Category

machines

Echo 58v cordless power mower

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Time to switch?

Today I got a chance to see and touch the Echo 58v cordless power mower on my visit to the new Foreshore Equipment North Vancouver location. And now I’m considering getting one for my side-gig operation. Not that my old Honda gas-powered beast is falling apart; it’s still running well, many years after I picked it up second hand. But I’m tired of sucking exhaust, lifting it and paying for gas. It might be time to switch, if the mower is in stock.

Since I don’t mow that much, charging two batteries would be fine.

Two batteries.

One local landscape company I know has one of these battery-operated units on every truck. Because the mowers are light, they can be used in hard to access lawn areas. Some access is extremely awkward or it requires two crew members. Stairwells come to mind.

Well, not anymore; you can pick this baby up by the handle and go. I tried it and it’s really light. It almost feels like a toy.

There are two batteries in front and one simple throttle on the bar. It looks super simple.

Benefits

As I’m writing this blog post in late February 2022, gas prices in British Columbia are climbing so not having to gas up your mower sounds great. The other, bigger benefit is avoiding unhealthy exhaust exposure. After twenty-two years in landscape maintenance, I wonder if I should have made the switch earlier.

This especially applies to my side-gigs, where I’m in charge. I obviously don’t call the shots at my day-job. But why suck exhaust when you’re mowing a small patch for your hard-of-hearing 87-year-old client when you could easily pull it off with a mower like this Echo 58v unit?

I also like how quiet it is when you let go of the throttle. Nothing is idling noisily while you try to talk to someone. It gets nice and quiet.

Another obvious benefit is solo lifting. This Echo mower can easily fold up and the lifting is a breeze. Gas powered units can be on the heavier side and that can seriously tax your back if you don’t have ramps.

Conclusion

The Echo 58v cordless power mower is decent for commercial operations and perfect for hard-to-access lawn areas. You can easily pick it up which frees up your co-workers and saves your back from pain.

I love the idea of not having to pay for fuel and most of all, avoiding exposure to unhealthy exhaust.

If this unit is in stock, I will consider getting it for my side-gig operation.

Is it time to switch? Contact Foreshore Equipment, the best dealer in the Lower Mainland, and tell them Red Seal Vas sent you.

Foreshore Equipment opens in North Vancouver

By | Landscaping Equipment, machines | No Comments

Private tour

The news today is frightening but I do have some good news to share. Landscape professionals and homeowners now have another store location to visit.

Foreshore Equipment has now opened a new location on the North Shore and recently I got a private tour. That’s how far I will go to produce an awesome blog. And the visit was also awesome. For landscape professionals it’s like kids walking into a toy store. So many new, shiny machines that could make you money in the field.

I usually freshen up my breath with Stihl candy but don’t bother asking for some. Stihl is protecting another long-time North Shore dealer so you won’t find any Stihl machines at this location. You can still order them but you won’t see them on display at this location. For now, at least.

Still, Foreshore carries all of the other major brands like Echo, Shindaiwa, ExMark and TORO. That covers your usual gas-powered machine needs. They also carry new battery-powered machines.

Here comes the future

Most landscapers in British Columbia still run gas-powered machines but battery operated machines are quickly coming online. You’ll see it at Foreshore, with a nice line-up of EGO and Husqvarna battery-powered machines on display. Who knows how long it will take for store shelf space to switch from gas-power domination to battery-powered.

I am seriously considering purchasing a battery-powered mower for my 2022 side-gig season. Since the Echo mower I’m looking at is light and and the handles fold, it should be easier to move around. Not having to buy fuel is a huge plus; since I don’t mow a lot, I can easily charge two batteries.

If you’re new to battery-operated machines, like me, stop by the store and ask away. I’m slowly changing my mind because sucking unhealthy exhaust is getting old now. I asked my questions and I have many more.

Question: What does brushless motor mean on a battery powered mower?

A brushless lawn mower is one where the motor can automatically adjust to the power needs of the job. The benefit is a mower that produces less heat, is quieter, and generates better performance.

Source: Lawn Legion

A good commercial battery-powered TORO mower.

Attachments

I also learned on my private tour that attachments are inter-changeable. So, if you own a line up of gas powered machines and attachments, you can use the same attachments with battery-powered engines. That saves you a lot of cash.

Location and service

Foreshore Equipment, North Shore location

I had no trouble finding the location but, due to ongoing construction in front of the store, I had to park in the back on Welch Street.

