Brian Edwards Media

“You can take my leaf-blower from my cold, dead hands!” Leaf-blower hell revisited.

images (5)3.20 Thursday, 31 January. The guy who’s employed by the rich folks who live down the path two properties away from our house started leaf-blowing in the grounds of  the top house 20 minutes ago. We abandoned our afternoon coffee in the garden, as we regularly have to, because of the intolerable noise. It’s not just him of course. The tree-lined avenues of Herne Bay are probably one of the noisiest places in Auckland: leaf-blowers, petrol-driven hedge trimmers, lawnmowers, weed-eaters,  chain saws, water-blasters, concrete-cutters, and every conceivable noise associated with house renovation and house-building.

3.35 Thursday, 31 January. The guy who’s employed by the rich folks who live down the path two properties away from our house has emerged from the grounds of the top house and begun to drive the leaves down the path towards the second house. I could keep giving you reports on his progress, but I already know that he’ll finish leaf-blowing the houses on the path (and the path itself) at around 5 o’clock,  two hours after he started. I know this because I bailed him up one evening and, with as much politeness as my frazzled nerves would allow, asked him how long leaf-blowing the grounds of the rich folks’ houses and the path that connects them would take. “About two hours,” he told me. It was around 6.15 on a beautiful summer evening on that occasion and I told him I thought it was pretty unreasonable to be making all this racket when most civilised people at that time would rather be listening to the birds than his leaf-blower. “Well, what do you want me to do?” he asked. “I’d like you to stop.” “OK,”  he said.  “I’ll come back and finish in the morning.” So I thought he was a pretty reasonable guy.  

4pm, Thursday, 31 January. He’s blown the leaves about half way down the path by now. A second leaf-blower on the other side of the road, is calling out to his. One of the army of contract gardeners who service Herne Bay, has fired up his petrol-driven hedge-trimmer and is making a start on one of the many 10ft high hedges in the street. Herne Bay people value their privacy.

5pm, Thursday, 31 January is still an hour away. It’s possible that by then I may have committed murder or quite possibly mass-murder, a la Falling Down, because I know that there will not be a single moment between now and then that some sort of machine will not be operating within earshot of our home. There is never any peace in Herne Bay, not for a moment. There’s too much money around here to give peace a chance – too many homes and gardens that just have to be built and extended and re-built and  improved and improved and improved.  To paraphrase the old Chinese saying: House finished, Herne Bay man (and Herne Bay man’s wife) die.

If all of this sounds familiar to you, it’s because I’ve written about it twice before. On days like today when I’m on the verge of silently beating my neighbours and their staff to death with a leaf-rake  (leaf-rakes make no noise), I get some comfort from reading what I wrote of this topic  in the original ‘Leaf-Blower Hell’ four years ago. It’s just so wonderfully intemperate! Enjoy:

 The Original ‘Leaf-Blower Hell’

A bullet to the brain is too humane a punishment for the vandal who invented the leaf-blower. He deserves to be hung, drawn, quartered, then reassembled so that the whole process can start again.  And again and again and again.  When he finally expires, his head should be impaled atop the Sky Tower, church bells rung joyously across the land and his bloody confession nailed to the door of every Mitre 10, every Placemakers, every Bunnings Warehouse, every garden centre and hardware store in Aotearoa. They have polluted the air with noise. They have disturbed the peace.  They have profited from the sufferings of their fellow man.

‘And woman!’ [Judy]

Now here’s the thing about leaf-blowers:

Of all the so-called ‘labour-saving’ devices, other perhaps than the chainsaw, the leaf-blower is the loudest, most annoying  and most brain-frazzling.

Of all the labour saving devices, other perhaps than the battery operated revolving ice-cream cone – yes, they do exist –  the leaf-blower is the most unnecessary. Autumn leaves not merely make our paths and verges look more beautiful, they are genetically programmed to resist permanent transfer from one place to another.

