Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
In the fall of 2019 we had a robot lawn mower put in and the thing is amazing. He runs continuously. When he’s low on power he returns to his charging base, charges up, and resumes mowing. He even mows in the dark, and has a little set of head lights.
We call him Yard Bob, and we love Yard Bob. Until it’s time to do maintenance. And there is a lot of maintenance. One thing I never anticipated about putting in a robot lawn mower was how much rabbits or moles or other small rodents absolutely love to bite through low current electric lines.
Shortly after we had Bob installed there was a break in his line. The guy from the dealership came out, showed me what happened – a rodent bite which looked like a clean cut from a knife – and fixed it. Next time, it was up to me.
Bob was fine until we overwintered him, pulled him back down, and plugged everything back in last spring and… found another break in the line. You know when you have a break somewhere, because the light on the charging base, which should be a solid green, blinks at you. Mockingly.
The good news is there is a way to narrow down the area where the break is, and it is surprisingly simple once you understand it. The bad news is that it’s like the most infuriating video game logic puzzle and it’s only easy once you understand it because you end up spending so much time figuring it out you will never forget it again. Ever.
My journey to understanding involved – I kid you not – drawing a map of the bit of property Bob mows and tracing out every possible circuit combination in different colored highlighters. Because, you see, Bob is not just a big linear circuit with a left and right. He also has a series of “guide wires” which can help him find his way back to the base when he needs to charge. These are tied to the base and to various points along the periphery wire. You can create smaller loops by leap-frogging them to the left and right leads and – in this way – narrow down which area has the break.
Then you start pulling up wire until you find the break, patch it, and rebury it.
I just plugged Bob in for our second spring with him and, guess what? There was a wire break! Then, when trying to flip leads around, to figure out where, I accidentally broke the end off a lead. So that was something else I needed to fix, before I could figure out what I originally set out to fix.
None of this even gets into the lightning surge that burned out the power source last year, the French drain we put in because Bob kept getting stuck in mud (it really needed done anyway), or the other maintenance issues. It really is always something.
Still, it sure as heck beats pushing a lawnmower in the summer heat! (Please remind me I said that when I’m out here with a spade reburying recently spliced guide wires.)
Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org