Most landscapers depend on good machine service. Gas powered machines constantly need fixing and tune-ups, so it’s nice to know a good go-to mechanic. Develop a relationship with one, and your business will run better.

Shop rates currently run just shy of $100 per hour so, if your house came with an old mower, recycle it and upgrade to something newer. Fixing an antique is a bad idea. Visit or call Foreshore Equipment for new mower ideas. They will walk you through your choices and get everything set-up for you.

Come visit

If you live anywhere near the North Shore, this is a landscape dealer you must visit. Check out their new website, call (604) 924-9400 or better yet, visit and tell them Red Seal Vas sent you.

Snowblower 101 for beginners

By | machines, Seasonal | No Comments

Making the best of it

Nobody suffers more from January blahs than I do. I hate January because the landscape is very quiet and snow interrupts my work. I’m also terrified of driving on snow; so terrified, some have started calling me a “snow pussy”, but that’s off-topic.

When it snows, I’m usually stuck at home, creating new blog posts. But I also can’t say no. So, when people are short of laborers and they call me to come help, I do it. I have my daughter’s braces to pay off!

Snowblower

Using a snowblower is surprisingly fun. First fill up your gas tank. Then, put the key in, hit the primer button a few times, engage the choke and pull the cord. Once the machine is running and warmed-up, pull it out by selecting the speed or reverse. The left handle lever drives the unit; the right hand lever engages the blades.

When you’re ready to clear your sidewalk or driveway select the proper speed; 3-4 was ideal for me, 5 was great for moving from one area to the next, 1-2 are very slow and recommended for loading and unloading the machine.

Nozzle fun

The biggest question is where to direct the stream of snow. Slow down and think about it. Burying a public roadway is not a bright idea. Adjust the nozzle as you go. For example, I switched the nozzle stream from right to left when I got close to a bus stop bench.

Warning: there is a warning sticker on top of the nozzle, reminding you that sticking your hands in there can lead to amputations. Once, when an icy column fell out of the nozzle, it dislodged a brush resting on top of the drum, and shredded it into five pieces. You’ve been warned.

A note for prospective fathers

If you hope to father children in the future, watch for sidewalk imperfections. Sidewalks tend to lift around large landscape trees so use that as a hint.

I suspect I will not be having any more children and God gave me very average equipment, but still, not one of my collisions with the machine was pleasant.

Face your fears

Once you get used to the machine, it becomes a fun way to make money and lose weight. And it saves your back and arms from a beating. Normally, I don’t care for machines but this beast of a snowblower gave me hours of fun. And my daughter is happy to finally have her braces.

If you’re in the market for a snowblower, please visit one of the Foreshore Equipment dealerships. Tell them Red Seal Vas sent you!

NALP responds to California gas-powered small engine ban

By | Landscape Industry, machines | No Comments

California drops a bomb

This season, news from California surprised many landscape companies, in the state and in the rest of North-America. The state came out with amendments to the small off-road engine regulations, which would ban the sale of all carbon-emitting landscape equipment beginning with model year 2024. Now the California Air Resources Board has approved the amendments. So, all that remains is for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give their blessings and that could take months.

NALP response

It’s instructive to see how the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) responded to this proposed ban. (Source: Landscape Management, Dec. 13, 2021)

a) The EPA has to approve everything first.

b) Battery-powered equipment currently on the market isn’t sufficient for high-volume commercial use.

c) 85% of the gas-powered equipment in California is used by residential customers-only 15% is commercial/professional grade.

d) Landscape professionals care deeply about the environment and need equipment that can manage the demands of California’s green spaces.

e) The transition will be very costly for the 55,000 small landscape businesses in the state.

Slow progress

I know a few landscape maintenance companies that use battery-operated edgers here in British Columbia. Unfortunately, the technology still isn’t good enough when it comes to leaf blowers. Battery-operated units don’t push out enough air for proper leaf clean-up. On the other hand, the gas-powered Stihl 800 unit is a beast that pushes out great air volumes at great velocity. Yes, it will pollute your lungs but it’s a dream blower. It will be a while before battery-operated units come close to the 800 model.

Bring it on

I would love to move away from carbon-emitting machines and try new battery-operated units. It would be better for the planet and my lungs. NALP is absolutely correct when they point out that landscape professionals care deeply about the environment.

Landscapers manage invasive-species, storm-water runoff, and fight climate change by caring for the grass, trees and plants that produce oxygen, sequester carbon and cool cities down. Now we just need better battery-powered technology; and a bit more time to transition away from gas-powered machines.