Of all the labour saving devices, other perhaps than the high voltage fly zapper, shaped like a tennis racket – yes again – the leaf-blower is the least efficient. The humble garden rake does the job better, faster and more cheaply.

Of all the labour saving devices, including the water blaster, the leaf-blower has become the must-have, can’t-do-without boys toy cum status symbol cum penis extension of the 21st century. Every bugger has one.

And that is the nub of the problem. You see, if everyone used their leaf-blower – and their weed-eater and their hedge-trimmer and their lawnmower and their chainsaw -   at the same time on the same day each week, say Saturday afternoon between three and five, there might well be a danger of the earth moving a degree or two on its axis, but at least it would be quiet for the rest of the week. And either global warming would be halted or the weather would be nicer.

When I suggested this at a party recently, a guy told me that one of the Scandinavian countries – Denmark or Finland or some such place – already has a law along these lines.

So why not here? Because every time someone tries to do something beneficial to the environment or likely to improve the quality of our lives, the great unwashed start screaming ‘nanny state’ and demanding their Godzone given right to do whatever the f*** they like,  whenever the f*** they like, wherever the f*** they like.

Most of these cretins are men and most of them are more in love with their noisy power-driven ‘labour saving devices’ than they are with their wives or children. The leaf-blower is to the Kiwi bloke the equivalent of the gun to the good ol’ boy in the US of A. “You can take my leaf-blower from my cold, dead hands!’

We’ve got a few in our street. I’m convinced they’ve got a roster to ensure that there’s always one leaf-blower in operation during daylight hours and occasionally after dark. And if they can’t be there themselves they’ve got an army of gardeners who wouldn’t recognise a rake if they stood on it and the handle flew up and hit them in the face. (Cherish the thought!)

I’ve got to stop now. A neighbour’s alarm has just gone off, Telecom are using a concrete cutter to dig a post hole across the road, the Green Acres guy has started up his petrol-driven hedge-trimmer next door and Max is yelling because he wants to show me the live rat he just dragged through the cat door.

You know the trouble with the ‘nanny state’? It never went far enough.

42 Comments:

  1. A free market economy is the most civilized of all. We haven’t mowed our lawns since arriving in the San Francisco Bay Area. Instead, a team of gardeners descends on our property from 8.am to 8.45 am every Saturday morning. We always get a rude awakening because we are laid back Kiwis. The neighbours couldn’t care less as they have gardeners at the same time.
    And in America it is more important that things are firstly done and secondly done well. Sound of a leaf blower is music to the neighbourly ear.

  2. Very entertaining Brian, if DS persists with his ‘acting’ then you should be writing his notes.

    I have often thought for years and years why a time of day limitation can’t be put on lawn mowing, chainsawing etc in suburbia. Whats a couple of hours either way. It just keeps making sense. We deserve the right to enjoy natures morning chorus and the evening song.

    Perhaps all these gardening tools could be made electric/battery operated only!!

  3. I agree. Gareth Morgan’s energies would be better spent organising a bounty on the head of every halfwit who thinks a leaf-blower is a good idea.

  4. There is a time limit on certain activities (re: leaf blowers, power tools etc.)
    You are not allowed to use them before or after certain hours on different days. Each council has its own rules as to when those times are, but they are in place.

  5. I’ve always had lots of reasons for not wanting to live in Auckland. Now I have another one.

  6. Looks like its time for a move Brian.I must say life is quite peaceful out here in Dannemora although I do remember one occasion when I found it necessary to remonstrate to a landscaper who was trimming the neighbours trees to within an inch of their lives. they were completely ruined. He said he was only doing what the lady of the house had requested.

  7. I agree Brian & Judy, I like leaves. They come from trees (some people perhaps need to be reminded of this?).
    They sparkle in spring for our pleasure (not that this is their purpose), provide shade in summer to us humans (not that this is their purpose), drop their beautiful auburn leaves so that we can kick great clouds of them skywards (not that this is their purpose – stop me if I’m repeating myself)), and in winter they lay a bed of leaves that turn to compost so that they can start the spring glory again.

