We've done a ton of work to this rental since we moved in last June. It's my parent's rental house, so we take extra care of it and do our best to make improvements that are both attractive and help us live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
The main thing we've done is tear up the planting beds that were home to five foot tall weeds, and replaced it with a pretty nice vegetable garden. We're in the process of tearing out some bushes (that while beautiful, smell like urinal cakes and attract flies) and replacing them with blueberries. I've planted a mini drawf apple tree in an area of the yard that is under-utilized. We've planted a raspberry bed, and are constantly working on new ideas.
One of the things I've been throwing around for awhile now is the idea of livestock. Well, we took the plunge, and I'd like to introduce you to Flossy:
Flossy is the only kind of animal that Troy's allergies can handle. She is the metal kind. She doesn't shed, and she doesn't create any dander.
Flossy does a great job on our lawns and keeps them well-maintained and tidy. She is a bit slow, and some people would consider her "old-fashioned", but we sure do love that girl.
I'm guessing by now you've realized I'm a giant dork and named our lawn mower "Flossy". Flossy is a Scott's Reel Mower Classic that was purchased by my sister at Goodwill. My brother-in-law often has to travel for work, and last year he was moved across state for about six months. He had a short-term rental house that required him to mow the lawn. And they didn't provide a mower. My sis found Flossy at Goodwill, and when they were done with the rental, Flossy came to live her life out at our house.
Flossy does a fantastic job mowing our lawn. There are three different settings: short, medium, and long which allow you to customize how short you cut your grass. This model didn't come with a bag, but from what I've read, the bags are more trouble than they're worth. Additionally, leaving the clippings on your lawn helps to act as fertilizer to keep it healthy.
We also have a power lawn mower, but I always find myself using Flossy. For one thing, she makes very little noise and as long as I'm paying close attention, I feel safe having Jack in the yard with me while mowing. I would never have my crazy-curious boy next to me while using a gas-powered mower.
What I told Troy: "please take some pictures of me mowing the lawn". What Troy heard: "please take unflattering pictures of my ass".
Once spring has come to regions that have been had a long winter, everyone and their mother starts mowing their long lawn on the first sunny day. You're probably familiar with the sound of a neighbor's lawn mower being started, mowing about 1 foot, and then stalling out on long grass. Lather, rinse, repeat for the entire yard. Flossy on the other hand is powered by ME, so while long grass does make me use swear words that seem to only be found in the IKEA catalog, I'm able to get through long spring grass just as quickly as those with power mowers.
"Oh Splurkengerken this lawn is long"!
The other obvious plus to an old-school mower is that I'm wasting zero money on gas. With the price of gas these days, that will save us a ton of money each "lawn mowing season". Additionally, Flossy isn't off-gassing gasoline fumes while mowing the lawn.
A great side effect that I wasn't expecting while using Flossy, is the fact that I get a wonderful work out while mowing the lawn. Accomplishing two things while only doing one is huge in my book. The first time I mowed using Flossy, I sent my friend Anne a text that said "my arms are so tired, that I can't even text or knit". I'm sure she then spent the next few hours questioning why she was friends with someone who was clearly SO cool.
Flossy does have some downsides too. She is slow. As in powered by you. She isn't great for weeds, and if your yard is huge or hilly, you're going to be exhausted at the end of it. We have a small, flat yard, so Flossy is absolutely perfect and saves us boatloads of cash.
Looking for your own metal cow? First, try Goodwill or post a "wanted" ad on your local Freecycle. If you prefer brand new, home improve stores do carry these, as does Amazon.