Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Pet Peeve: common garden variety

It's a beautiful day today. After days of rain the sun is shining on the snow-capped mountains, and the trees are resplendent in yellows, oranges, and reds.

So are the roads.

Yup, the leaves are falling and winter is on the way. And gardeners were out in force this morning, taking advantage of the break in the weather to give their rakes and leaf blowers an airing.

Because, apparently, fallen leaves shall NOT be allowed to sully any perfect lawns*. They should, instead, be dumped into the road (a bike route).

Yup, I saw about eight people today moving leaves off the grass (where they run the risk of mulching in and actually doing some good), and into the road. Where they will form a nasty sodden brown mass next time it rains (tomorrow, probably), blocking the drains, and forcing cyclists to ride over a layer of treacherous slipperiness, with a couple of inches of dirty water sitting on top of it for good measure.

It's like a man cutting the hair off his head and gluing it to his back and the insides of his ears instead.

Where do my leaves go?

Some go into my compost, some go into the municipal composting bins (unlimited citywide curbside pick-up of leaves throughout the autumn), and the rest get spread over my lawn and veggie patch.

A plague of hairy backs upon the leaf blowers!

A leaf blower, yesterday**

*these are the same lawns that are suspiciously green, lush, and wet in the middle of the summer sprinkler bans. As a French friend of mine once said, "this is Vancouver. Your lawn is going to do its best to be brown in the summer, and moss in the winter. Why fight Nature? Have a glass of wine and forget about it".

**sorry, couldn't resist! This photo did the rounds at work a few years back, as an email with the subject header "Leaf Blower For Sale". 


  1. I needed that picture to make my day :)

  2. so sad, the picture won't show for me :( I too cannot understand the need to even move leaves when they are the perfect fertilizer if left be. No, first we must remove natural composting leaves. Then we must add unnatural chemicals on lawn that will drain into our water systems. Sigh. Don't get me going!

  3. IS, I aim to please!

    WS, great to hear from you! Funnily enough I was just thinking about you this morning (my parents are coming over in May and are thinking of trying an Alaskan cruise).

    Yeah, I bet these people use artificial fertilisers on their lawns. What a waste of natural resources.

    Oh, and here's a link to that photo!

  4. I resent that photo. No laughing at the leafs now :) They did win the last game!!

  5. Chall, I apologise unreservedly. You are quite correct. 1-7-1 is a truly great record that any team would be proud of.


  6. This:

    It's like a man cutting the hair off his head and gluing it to his back and the insides of his ears instead.

    and the picture totally made my day! ROFL!! Man, the Leafs blow.

    When I was a kid, I was on my bike and tried to get up one of those curved curbs...but there were so many leaves that my bike slipped and I took a nasty fall. Ever since I've been very weary of biking on/near leaves.

  7. Thanks mate! I was quite proud of that myself. I thought it up in the shower room at work, and was worried in case anyone else was in there and could hear me giggling!

    Yeah, leaves are not just slippy and dangerous in their own right, they can hide other obstructions too - potholes, curbs, debris on the road, etc etc etc. It gets really fun when the leaf mulch freezes - it takes much longer to thaw out than the rest of the road surface does!

  8. Since I live near the top of a windy hill, nature itself tends to remove the leaves from the lawn and deposit them in large quantities on the sidewalk (which is dead air in front of a stone retaining wall at the edge of the front lawn). My father and I always pick them up from there, though - it just doesn't seem right to leave the sidewalk covered with 3-4 feet of leaves for the whole winter.

    What amazes me is that some people think that any leaves on their lawn makes it look slovenly or something, so they literally go out and rake almost every day in the fall. I basically just leave things alone until most of the leaves are done falling, then try and scoot up everything in 1 or 2 days. It's easier, and I can see a green lawn plenty of other times of the year - it's nice to have a yellow-red-orange-brown-purple lawn for a little while.

  9. I enjoy jumping in leaves myself. And crunching them with my feet. Sadly, I very rarely am living in climates that are amenable to these joys.

