It was a bittersweet moment when I sold the DR Field Mower with lawnmower attachment that I'd bought in 2016.
Over the past 25 years or so I've owned maybe five versions of the DR Field Mower, each better than the last. They've been put to a lot of work mowing grassy natural fields on our ten acres in rural south Salem, along with our lawn.
I've written about my field mowing experiences in a number of blog posts: here, here, here, here, here, here.
But as the saying goes, all good things come to an end. Hopefully so better things can replace them. But I can't be sure about that.
All I know is that it seemed like it was time to get a lawn tractor and electric lawnmower to replace what I've been able to do with the DR Field Mower with lawnmower attachment.
At the age of 72, the joy of mowing our fields with a walk behind device was wearing a bit thin on me. And I realized that while I was still capable of handling the DR mower, I didn't feel comfortable with my wife using it.
So if I ever was incapable of mowing, we'd have to hire somebody to do it.
After mulling over the pros and cons of getting a lawn tractor, one morning I woke up convinced that this was the right thing to do. That led me to drive to our local John Deere dealer, Papé Machinery here in Salem, Oregon.
And not only once -- three days in a row. That's how long it took for the salesperson I talked with, Ray Rodriquez, to steer me toward a lawn tractor that he felt comfortable selling to me and I felt comfortable buying.
I'd taken photos of the fields I mow to show to Ray. Wise decision.
He told me that I wouldn't be happy with the lower end John Deere models they sell at Lowe's and Home Depot. Too flimsy for the terrain I was mowing on, filled with humps, bumps, gullies, and quite a few trees. His advice was to get a 300 series John Deere, or a higher numbered model.
I ended up buying the full-featured X394. ("X" means it is only sold by John Deere dealers; 394 shows it is the top model in the 300 series.) Four-wheel steering was the main feature that attracted me to the X394. You Tube videos showed how tightly this mower could cut around a tree or other obstacle.
When I told Ray that I was ready to order a X394, he told me that John Deere was showing a September 19 delivery date. Since this was mid-June, I was facing a three month wait.
But a week ago I got a phone message that the lawn tractor had arrived over two months early. Apparently John Deere sometimes works in mysterious ways.
I tried out the X394 yesterday. Here it is sitting in our cramped garage, with a utility cart behind it.
At first riding on the X394 felt decidedly weird, after so many years of using a walk-behind mower. For the first few minutes I worried about tipping over, even though the slopes were mild. But it didn't take long for me to feel comfortable with the lawn tractor.
I mowed our main fields in about an hour. Here's the results.
The maneuverability of the X394 with its four wheel steering is really impressive. I had to focus on the side discharge chute, making sure it didn't hit the trees I was mowing around. Other than that, though, my first mowing experience went really well.
So did my cleaning experience. It was easy to hook up a hose to the washer port, turn the water on, then activate the blades for a minute or so as debris was flushed out.
Naturally I hadn't read the manual before setting off on the X394. Ray did give me a walk-through and test drive on the lawn tractor the day before it was delivered to me. I wasn't aware that I could put the parking brake on and get off the seat while the mower was running.
When I jumped off to move a fallen limb, the mower would stop. Safety thing. Next time I'll know better.