Lackadoo Doodlebug

Since my last post, the feedback I’ve received has been a phenomenal ego boost, and I want to say thank you for all the kind words and messages of encouragement. In the past year or so, I’ve been called brave, amazing, Superwoman, remarkable, a warrior, and lots of other very lovely things, all for making the decision to go ahead with the original plan. But, let’s get real. I’m still the same old Karen and I still do some, not unfunny, but pretty stupid things.

Take the riding lawnmower, for instance.

It came to me in the spring. My cousin, Harold, who has been very helpful since the move, shopped for and fixed up a cute, little, orange Husqvarna, then delivered it to my doorstep. Appropriately, he named it the Lackadoo Doodlebug.

Doodlebug tractor is the colloquial American English name for a home-made tractor made in the United States during World War II when production tractors were in short supply. The doodlebug of the 1940s was usually based on a 1920s or 1930s era Ford automobile which was then modified either by the complete removal or alteration of some of the vehicle body.

He gave me a quick lesson in how to work it, and then I let it sit for a few weeks while the grass and wildflowers grew ever taller in the front yard. I’m not sure why I hesitated, but I did. Maybe it was a case of too much too soon, but I finally hopped on it one day, determined to make the front yard, back yard and trails pristine. Thinking I was going to get through the whole thing in one day on my first try was the first naïve assumption I made.

It was going very well, actually. And it was un-freaking-believably fun! I felt like the King of the Hill! Take that, long grass!


The front yard. It looks deceptively flat.

I developed a system of sorts where I studied the rough terrain and avoided anything that looked outright dangerous. I’m not going to lie: I was feeling like a total badass who could conquer any challenge, learn to drive and operate any piece of machinery.

I was almost finished the front yard and already excited to tackle the back (which is decidedly less flat) when…


It was loud. I was no longer moving. The blades wouldn’t turn. I got the Doodlebug started again, but there was nothing going on down there where it counts.

I got off to investigate and found that I had hit a stump that was sticking out of the ground about an inch.


Seriously? Seriously?!!

I was crushed. All of that sweet, sweet adrenaline drained right out of me. The disappointment of not finishing what I had started and the dread of telling my cousin what had happened put me in a pretty dark place. You see, I was supposed to be a totally, utterly kickass bush mama who could do anything she put her mind to.

Except fixing a broken tractor, it would seem.

I had no clue (or skills or experience) to fix my poor Lackadoo Doodlebug, whom I loved with all my heart already. My baby was hurt. And so was my pride.

Thankfully, I am lucky enough to have local love and support, which I called in immediately.


The blade took a beating, but apparently that happens to everyone. (My friends are very kind.)


Found the problem! And fixed it with a $50 part. Phew.

Still smarting from the embarrassment of hitting a stump my first time out, I got back in the saddle. I had a load of organics to compost, so I hooked up the trailer and away I went with my son to the compost bin, located in a field behind the house.

Where I got stuck.

The wheels would just spin in the tall grass. (I later learned that the under-mounted deck probably got caught in the overgrown vegetation.) I detached the trailer, thinking it might help to have less weight. Then my son jumped in the trailer. Which tipped. Which sent the connection pin I had placed there flying. I swear I saw the glint of the metal in the sun before it was lost to the field, probably forever. And the tractor was still stuck.

I texted a friend to declare that I should not ever be allowed to touch machinery. Another friend, who freed the Doodlebug from the field, reminded me that it’s a riding lawnmower, not an ATV.

The third time I attempted to drive it, after a wild ride through the fire pit (blades turned off, thank goodness, and no fire going), I learned to turn the speed down from “rabbit” to “turtle”.


My decidedly less-flat back yard and fire pit.

And the fourth time? It was incident free, thank you very much.

The experience was a good reminder that all these new skills I am tackling have a learning curve that needs to be respected – as much for my own safety as for extending the life of the machinery. The pace of life here is not the same as it was in the city – I’m allowed to slow down, to be gentle with myself and admit that I am a beginner.

Also, it’s incredibly fortuitous that I didn’t get to the back yard that first day, believe it or not. In my excitement, I had completely forgotten that when I had a new satellite internet connection installed last winter, and the dish had to be put on an outbuilding, the technician had laid the cable across the yard to the house. By this point, the cable that had slipped my mind was completely hidden in the tall grass. If I hadn’t hit that stump, I most certainly would have run over that cable and cut off my internet connection.

Hey, I look for the blessings wherever I can find them.

My skills are improving as I get to know the machine and the terrain better. As I keep reminding my son, everything takes practice.


Just parking her in the barn for the night!
(Photo credit: Mike Hookimaw. Editing credit: Tim Emery)