  10. CAth: yes... I know.... sigh... in thick and thin or what ever.

    My leaf story was when I damaged my knee - riding my bike, turning right and then slipping really hard onto the asphalt. Didn't think much aobut it until I was in class and felt like someone was slamming my leg into concrete. I couldn't bend my knee, my ankle was so swollen I couldn't see the little "bump" that you usually see... went to the physcian who states "crutches and no heavy moving for a week - ligaments all slammed to smaller pieces". It was one of the worst weeks ever.... HATE wet leaves on the bike route since.

    lucky me, I don't ride a bike at the moment (but i sort of miss it though.... not with wet leaves but feeling the fresh air and all)

  11. The neighbours across from my mother used to sweep their lawn with a broom! They did obey water restrictions though and I don't think they used chemicals either - most people don't round here. Most of our leaves are composted so not really a problem.

    viv in nz

  12. RPS, I just don't really understand the whole lawn maintenance thing in general (if I was to give out my address, you would see proof of this on Google Streetview!). We call ours the biodiversity project. The leaves actually cover the weeds quite nicely.

    Ruchi, we've got leaves aplenty, although they tend to fall at the wettest time of year, so there's not much crunching going on. How do you feel about squelching?

    Chall, that sounds very painful. Did your ligaments recover in the end?!

    On nice autumn days, the crisp air, beautiful trees, and mountain views make up for all the rainy cycling days.

    Viv, well, I suppose it beats spending money on something you only use once a year!

  13. There's something to be said for self-sown, low maintenance, free-form, self replicating natural groundcover (aka weeds). Sometimes I've gotten pleasant surprises in the form of nice wildflowers when I let "self-sown" plants grow. I will often leave weeds in the gardens that I don't recognize alone for a while and see what they end up looking like. This sometimes has negative results, like letting a 7 foot tall clump of ragweed grow in a flower bed because I didn't know what it was and was hoping in vain for colorful flowers!

    As for the emphasis on perfect lawns, I don't entirely understand it either, but it's common in the US and I assume Canada as well. Some people apparently consider a lush, dense lawn free from any non-grass plants to be an important element of an attractive house and yard. I've heard that in the US their are some communities in wealthier suburbs where people will actually be fined if they do not maintain a nice, thick but well-trimmed lawn - perhaps because people believe that a single lawn that doesn't look like a gold course will drive down the property values for the entire neighborhood. There's nothing like that where I live, thank goodness, and I'm fine with my lawn having a few sparse patches and areas with clover instead of grass (the clover actually gives it a little more variety, IMHO).

  14. I don't think I've ever actually seen a blower except on tv. Nobody I know uses one. Bamboo grass rakes on the other hand.....

    I think the sweeping was a weekly thing just because they were neat freaks (but very nice ones :)

    viv in nz

  15. Anything that fucking loud should be illegal. In the last apartment complex I lived in they would start blowing leaves at 9:00am. WTF? I know it gets pretty hot where I live, but damn, blowing leaves around isn't exactly hard work. All you do is walk at an excruciatingly slow place while moving the leaf blower from side to side. I don't care how hot is is, that can at least wait until after 11:00am.
    Wanting there to be a special place in hell for those who use the dreaded leaf blower is almost enough to make me religious and therefore able to believe that hell actually exists.

  16. RPS: "self-sown, low maintenance, free-form, self replicating natural groundcover"

    I am SO stealing that!

    I like to see what the random plants turn into, too. Unfortunately it's often a weed with a million seeds.

    Viv, leaf blowers are ridiculous! The other morning I was running round a gravelly/ashy track in a local park, and they had a tractor with a massive blower on the back blowing all the leaves into the central field, where a guy with a normal blower was blowing them all into a pile for someone with a shovel to pile them into the back of the tractor. Sigh.

    XX, I hear ya!

  17. I'll actually speak up in defense of leaf blowers. If you have a small lawn or one without too many leaves, they don't make sense, but if you have a big lawn with huge quantities of leaves, they can probably cut the time that it takes by a factor of 10. As for loudness, I don't think that they're much louder than a lawnmower.


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