Perhaps California’s new regulations will give the battery-operated technology a nudge. I know the demand is there. Personally, I can’t wait to test a battery-powered leaf blower.

Residential switch easier

If I had a house, I would definitely switch to gentler battery-operated landscape machines. Here’s why: the scale is smaller. I can easily charge batteries for a quick weekly lawn cut at home.

It isn’t that simple for commercial sites. Just take a look at my commercial site’s maximum seasonal leaf drop. It would have taken extra hours and several battery packs to clean this up. Instead, my Stihl 800 beast cleaned it up very quickly; but, I did make lots of noise.

Maximum seasonal leaf drop.

We live in interesting times. In conclusion, I think California is on to something with their new regulations but the NALP correctly points out that the battery-operated technology still isn’t good enough for commercial landscape operators.

The problem with leaf blower bans

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Margaret wants to kill them all

When the New York Times hires you as an opinion writer, we know you can write. And Margaret Renkl penned an entertaining opinion piece on banning leaf blowers (‘Let’s kill all the leafblowers‘, New York Times, October 26, 2021).

First, let’s go over the bad news and then I will tell you the key point from my commercial scale landscape professional side. I can’t touch Renkl’s writing but I hope I can make this blog post somewhat readable.

Mechanical locusts

Renkl describes gas-powered leaf blowers as ‘mechanical locusts’ and then tells us that her comparison is an insult to the locusts. And, I agree, commercial gas-powered leaf blowers are loud. They’re also heavy. And, yes, they pollute the air.

You can, of course, pay a bit more cash and run the machines with Aspen fuel developed in Sweden. Aspen is 99% cleaner than regular gasoline and therefore gentler on the machine parts. But it’s also pricey.

I also like Renkl’s other points. Like the bit about leaf blowers dislodging insects from their winter hiding spots. I actually did this recently. When I blew a pile of leaves from a corner, I discovered a small frog underneath. Oh! So I left some leaves over top of it. I hope it found the refuge it was looking for.

Landscapers don’t often consider what’s in the dust they’re blowing. I’m sure Renkl is right, the dust definitely contains heavy metals, pollen, mold, animal feces, and chemicals from pesticides and herbicides. This isn’t something landscape company owners cover in their training sessions.

Not a great place to broom.

2021 technology

Soon after Renkl’s opinion piece was published, we got an epic wet fall which caused massive floods in my province of British Columbia. The rain made leaf clean-up extremely difficult and it would have been a nasty, prolonged affair without the help of Stihl’s 800 model leaf blower.

The 800 Stihl gas-powered leaf blower is probably what landscapers in hell are using. It’s a perfect combination of air volume and air speed. It blows away soggy leaves, frogs and garden gnomes. It’s easy to fall in love with it.

The key point!

This is the key to this blog post: the leaf blower technology isn’t there yet for commercial landscape operators. The batteries don’t achieve the required air speed. Yet.

How the batteries get protected from our West Coast rains is another mystery. But, I think we’re getting closer. Since Renkl is only 60, I fully expect her to see the day gas-powered leaf blowers get retired.

Now that California, the world’s fourth largest economy, is banning the use of gas-powered small engines, there might be a bigger push to get battery operated leaf blowers on the market. I would love to test one out in the field and report my findings in this blog.

For now, Margaret and I have to wait for better leaf blower technology to arrive. I highly recommend Renkl’s opinion piece.

Bittersweet max leaf drop

By | landscape maintenance, machines, Seasonal | No Comments

Bittersweet

The first time I noticed the word bittersweet used in reference to trees was in Japan. There, the famous cherry blossoms make people delirious; some follow the blossoms from south to north, like junkies craving their next fix.

Why bittersweet? Because like life, the cherry blossoms are beautiful but they don’t last long. Cheery blossoms in Japan are a must-see item for your live it bucket list. Especially if you go to ancient Kyoto in spring.

Leafiness

When it comes to fall leaf clean-up, bittersweet refers to that moment when you get maximum leaf drop and you know you are about to suffer for one more day. It’s also one of those moments when hearing about attempts to ban leaf blowers seems like a cruel joke.

This past fall has been the most difficult of my twenty-plus landscaping career. It rained heavily for months; it was so bad, I don’t even remember blowing any dry leaves. I would call it a suffer-fest.

