From the Blog

I’m Not Kidding About The Goddamn Leaf Blowers

It’s autumn. I get it. Trees, leaves, wind, decorative motherfucking gourds, all that. I like autumn. I do.

I like leaves, too! They’re pretty as hell this time of year, and they’ve been exceptionally pretty this season. I’ve loved taking the boys for walks and pointing out all the different colors. I’ve given the boys leaves to play with, and they’ve promptly eaten them, like crispy, colorful salad from the ground.

Autumn. Leaves. I GET IT.

But you may have noticed on this blog, that I have an aversion to leaf blowers. I don’t think this makes me an unreasonable person. Leaf blowers are fucking annoying. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

I had someone close to me, who shall remain nameless, ask me if I’d ever used a leaf blower. This person said, “You really ought to try it, before you complain about them. Leaf blowers are fun.”

FUN. Leaf blowers are FUN. Okay, sure, I believe that. They blow leaves and shit. They are powerful and noisy. Nothing like being in charge of something that makes a lot of noise. Leaf blowers make short work of a task that would normally be boring, time consuming, and very slightly physically strenuous.

But that has to be the most ridiculously entitled way to have “fun.”  Hey, all neighbors within a two block radius…listen to me having fucking fun over here! 

But you know what? I live in a neighborhood where everyone leafblows. Everyone is doing it. Everyone in our dense little urban-suburban neighborhood fires up their leaf blowers in jubilation, blowing the scourge of leaves from their tiny yards. The high-pitched weekend buzzing echoes from yard to yard, street to street. Leaves billow and scamper in terror. Neighbors answer each other in howls of primal, carbon-fueled joy, like coyotes hunting on the wide open range.

Now. I never liked leaf blowers. I like them a whole lot less now that I have babies.

We live near a number of churches, with big, manicured lawns. During the summer, the leaf blowers came on Wednesday mornings during the boys’ naps. Sometimes they came on Thursday mornings too, because, as I said, we live near a number of churches. These leaf-blowing-while-babies-napping inspired a series of summer poetry that will likely land me a book deal one day.

The boys are afraid of leaf blowers. They are also afraid of vacuums, so you should see the dust bunnies that live at our house (a story for another time). Both boys tremble and cry when they hear a vacuum or leaf blower. We scoop them up and soothe them and try to explain that, yes, the noise is loud, but it can’t hurt them. But they are babies. They don’t understand English. They just want to noise to stop.

So it’s autumn, and there are leaves. One of our neighbors has a huge oak tree that fired acorns upon our car like bullets from a pistol. The acorns are gone, but now the leaves are creating an ever-accumulating carpet all over our apartment complex. I’m ambivalent about the leaves, and what happens to them. But I know they “must” be cleared away, from the driveways, from the gutters, from every corner of the yard. Let no trace of foul flora remain!

And of course, the landscapers that take care of our building came while the boys were napping. And of course, they didn’t bring one leaf blower, but three.

I wondered, briefly, if the boys might actually sleep through the racket. I have been stunned in the past, what they are able to sleep through, like, oh, say, a huge goddamn thunderstorm. But each man fired up the leaf blowers strapped to their backs. One, two, three. They surrounded the house and the leaves swirled and stormed outside.

I almost couldn’t hear the wails of my frantic babies over the din. I burst into their room, and they were both standing in their cribs in an utter, terrified panic. The leaf blowers roared outside. They both pleaded with me to save them, their eyes wide, and their faces streaked with tears.

Here’s where having twins can get a little tricky. I scooped up one boy from his crib and he wrapped his arms around my neck. The other boy was still in his crib, reaching up for me. I had to put the first baby on the floor, and he screamed! This is not saving me! Ma! Goddamnit! I grabbed the second baby and hoisted him out of his crib. Both boys were frightened and inconsolable.

Time sort of slowed down just then, as my brain tried to work out how to get both boys from the floor and into my arms without dropping them. I was already holding one boy. I kneeled and gathered up the second boy in my free arm. Great. So now I’m kneeling and I’m holding 45 pounds of babies in my arms. I sometimes need to hold onto things just to get my own self off the floor. Never mind myself and two toddlers.

I propped up a knee and grasped the side of a crib for leverage. I strained and heaved the three of us to standing. I managed to not drop either kid. I graciously accept your nominations for Mother of the Year.

I carried the boys into the living room and lowered the three of us onto the couch. They both clung to me. They were trembling! Poor scared little boys! I rocked them back and forth and they both put their heads down on my shoulders. I held them tight. They hitched their breaths and warily eyed the windows, where the awful noises were coming from. Loyal flinched as a cloud of oak leaves clattered against the glass.

I shushed and smoothed their hair. I talked to them softly and tried to reassure them. They were remarkably motionless, both curled up in my arms. These are usually wiggly little boys. They don’t want to cuddle anymore unless they are exhausted.

They both eventually seemed to calm a little, looking up at me, and at each other, and out the windows. The men with leaf blowers lumbered around outside.

