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On mechanized overkill and the removal of leaves

Lawn and Order

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During the 20 or so years I was doing home inspections, I saw some crazy things. For instance, I watched a man tumble down a steep hillside on his garden tractor, not nose-first, but in a hideous leg-shoulder-head-shoulder-leg sequence. All that tumbling merged the poor fellow’s flesh with the business ends of his mower blade. Then — after the moaning subsided — the poor fellow’s family, friends and neighbors wrapped him up in gauze, and sat him down in his lawn chair. Oddly, the ride hadn’t hurt him too much.

I bring this up because it’s November, and that means that it’s time for home-and-garden types to fire up their garden tractors, monster mowers, weedeaters, aerators, mulching mowers, stick grinders and various toe, eyeball and flesh removers. (Or on a good day, maybe just flesh relocators.) Before Christmas comes to Brentwood, a whole lot of home-and-garden types from up North will be driving their red snowblowers up and down their brown driveways.

Over where I live, in a dainty little corner of the Urban Services District, things are a little different. Houses are about 12 feet apart and whole yards are no bigger than about 10,000 square feet. People over here don’t fetch yard equipment out of their garages. They don’t yank on any start-up ropes. They pick up their phones and hire people to do their yard work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Wait. I take that back. There is a little something wrong with that.

I know, I know. Some of you people are wondering: “What’s the problem with summoning a herd of laborers to haul in at least two massive trailer loads of weed whackers, oil cans, gas cans and Brobdingnagian lawn mowers, all spilling liquids onto the ground, spewing gases into the air, blocking neighborhood traffic and making more noise than a head-on train wreck?”

Just to make sure folks understand: I’m not talking about regular lawn mowers. I’m talking about monster mowers, the ones with a footprint the size of a church tent. The laborers don’t push these mowers. They climb up on a little platform on the back of the mower, and ride it like they’re skiing. And that’s when I ask myself: “Why do they ride these things on tiny 50-foot-wide lawns? They can barely spin them around.” Even as I curse my aching back, even as I get grouchier than the guy on TV who walks around carrying a giant beaker of green Uloric gout juice all over town, I’m pretty sure that I could manicure my front lawn in about 20 minutes, using nothing but my quiet 16-year-old battery-powered cordless Ryobi Mulchinator and a worn-out rake.”

Friends and neighbors, didn’t we learn anything from 2008? We don’t need loud, enormous monster mowers. We don’t need to burn up gallons of gasoline and stink up half a city block just to get the grass cut to a uniform height. And truth be told, we don’t need to import laborers to walk down the street blowing leaves up on the medians.

Which brings me to this: Leaf blowers are evil, infernal contraptions.

That’s right, leaf-blower lovers: You are effecting climate change, creating little storms and such so your yard will be free of leaves, which are harmless. Just run over your leaves with a decent mulching mower, let the chipped leaves settle into the dirt, and you’ve got yourselves some fertilizer that’ll make your grass grow better in the spring.

Not that it’s any of my business, but let me gently suggest a few things. First, buy a (small) battery-powered, cordless lawn mower, like a Newton. Give that mower to your strongest child. Second, smash any and all leaf blowers, or better yet, melt them down. They throw out noise in the 70-80-decibel range, and higher. If the decibels get much higher than 80, you’re risking your hearing, and maybe your equilibrium. Believe me when I tell you, it’s hard to fix ruined ears. And lastly, consider that the wind that a leaf blower kicks up — at hurricane speeds — will include dust, animal poop and spores that will make you cough and itch, along with general crud and litter. Leaves are harmless. Trees have been making leaves for millions of years. I say get ’em up, bag ’em up and find a nice, quiet way to get rid of them.



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