All at once

When the weather network announced high winds for one of our fall weekends, some of my co-workers lit up the company WhatsApp, excited about all of the leaves falling in one weekend. And they did! Except, it also rained and the resulting Monday morning mess almost broke us.

I had two helpers for mountains of soggy leaves and it was hard. We cleaned-up leaves from 8-6pm and, because my son had soccer practice at 7, I had to leave at 6. Soccer or no, I would have left anyway.

Soggy Katsura leaves covering the entire site after a storm.

Grinding

Knowing that this was our last big day was little consolation. And we used Stihl’s bad boy 800 model leaf blowers which have high air volume and air pressure. They blow away insects and garden gnomes like nothing but on this day, they too struggled.

And right here is the key point: current battery-operated technology isn’t good enough to handle this kind of leafy mess. It would have taken hours longer and I don’t even know how many battery packs we would have gone through.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals recently made this point to the State of California, which is considering a full ban on gas-powered small engines.

Nasty fall

Leaf clean-up on strata properties is hard work and when the weather turns bad, it can get even harder. For now we use gas-powered leaf blowers because they can handle the load. Once the battery operated technology improves, I will be the first one to test it in the field.

As I write, Christmas is one week away and I’m looking forward to some much-needed down time. It was a long, strange year. When this blog post is published in February, 2022, we’ll be closer to spring. Spring! I can’t wait.

Foreshore Equipment location opening soon on the North Shore

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There to help you

Here’s some great news for 2022: Foreshore Equipment is opening a new location in North Vancouver soon. That’s great news for professional landscapers, company owners, municipalities and homeowners. Especially homeowners because they’re busy.

Homeowners like Monica, who found me online this past fall. Her lawn desperately needed a final cut but her mower wouldn’t start. Could I help?

Now, I’m always ready to help but when you ask me to help with your machines, it’s clear you don’t know me well. I struggle with small engines which is why it’s great news to have a new sales and service location open in the Lower Mainland.

Antiques

As it turned out, Monica’s old mower worked fine. The gas was turned off! But, the mower blades were original and, most likely, never sharpened. Dull mower blades is a common problem. Also, her plastic filter cover was missing. There is a reason manufacturers put it on there. One call to Foreshore Equipment and your problem is solved.

Red Seal Vas can tell you why it’s a bad idea to mow for 7 years with the original blades still on but he can’t sharpen them for you. For that you have to visit one of the Foreshore Equipment locations. Sharp blades make clean cuts through your grass blades and force the clippings into the bag nicely. Once the blades get dull, the mower starts to clog up and the shredded grass blades suffer. I would suggest buying brand new blades.

You will need replacement blades. Call Foreshore Equipment.

Why Foreshore Equipment?

So, what’s so special about Foreshore Equipment? Well, the mechanics are top-notch, which means you will get your fixed machines back in great time.

The mechanics are also experts at answering my questions. Like, why won’t my edger start after refueling? Answer: there’s air in the line so just hit the primer a few times.

Pro tip: Recycle the antique mower that came with your house and buy something new. The cost of repair labor makes this a no-brainer.

Professionals also constantly need new parts and tools. That’s why I am personally a happy customer at Foreshore Equipment. Even my small, side-hustle operation needs supplies and tools. It would be hard to succeed without good support from your local, trusted dealer.

Foreshore Equipment offers a great selection of machines and tools; and they will help you get set up. Visit one of their locations and tell them Red Seal Vas sent you.

First lawn care service disaster

By | Lawn Care, machines | No Comments

Not a good start

When you do lawn care for the first time at a new site, you really want to shine and impress your new clients. I know I do. And as a proud Red Seal Journeyman Horticulturist, I expect quality work from myself and my crew members. But earlier this spring things didn’t go well for me.

Eager to get started, I mapped out my section, picked up the line edger and went to work. Then, just three yards into my section, I did a vertical edging job on a small tree well and proceeded to blow out a patio door. Oops, that’s not good. And just think, I have an online course on lawn care mistakes.

Now, normally landscape companies have glass service people on speed dial because accidents like this happen. Except in this case, the patio door had built-in blinds which made in a $1000+ repair job.

Built-in blinds made this a very costly mistake.

Red faced

Accidents like this happen but not to me. It was very humbling, considering my work shirt is outfitted with landscape industry certified patches. I had no idea doors had built-in blinds. That really stung.

The only silver lining is that the crew members got to see the human Red Seal Vas who very occasionally makes a mistake.