The three of us enjoyed the togetherness. Perhaps I’m reading into it, but I like to think it helped them not to just have me close, but each other. They were looking to each other for comfort. They were both huddled on my chest, a breath away from each other, their heads pressed together.

You okay?
Yeah, I’m okay. You?   
I’m okay too.

I knew they were feeling better when Loyal put his fingers in Casc’s mouth, and they both giggled. They pawed at each other and squirmed. I still held them tight on the couch, but I wasn’t really there anymore. They poked each other and laughed. There’s nothing funnier than when your brother tries to put his hand in your mouth.

And with that, they were okay.

The leaf blowers, however, can suck it.


  1. noise is a bummer. my neighbor manages to fire up his lawnmower the very moment my ass hits my couch for a TV time, and he follows it with his leaf blower. I cannot really bitch, since i myself used my leaf blower on sunday morning at 10 am. but i agree with you, it all manages to somehow escalate until it crescendos into a tidal wave of mind-jangling aggression. hopefully, the boys will not be terrorized by loud noises for their whole lives. i had a stray kitty once who was terrified of garbage trucks (and no wonder, poor thing). even after she was safe inside she would freak out and hide under the bed. i had her asleep on my chest/tummy one day when they came down the street, she dug her claws in, pressed her head into my armpit and just shivered with terror, poor thing. noise sucks. you are good mommy =)

  2. OK looks like next visit to Grampa’s house we’ll be doing some gasoline engine acclimation. First we’ll do the (fun) leaf blower then we’ll move onto the pressure washer and finally some nice 70’s vintage car revving.

  3. I moved to the PDX area recently and have never seen “leaf blowing” at this level. It’s a sport here. What’s up with that?

  4. I’ve been asking for years whatever happened to the rake? It’s so great to use a RAKE! Everyone complains about leafblowers, but I hardly ever see anyone using a RAKE. And when I used to work at a major building supply big box store, do you know what never broke and didn’t get returned? RAKES.

  5. I like rakes. And y’know what’s fun? Raking all the leaves into the big trash bag, then bouncing on it to mush them! Bounce bounce bounce! Yardwork that makes you cackle with joy ain’t so bad. :D

  6. Bliss Doubt says:

    I just came across your blog post as I was doing my regular google search to find out if there is any local movement I can join, support, cheerlead, that is trying to get gasoline powered leaf blowers banned. It has become a more and more serious issue for me as the purchase and use of leaf blowers has ballooned. In talking about it with people, I have noticed, across the board, that women hate them, and men are either okay with them, or like them and want one.

    I love reading peoples gripes, and yours is so funny, but seriously everybody needs to start checking for local noise ordinances, write to your city council representative, attend your home owners association meetings, and join your voice with others of like mind.

    Those who rent and undergo the weekly leaf blower assault, need to contact the landlord and ask that leaf blowers not be authorized for use by the yard crew. If the landlord complains of the increased cost of raking and sweeping, you must ask the landlord why the outdoors is supposed to be clean. You may not be successful, but it is important that you be heard, along with everybody else who is concerned.

    The library across the street from me, in its regular Monday morning disturbance of the peace, uses a yard crew that has three or four leaf blowers in use at once. They blow the leaves onto the street, and then go, all together, three fools with leaf blowers, chasing the leaves down the street to the corner, and into the cross street. This morning I emailed a complaint to the library. Whether or not my complaint will cause any change, I feel better for having brought it to someone’s attention, and I trust they are very likely to be receiving similar complaints from others.

    I hope there will always be leaves, dirt, mud, birds, squirrels, earthworms, and lots of healthy life in the ecosystem surrounding the place where I live. The holocaust on leaves affects every creature trying to live in the habitat. If you ever watch the yard monkeys using their blowers, you’ll see that the blowers are not at all efficient for shepherding leaves into a spot. They blow the leaves into a wide arc. Then you go to one end of the arc to consolidate the pile, and blow in another wide arc. The only thing that really gets blown is dust and topsoil, and lots of it.

    Anyway, as I have begun to really address something that will either be made better by activism, or will become a lot worse for lack of activism, I have realized what work it is to actually make your voice heard. Calling the police over noise disturbances, as my city council representative suggested, is just going to end badly. Either they will arrive just after the yard crew has left, or they will consider you the village idiot for calling them away from what they’ll consider real crime fighting, for a noise disturbance. Leaf blowers have to be banned.

    Next stop in my constant search for something, anything, that I can do to affect change, is to write to the management of the apartment building next door, where they use just one yard guy, and all he uses is a leaf blower. They have a non-mow ground cover landscape (good) and a lot of parking area. The yard guy stares into space while aiming his blower mostly into the air, for two solid hours, every week.

    Good luck, and thanks for the humorous post.

  7. Yes, yes, and yes!!!!! They should pay a fee for noise pollution.

  8. I hate leaf-blowers with the fiery heat of a thousand white-hot stars. As far as “saving time and effort”, leaf-blowers are a total crock. I’m not particularly athletic or efficient, and it takes me the same amount of time to sweep my driveway as it does for one of my neighbors to blow away the leaves and dirt from theirs. And sweeping doesn’t go at 90+ decibels.

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