Notes on a leaf blower


I’ve had a long standing hate of leaf blowers, their seemingly pointless existence and insistent drone. They sway and wander the landscape in small packs whining up and down paths pursuing these offending leaves and they always seem to do it whilst I’m delivering a lecture, in a tutorial or on the phone.

But many things create noise, many things disrupt my day to day goings on so why does the leaf blower offend so. I’ve pondered these beasts for years trying to answer this question. I’ve tried applying various modes of musical analysis to the problem. Orchestras of leaf blowers, ambient recordings mixed with road sweepers, brooms and brushes, even a giant plastic tube organ powered by leaf blowers. Obviously none of this helped but the musing led me to wonder. Why does the leaf blower exist? Why do we need to blow leaves when brooms work perfectly well? This even led me to question the existence of my beloved chainsaw and lawnmower. Soon I was having an extensional crisis on behalf of my tools?

What did it all mean.?!!

So why do we need to move the leaf, trim the grass or chop down a tree? The tree question is easy to answer, the wood fuels the burner to keep the family warm and cook the food. The grass and the leaf are more difficult. The grass could grow and become hay or just long grass. The leaf could be left to rot down and become soil.  But no! the aesthetic of a ‘good’ garden is for trim lines, rows of flowers, hedges, plants and order. And this we are told will be beautiful. We have a huge industry based around making out gardens look…. nice.

Roger Deakin writes about the merits of scything his meadow. No ringing in his ears at the end of a days work. Just the exhaling sweeps of the blade. Surely I can chop the tree down with an axe.

The truth is we like the job to be easy. The internal combustion engine has made most jobs easier and quicker, using less man power which we consider to be more efficient.  This attitude will be our downfall. The leaf blower is a noisy reminder of the futile struggle we’ve forced ourselves into with our environment and we do this with fossil fuels. The drive for efficiency and environmental control is undoing our perceived good work.

The leaf blower is a mirror that demands my attention. Reminds me of my laziness. The hate of leaf blowers is really a self loathing at the excuse of ‘not enough time’. So now the grass is getting longer and next time the woodpile gets low I’ll invite some friends over with axes.

10 steps to blow a leaf

  1. Lay dead sea creatures over seabed.
  2. Cover with sediment and apply pressure.
  3. Make oil rig
  4. Float oil rig into the North Sea
  5. Drill hole
  6. Pump oil to Scotland for refining/separating
  7. Drive petrol from Scotland to Cornish petrol station.
  8. Drive to petrol station to fill up the leaf blower
  9. Drive back to offending path and start engine.
  10. Blow leaf from point A to point B.

Rog Ur, a 12 month check up

It’s just over 12 months since Rog Ur was donated to the orchestra and he’s doing well.

Rog Ur June 2011 and January 2012 © Copyright Tom Ingate 2012 all rights reserved

It’s quite amazing how resilient this little tree is. Traveling from the Tian Shan Mountains as a seed in a pocket. Germinated in a pot under a hedge in Suffolk then planted out in Cornwall. Stunted and root bound Rog Ur almost tripled his branches last year with the majority of the growth coming from near the base. The original whip lost its leaves about a month before the new growth, not sure if this is a bad sign, will have to see what happens this year.



Roger Deakin ‘The Garden’

A great piece from the BBC archives, an example of listening being more revealing than looking. ‘The House’ is also well worth a listen, linked on the same page.

The Moat - Walnut Tree Farm 2011 © Copyright Tom Ingate 2012 all rights reserved

Season 3 and Roger joins the orchestra.

Season Three

It’s been a long long winter and I’ve dusted off the tape measure and note book and we’re off again. So far this year all six of the original trees have apples and the score is looking busy already and it’s only June.

We also have a new member, one of Roger Deakin’s apple trees was very kindly donated in January by a friend of Deakin’s and now ‘Roger’ is spreading his roots up the allotment. Too soon for flowers and apples off Roger but he’s looking healthy so hopefully he’ll be adding his own notes to the score next year.