Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Using the Swisher Trailcutter Mower in the Offset Position

I previously wrote a post about my Swisher Trailcutter mower. I've also mentioned it several times in my daily posts, as it is my primary mower. When I originally wrote about it, I mentioned the offset capability, but indicated that I never used it. I had no intention of offsetting the mower at the time, but have since changed my mind.

There were several reasons that I hadn't considered offsetting the mower a good option for me. The first was that the hitch bar was held into position by bolts, so adjusting its angle required keeping a wrench or ratchet on hand to remove them. If I were going to keep the mower in that position permanently that would not be a big deal, but around here there are just situations where having the mower offset doesn't work. That brings me to my second point, which is maneuvering the mower when it is offset. I do a lot of my mowing with the RTV, which is nearly five feet wide. With the mower in offset position, I need an area at least seven to eight feet through which to pass. There are several areas that I mow where this just isn't possible. This is made worse when it comes to areas in which I have to make tight turns, since the RTV and mower combined are close to twenty feet long. The last reason I had never considered offsetting the mower was that it seemed most useful for those towing the mower behind a riding mower, where the offset would allow them to mow a wider area than either mower could by itself. Obviously that isn't my situation, so offsetting the mower doesn't result in mowing a wider area or completing the job any faster than towing it directly behind the RTV or four-wheeler.

Recently, however, I realized that offsetting the mower when cutting down the rye in the garden would be beneficial. Because the rye was so tall, I knew that my normal mowing method would result in much of it being pressed down by the tires of the RTV so much that it was below the height of the blades, even with the mower at its lowest setting. To make this easier, I replaced the bolts holding the hitch bar in position with a couple of hitch pins, which could be removed and put back in place much more quickly. I found that this worked well for mowing the rye, other than when it came time to back up. The mower isn't easy to back up in the best of situations, but is much more difficult when offset. I ended up just circling the garden after each pass, rather than wasting time trying to back up for the next pass.

Since offsetting the mower to mow the rye worked well I decided to try it for mowing some tall grass across the road that I hoped to later rake for mulch. The same reasoning applied here, regarding the need to avoid pressing down the grass with the tow vehicle before it was mowed. One change, however, is that I used the four-wheeler this time instead of the RTV. I had never mowed with the four-wheeler in that area, but Andrea was using the RTV and I didn't want to ask her to stop what she was doing. I found that the four-wheeler worked even better than the RTV with the offset mower, because it isn't as wide. The result is that it took less time to mow, as I could step over farther with each pass while still keeping the four-wheeler tires in the already mowed area. The narrower four-wheeler also helped to alleviate one of the issues mentioned above.

While I had the mower offset I also used it to mow along the edge of the driveway. There is a fairly narrow strip there that I like to keep mowed, that ranges from maybe two to six feet wide. Normally this is a pain to mow, because of tree branches and briars that overhang and get in the way of the tow vehicle. When the mower is offset, however, it stays below those obstacles, while me and the tow vehicle are off to the side, beyond their reach. With three quick passes I had the area mowed, and it was much simpler than it had ever been before.

Now that I have more experience with offsetting the mower, and have simplified the process of adjusting it, I think I'll use it offset more often. In fact, I think that the next time I mow the yard I'll likely try it offset. I suspect that there may be even more advantages of doing so that I haven't yet discovered. There are still plenty of cases where pulling the mower directly behind the tow vehicle will be necessary I'm sure. That is the nice thing about having the offset ability, it provides the flexibility to adjust for different situations.

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