Two lessons

There are two lessons we can learn from my costly mistake.

One, danger in lawn care is always seconds away if you get sloppy or cocky. Mowers and trimmers pick up objects easily and cause damage to windows, cars, and even people. Safety first!

Two, it makes no sense to vertical a small tree well with small stones showing. It’s better to ignore it and use a blade edger later. Blade edgers have a metal guard and a rubber flap which makes them much safer to use.

Edging a small tree well wasn’t worth the headache and the steep cost. Use blade edgers for tree wells and put your food behind the machine for extra protection when there is a patio window behind you.

Be careful. Don’t get caught red-faced like I did.

The case of shredded tree guards

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Tree guards

I got the idea for this blog post from my UK LinkedIn friend who shared this picture with me. Incredibly, it’s of a shredded tree guard!

This is crazy. Shredding a tree guard is like burning down your life jacket or stomping on your wilderness first aid kit. It’s in place to protect the tree exactly from this kind of abuse.

Because it’s fairly high, I suspect the damage was caused by a ride-on mower. But, of course, any employee who shreds a tree guard could also be a lousy line trimmer. I hope I’m wrong.

Lack of training

This sort of abuse happens when workers aren’t trained properly. It’s as if lawn care machines have the right of way. They don’t.

My favorite scientific paper is from New Zealand and it deals with this kind of “mower blight.” The study authors recommend training as one way of fixing the problem. The other recommendations are: creating tree wells, and installing tree guards! Aha. That didn’t work here so we’re back to training.

What lawn care machines do to trees

When you train lawn care workers you have to teach them why it’s a bad idea to hit landscape trees with lawn mowers and line trimmers. As a worker at a municipal parks department, I witnessed one of my co-workers get out, put his trimmer on and when he trimmed the very first tree, I could almost feel the bark flying past me. So, when I bravely mentioned why it wasn’t a good idea, the dude was upset. You have to thread lightly in unionized departments. Even with temporary full-timers.

  1. Trees are resilient. You can hit them a few times and they will recover. It’s the repeated abuse that stresses the tree.
  2. Abused trees must use up precious resources for repairs when they should be investing in growth.
  3. Damaged bark can allow diseases to get in
  4. Wounding interrupts water transport
  5. Repeated wounding eventually kills the tree
  6. Removing, replacing and taking care of new trees is expensive
  7. Dead trees can’t provide important ecosystem services

This should be a good enough starting point for your crew discussion. Respect tree guards. People installed the guards for a reason.

How landscapers die on the job

By | Landscape Industry, Lawn Care, machines | No Comments

Danger!

Whenever people work with machines there is potential for accidents. This is especially true with ride-on mowers. So, let’s get the worse part of this blog post over with.

Ride-on mowers are big beasts that cover lots of lawn in short amount of time. I’ve been trained on one but I wouldn’t want to use it all day, all week. It’s a bouncy and often dusty ride.

And you can die when you get too close to edges. I know of two true incidents from the US where both operators got too close to the edge and crashed, strapped to their seats.

One dude drove too close to a creek and flipped his ride-on mower over into the creek. This poor dude never had a chance. He got crushed on the creek bed.

The second dude got too close to a pond but he had a chance to unclip and swim out. Except he wasn’t a swimmer and he panicked, drowning as his mower sank into the pond. I learned about this in a Facebook group from his boss. It’s pretty sad.

Sadly, the operator drowned in the pond.

Missing digits!

This next story involves missing digits and it comes from my home province of British Columbia. Now, when I first heard it, it sounded a bit sensational. After all, modern mowers come with safety features like bars that stop the blades when disengaged. Let go of the bar and you should be fine.

Except here we had two dudes who made poor choices while wearing headphones. One (very efficiently) offered to hold the power bar while the other emptied his mower bag and reached in to clean the chute. And that’s when the digits on his hand went missing in a flash.

Shocked, the dude screamed his ass off on site, causing a massive, and bloody, scene.

This used to happen with early push mower models where the blades didn’t stop when the operator did. New mowers are super safe.

How to stay safe

Yes, you can stay safe in the landscape.

Get as much training as you can and respect all machines and tools on your work truck. Learn to use all of them safely. Ask questions and practice. And watch out for your team mates.

The same applies to homeowners. Before you let your kids mow your lawn, train them well and watch them.

Ask about and identify potential hazards on site and at home. Especially if it’s your first visit to the site.

Don’t wear headphones while you work.