Friday, November 6, 2009

Bit your tongue! That's a leaf blower.

This is a view that many of us at the Arboretum see a lot at this time of year. There are pros and cons to the use of leaf blowers. Cons: they're unconscionably loud; the pollutants they expel smell awful and can't be good for any of us; the torque applied to our torsos can cause back problems; they''re addictive, it's hard to stop using them because they're so effective; they facilitate any bit of the "obsessive compulsive" we might have in our psyche by making it possible to remove EVERY leaf from an area.

Now for the positives: they are at least 10 times as fast as a rake; they can blow leaves out from places that would be destroyed by raking; because of their speed, it becomes reasonable to walk through a garden once or twice a week and quickly make it presentable (when you're raking an area because it takes so much longer there is either a temptation or a necessity to limit yourself to one or two visits a year to any particular area. Over those 2,3,4 weeks, the laws of thermodynamics work against you. The leaves gradually settle into positions of lowest potential energy. They flatten themselves against the ground, become wedged into small spaces, stuck on spines or prickles, glued together by water or fungal hyphae....and every time it rains they get heavier. Despite all the negatives it's easy to see why we choose to use blowers.

But wait!  there's hope for the future. Every year brings new models that are lighter, quieter, and less polluting. Sometimes technology does good things.

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