    And some people (not that this is their purpose) don’t like this??

    Please, if you don’t like the “leafy suburbs” then go live somewhere else. You have no idea how bloody lucky you are!!!

    BE: So I should move and not the noise polluters around me? Hardly seems fair.

  8. Mechanical gardening, for want of a better phrase, exists everywhere, even in lower class suburbs like Avondale. By contrast I recall, some thirty odd years ago, waking up in Singapore to the gentle, soothing, sound of leaves being raked. The New Zealand obsession with the internal combustion engine is not only obscene but destructive.

  9. What on earth is the point of blowing leaves around when the next gust of wind will just blow another lot back?

    I thought only idiots and Councils would fall for them.

  10. Alan, my ‘gardener’ informs me that leaf blowers also suck leaves up and grind them into mulch for compost. They even have a bag attachment for this purpose. I suspect its the noise which is the problem. I know my kitchen benchtop blender makes a hell of a racket, just making a smoothie!

  11. Whatever happened to people with brooms sweeping up leaves and putting them on the compost – isn’t that the way we used to do it? Brooms don’t use fossil fuels, make very little noise, provide exercise for those using them and get the job done just as fast. Have I missed something?

    BE: One thing you and I may have missed is that the inefficiency of the leaf blower allows the gardeners to make money by strolling along vaguely waving the machine in front of them at up to 50 bucks an hour. This is gardening?

  12. You could try moving to Parnell, especially on the wrong side, where you may hear a blower every 3 months and the Auckland Council tidying up Alberon Reserve. But then you might have to put up with nearby tenants and their loud stereos. .
    I fantasise about moving to the country!

  13. Have you considered raking up your neighbours’ leaves, yourself? That way, there would be no reason for them to have their gardeners use those mind-blowing blowers.

    BE: Surprisingly I haven’t considered that.

  14. Here, we really are behind. In Dalton the only leaf blower we have is the wind….Gale force at the moment. Richard has a shot gun which would be used in self defence upon aliens…I take it ‘Leaf Blowers’ come into that catagory????

    BE: Indeed it would, sister, indeed it would. Love to you, Jane and Richard.

  15. Kat, yes, we actually have one with that attachment exactly for that purpose though we have yet to use it. But I have never seen one being used that way by the “professionals”. They just blow, not suck.

    BE: From my point of view, they definitely suck!

  16. I find most aspects of gardening pointless but blowing leaves from point A to point B seems to me to be the most pointless activity of all.

    I have to confess that I do have a blower/sucker in the garage (purchased I have to say by my wife for me to use)but I find the wind does the job admirably and redistributes my leaves and at the same time redistributes my neighbours’ leaves. And as time goes on there are fewer leaves to redistribute and those that remain disintegrate rendeing the entire purpose of a leaf blower redundant.

    On the matter of noise I have long fantasised about a device I could point at the source of the noise that results in every electrical circuit burning out and at the same time administers 10000 volts to the user.

    BE: I’m delighted to find that someone else shares my fantasy.

  17. I have one, used perhaps 3 times, by the time I get it from under the house, check /fill the petrol, attempt to start it up, swear and kick at it as it fails to start, spend time trying to figure out the correct setting, point it in the wrong direction as my attention wanders ..so blowing leaves back into the place I previously moved them from, move said leaves to a place where I have to move them by hand into wheelbarrow to move to compost heap – I find I can easily do this with a broom or rake in signficantly less than half the time, the rake is actually faster at moving the leaves funnily enough, it can move more than a couple of dozen leaves at a time.

    The times I want to move said leaves is often early in the morning or late evening when I find I dont like the concentration of the leaves in the piles, the artistic merit is not doing it for me, those are the times the rake comes out.

