Monday, June 22, 2009

Lawnmower math and the cherry trees

I had to buy a lawnmower this spring, so I picked this beauty, my first riding mower ever. I've got to tell you that for creating that visible sense of accomplishment at a task completed, mowing the lawn even beats doing dishes. And it really helps that I didn't have to sweat in the process. This mower even has a cupholder! (Short aside: in the south, they don't mow their lawn. They "cut the grass." Every time I said I was going to "mow the lawn," I got blank looks.)

Now, I am an engineer by training and inclination, so I focus on things like "what path should I use to avoid the rocks and trees." I also want to avoid the situation where I end up making smaller and smaller circles that end up impossibly small and I can't make the turns. Further, my yard is very lumpy and it looks bad if I mow across the bumps (very short on top of the bumps and very long in the valleys). So I need to make sure that I mow parallel to the bumps, not across them. Actually, "need" is a pretty strong word. Grass is pretty forgiving. If I do it wrong this week, I'll have another chance to do it soon!

What makes it worse is that I am an Industrial Engineer first. Industrial Engineers are the optimization people. For me it's not "what path should I use," it's "what is the optimal path to minimize gas use, time mowing, make the lawn look best, etc, etc." Every week I try a little different set of paths to see if I can improve. I really enjoy this task. I can't help it - I really am an engineer through and through.

I suspect that other engineer-mowers have tackled the lawnmower math question and if I did a google search I'd find many algorithms. I wonder if they enjoy this as much as I do.

Immediately behind the lawnmower you can see 2 of the cherry trees. As you can see, the one on the right is maybe 5 feet tall and the one on the left is even shorter. I have no idea if they are adult trees of a short type, or baby trees that will grow much bigger. The cherries left over from last year were small too. Dwarf cherry trees are not this small (per the internet - source of all wisdom). Maybe they're not cherry trees at all?


  1. I think you're having way too much fun with your new riding mower. Plus you're thinking harder than you should be while operating a piece of heavy equipment.

    (Say, are you responsible for those latest crop circles?)

  2. Hee hee. Glad you enjoy this task. I like the cupholder - nice touch.

    Cutting the grass in my tiny yard has to be near the very bottom of my list of favorite things to do. My goal is to eventually have just two little squares to mow.

    If you can get a close up picture of the bark and leaves of the tree, I'd be happy to throw in my two cents' worth as to what you've got.