If spring is gardening time, fall is yard care time. Like gardening, there’s something soothing about putzing around the yard — gathering leaves, mowing, weeding, cutting back all the growth from a long, hot summer — simple, repetitive tasks outside lend nicely to reflection and stress relief. But, while gardens can be set up with accessibility in mind [“Roll Out There and Garden,” March 2018], making an entire yard accessible, especially if you have any property, isn’t feasible for most. It would take a fortune and some serious earth moving equipment. When you can’t (or don’t want to) make the world accessible, adapting equipment is your best bet. This month, I talked with a couple of wheelers about how they get outside to maintain their personal patch of earth.
Like a Surf Board for Your Yard
Arwen Bird, a para from Beaverton, Oregon, has an interesting way of managing all her weeding and planting needs. She lies down on an elevated platform on wheels to push and pull herself all over her yard, and it works great for any tasks that are low to the ground. “I’ve actually been able to get to places in my yard that I was unable to get to in my wheelchair,” she says.
The idea came about when Bird was dealing with an extended recovery from a pressure sore on her ischial tuberosity a few years ago. She started to dream up ways to garden without sitting, and eventually decided that being able to move around while lying on her stomach would be ideal. Instead of fabricating something from scratch, she saw a modified yard cart as the perfect solution. Yard carts are basically heavy-duty wagons with large casters that are available at most garden and home improvement stores. “It’s already a platform with wheels, and I knew I needed to start there,” she says. She looked online and found a Gorilla Cart for $119 (available at Lowe’s and other retailers).
The Gorilla Cart was perfect because she could easily remove the sides, leaving a flat platform to lie on. Steering isn’t an issue because the front wheels already swivel, so Bird can just pull and push herself in whatever direction she needs to go. To pad the platform, she used a simple outdoor seat cushion, and used the straps that it already had to tie the pad down to the cart.
So was it effective? “Yes, absolutely,” Bird says. “It was as effective as I was hoping, immediately. I was able to go tend to the yard, and after being so confined for nine months [of recovery from the pressure sore], having the cart really restored a sense of agency for me.”
The cart worked so well that Bird has continued using it ever since. The only modification she’s had to make to her original design was to wire some closed cell foam to the sides of the cart under the top cushion to make a cradle for her legs. That way she can swim all over the yard without her legs falling in the dirt.
Go Slow and Make Sure to Reward Yourself
Rob Pollock is a C6 quad who does a lot of yard work. He owns three rural acres near the Lewis River in Washington State, where he lives with his wife and twin toddlers. The setting is idyllic, but living on acreage requires a lot of upkeep during the sunny months. “Mowing, weeding, pruning, watering. Over and over,” says Pollock.
For mowing, Pollock uses a Craftsman riding lawn mower with a hydrostatic transmission that eliminates the need to shift. Instead of a foot pedal, he chose a model that has a lever throttle — one similar to a boat throttle — mounted on the right fender. Even with weak hands, Pollock can easily operate the lever. The only modification he made was to replace the standard seat with the seat from an old power chair, which he purchased for $30 from a local used wheelchair store. The wheelchair seat has a higher backrest, giving him more stability, and comes with arm rests that are especially useful in reducing fatigue from getting bounced around over his ample yard.
Getting the new seat attached wasn’t too difficult. “I had to hack saw off a bit of tubing from the seat,” he says. “Every mower is a bit different. The underside of the new seat is wood, so I just used lag bolts to screw it in place. Eventually the wood will get weak from being in the elements, so I’ll need to do something different.”
While Pollock normally uses a manual chair, for the rest of his yard work he has an off-road power chair that he’s been using and abusing for the past 15 years. The power allows him to hold onto his tools and still get over rough ground.
“For watering, I use a fire hose style nozzle, so I don’t need to squeeze,” he says.
He uses a sharp hoe to keep weeds in check. Still, it’s a pain, so Pollock plants ground cover plants where he can to let nature keep unruly growth in check as much as possible. Otherwise, Pollock uses a set of Ryobi 40v electric power tools — extension chainsaw, weed eater, rototiller and hedge trimmer — to do everything else he needs. “Better than a gas motor in my face,” he says.
Pollock’s best advice for yard care, though? “I go really slow,” he says, “and I make sure to reward myself with plenty of beer.”