Dear Dot: Can we give the leaf-blowers a vacation?

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Dear Dot,

My wife hates leaf blowers. I love them. Is there a solution that doesn’t involve divorce lawyers?

DK, Vineyard Haven

Dear DK,

Ah the sounds of fall, when the squeals of osprey give way to the whine of leaf blowers. I share your distaste, preferring an old-fashioned rake though I’m less fond of the shoulder ache that follows. 

But leaf blowers are more than ear-splittingly unpleasant (landscapers are advised to cover their ears to avoid damage), they are also “vastly dirtier and less fuel-efficient, because by design [a leaf blower] sloshes together a mixture of gasoline and oil in the combustion chamber and then spews out as much as one-third of that fuel as an unburned aerosol,”  say the folks at Yale Climate Connections. Electric versions are better than gas-fuelled but all of them harm the tiny critters that live just outside our doors, says Abigail Higgins, Garden Notes columnist at the MV Times. “Arthropods are the basic unit of life on earth, upon which the other trophic spheres depend,” she says, in gardening speak, referring to their key role at the bottom of the food chain.

Higgins’ advice is something I wish we could all embrace: More reading on the porch, less yard work. Or as she actually put it: “Raking, or just leaving, are possibilities. Mowing when the mower is equipped with a collector bag is a 2-for-the-price-of-1 solution, which allows for leaves to be easily composted.” Higgins lets the wind blow her leaves into corners, then she scoops them up for composting. There is nothing in nature, she says, that is “inherently tidy.”

While I wholeheartedly agree, I did hear from someone who tidies her yard mostly to avoid that most dreaded of arthropods — the tick. 

Higgins advises a nightly tick check if you’ve been out in your yard. And while she concedes ticks might find housing amongst the leaves, “that doesn’t mean that leafblowers are a necessity.” One solution is to welcome the Island turkeys as liberators. “Guess what they eat?” says Higgins. Yes, ticks. 

What’s more, she says, associating ticks only with untidy yards is misguided. “We can pick up a tick just about anywhere.” 

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