw a display of - banana plants! Bananas? Don't they grow in Costa Rica? He said: "Home Depot wouldn't be selling them in North Carolina if they didn't grow here!" I said: "Home Depot wouldn't be selling string trimmers if they were going to stop working the second time you fire them up."

Rationality did not prevail. I told him I'd buy the banana plant (or at least half of it - he'd have to cough up the other $5.00 from his birthday loot) if he'd agree to see the banana as a summer fling - if we each get our $5 worth of fun from the banana plant before he goes back to college, we'll let it perish without qualm when the winter hits - that is, if winter does actually hit. Global warming may yet save this plant.

While he was digging a hole approximately ten feet in diameter and three feet deep (this is a hole for a real banana tree which gives real bananas, not for a summer fling, which worries me), I examined the new Troy-Bilt with grave misgivings. It turned out to be a four-cycle engine, for one thing, which meant that the brand-new mixed gas I'd made the previous day was no good. I steamed and sighed about this so much, Zed offered to go down to the gas station for me. So I decanted the mixed gas into two milk bottles and off he went.

I won't give you the blow-by-blow, but in case somebody comes here some day looking for information on this trimmer.

The Troy-Bilt TB415CS
  1. To save themselves money, the Troy-Bilt folks have done away with the bump-feed reel. Instead of a cartridge with 8-10 feet of cord which feeds itself out as you work, this new machine has a plain steel hub with two holes in it. One takes a pre-cut length of cord and feeds it through the holes. There is a catch to hold the cord, my hands were not strong enough to put the cord behind it. I had to hammer on it with the butt of a screwdriver.

    The old cartridge of cord would last several hours without needing attention. The pre-cut pieces get melted away (every time the string encounters a tough piece of vegetation, some of it gets worn off) at a rapid rate and I had to stop the trimmer and replace the cord four times in two hours.

    Worse, though, is the mental aggravation caused by this trade-off: though the machine advertises a 17" cutting diameter, this is true only when the cord is brand-new. Within a few minutes of use, the cord is shorter, right? So now the cutting diameter is 14" - and a few minutes later, the cutting diameter is 11" - and the user must decide: would I rather

    • Continue cutting with this reduced diameter (which wastes gas and is inefficient);

    • Stop AGAIN and replace the cord, which is difficult, time consuming, and expensive?

    I hated weighing that decision over and over again. I also hated wasting half the cord (the half which feeds through the hub, and the first couple inches of stub on each side, removed and thrown away when the cord is replaced). Troy-Bilt probably anticipates selling huge amounts of expensive, pre-cut cord for this machine. But I have returned mine, so the plan backfired at least this time.

  2. The 4-cycle engine has a slower RPM than the previous 2-cycle model. At the slower speed, instead of slicing through many of my weeds, it wraps them around itself. Then it stalls.

  3. My previous weedwhacker worked for years with no attention at all. In comparison, the new one is a diva. The manual specifies that after just 10 hours of use:

    • The oil must be drained (disposed of in an approved manner, which is a pain in itself) and replaced;

    • The oil filter must be removed, washed, and oiled;

    • The carburetor idling speed must be adjusted (but if you adjust it wrong, the manual warns, you can ruin the machine;

    • Worst of all, the "rockers" have to be adjusted. The manual says to adjust the "rockers" I must take the engine apart, and if I'm not comfortable with that, I must take it to a mechanic.

    Can they be serious? 10 hours is only two days of weedwhacking!! They really expect me to put this thing in the car after two days and take it to a mechanic? That is NOT a reasonable request to make of an end-user!

  4. (Problem common to all weedwhackers these days, no doubt saving the company money: The shaft is too short, giving me a backache - and I'm only 5'6" - how do guys tolerate it?

I finished (for now) with the weedwhacking, and Zed finished with the banana, but I wasn't finished, because on the way home he'd broken one of the banana leaves, and I had jokingly said I'd sew a splint to it, and he seized upon that idea and insisted that I do it. So, weary and sore from all the weedwhacking, I took a piece of wire, a needle, and thread, and I sewed that broken leaf into the upright position. It was a process eerily reminiscent of the operation Zed had last summer for kyphosis - Dr. Hey opened up his back, put in two titanium rods, and screwed the rods to his vertebrae. Now Zed's back is very, very straight, and he sets off all the alarms at the airport.

I put some homemade chicken soup in the microwave for dinner, and the power went out. We lit the Sabbath candles, heated the soup on the (gas) stove, wrote in our journals, and then happily read ebooks side by side in the dark on our twin Palm Pilots, with the eery LED light, which is kind of purplish, reflecting off our faces.

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At 12:23 PM, Blogger miatagirl said...

Have you considered buying a lawn mower?

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grass Gator makes a nice attachment for string trimmers. That's what I went too. The kind I use has the nylon blades. Here's a link:

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tryed all these links,so far no luck email me please


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