After several decades of using a DR Field Mower (which you walk behind) to cut grass on our ten acres in rural south Salem, Oregon, last summer I decided to admit that my 73 year old body needed an easier way of doing that job.
So after considerable research and discussions with Ray Rodriquez at Pape Machinery, our local John Deere dealer, I bought an X394 lawn tractor.
It's taken me a few mowings to get used to the X394 (X means it is only sold through a John Deere dealer; the 94 indicates that it is at the upper end of the 300 series tractors; I think the 4 relates to the four-wheel steering).
Today I mowed almost all of our grass except for our lawn. I'll share photos below.
It only took me about 90 minutes, which is way less time than I spent doing that job with the DR Field Mower. It also was much easier, since I sat on the cushy John Deere seat with my water bottle nestled in the cup holder on my right, instead of wrestling the DR Field Mower around.
When I talked with Rodriquez about my mowing needs, he had me look at two types of grass visible from his office window. One was a flat lawn. The other was a flat field. I told Ray, "Neither looks like the bumpy sloping fields I need to mow."
I showed him photos of those fields. He then was adamant that if I got anything other than a high-end 300 series with a solid steel frame, I'd be unhappy after a year or two when a cheaper John Deere model made of less strong stuff had a bent frame.
I'm glad I took that advice. The four-wheel steering is perfect for our fields, which have many trees and other obstacles to navigate around. And the power steering on the X394 makes mowing much easier also.
Here's a tour of what I mowed this afternoon, starting with the easier areas and moving on to the tougher areas.
This small patch of grass close to our house is almost lawn like.
A larger field next to the top of our driveway is fairly smooth, but definitely field-like. I'm wary of steep slopes, so I had to leave unmoved some grass on the sloping area next to the driveway, which I could handle with the walk behind DR Field Mower. No big deal. I can use a trimmer for that.
This sloping area is easy to handle with the X394. The bare ground could be an issue if it was muddy, since the X394 doesn't have traction control. Last year I almost got stuck a few times, so now I'm cautious about mowing when the ground is wet.
This field, with some branches covered by a tarp waiting to be burned in the center, may look fairly smooth, but it is rough going -- with tough bunches of grass, field mice burrows, and such. When I used the DR Field Mower here it felt sort of like a bucking bronco as I walked behind the mower as it jerked this way and that. But the X394 handles this field great.
The next field down is fairly smooth. If you look closely, you can see how close I can mow to most of the trees, given the four wheel steering on the X394. The obvious exception is the drastically leaning tree on the left, which got that way after a February 2021 ice storm decimated our part of Oregon. Just haven't gotten around to cutting that tree down. The black burned area in the top center is where a lot of debris was burned after downed trees were cleaned up after the ice storm.
This field is a challenge. Quite a few trees to mow around. A gully in the center that I've learned to avoid with the X394. Several stumps that were cut low to the ground, but I managed to hit one with the deck set at a 3.5 inch height. Maximum height is 4 inches, which I'll try next time. Every time I use the X394 I learn more about what it can do, and what I should avoid doing. Like, mowing over that stump.
After I finished mowing, I hooked a hose up to a coupling on the deck of the X394, turned on the water, and cleaned out the clippings by running the mower blades for a minute or so. Great feature. Sure beats reaching under the mower to clean the deck. I use a backpack leaf blower to clean off debris from the mower before I park it in our garage.
I can heartily recommend the X394 for anyone with rough ground that needs mowing. I've only used the lawn tractor for about 7 hours, but so far it has operated flawlessly. The only problems I've had have been self-created, such as the times I almost got stuck by using the X394 in an area where I shouldn't have been mowing.
Live and learn.
I'll end by sharing a couple of photos of the creek that runs through our property just past the last fields I mowed today. Thankfully, creeks don't need mowing.