  18. I find the whole notion of living in the suburbs with a personal garden abhorrent but that’s probably because I grew up in one in Christchurch. I live in an inner city apartment with a garden courtyard and a professional gardener who calls once in a blue moon and seems to be equipped only with a fork and a rubbish bag. That makes personal ownership of all of that stupid paraphenalia redundant, but then much else about the way we live now – like cell phones and personal motor vehicles, neither of which I own nor have done in the case of the vehicle for thirty or so years – is in the same category as far as I’m concerned. On the other hand you can run to extremes of regulation. A friend of mine went to live in a block of flats in Geneva and made the serious mistake of putting his washing to dry on a frame on his balcony. He was immediately dumped on by all the other residents who sent him to Coventry and told by his landlord if he did it again he’d be evicted. Truly as James Thurber once said: “You might as well fall flat on your face as lean too far over backwards.”

  19. I always say in the Wairarapa where I live, sit down somewhere and within 15 or 20 minutes you are certain to hear a chainsaw somewhere in the distance. I was once told that New Zealanders own more chainsaws per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand.
    While this is a light hearted piece, it does highlight a very real issue of noise pollution that no one takes seriously. There is no enforcing of any noise restrictions (if they exist) for cars and motorbikes in New Zealand.
    However, I understand it is much worse for whales and dolphins etc.

  20. @ Ben Thomas

    Re last paragraph. My thoughts, too. Especially, late in the evening.

  21. It does seem like a lie down and think of Ireland event.Where I live I am surrounded by trees and many of them are deciduous.Its unusual for leaves to be dropping off in sufficient numbers to warrant special attention at this time of year.My own experience leads me to confirm that a leaf rake is by far the most efficient tool to collect all the leaves of Autumn.Im all in favour of appropriate tools for the job but Im sure that this sounds inappropriate to me.

  22. The virtues of the humble rake versus the upstart leaf blower

    A sturdy and inexpensive rake consumes no petroleum
    Though you’ll burn a few calories
    It makes no noise and will never make you deaf
    You can chat with your kids as you rake the leaves
    Or just listen to bird-song or hear the telephone, should it ring
    You won’t be annoying your neighbour’s barbeque
    Or waking the night-shift worker whose bread you eat
    The rake creates no noxious fumes
    Only a gentle stirring sound
    If it breaks the handle could make a garden stake
    Pop on another handle and you’re away again
    I’ve watched city contractors blow their leaves onto the street
    Going through the motions to clog someone else drains
    And at the botanic gardens, what did I hear and see?
    A lopsided man in green overalls blowing the infernal autumn leaves
    So all you leaf blowers listen up
    Gardening is not war so let’s call a truce!
    Rake your leaves into a heap
    Or leave them where they fall

    JK

    BE: Well said.

  23. Solution : Kill all the exotic deciduous trees and plant evergreen NATIVES
    RWB

  24. The price you pay for living in Utopia! If you can find it at your friendly DVD shop, this movie should make you feel a little better.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425308/

  25. Noise cancelling headphones keep out both leaf blowers and the police helicopter. The latter, due to its frequent visits, is the greater nuisance.

  26. I have a dream which involves winning the lottery, buying a jetski and burning it. If you speak to me nicely I might throw a few leaf-blowers on the fire.

  27. Leaf blowers should be regulated that they can not be powered by fuel but by using no more than three AAA batteries.

  28. I love my leafblower, and i’m happy with my penis too,so no need for it to represent any form of extension. Leafblowing, or blowing leaves to somewhere else especially a neighbour or the communal areas we all share is stupid and offensive. However my beautiful Stihl blower also sucks up the leaves when I have blown them into a heap. Leaves make the most wonderful compost and in turn healthy food in my garden. I travel in Autumn to suburbs of oak lined streets in Hawke’s Bay and offer to blow and then suck up masses of leaves from folks lawns to prevent the killing off of their lawn. I bring sacks home for my annual compost making.They are grateful and so are their neighbours.

    Done at a “reasonable time of day” it is the most efficient way of collecting leaves. The issue is the time of day. The volumes I collect and our local council collects would take weeks even months with a leaf rake. Get a life.

    BE: Curious – you’re into natural composting, lawns and gardens but have no problem with noise pollution or destroying other people’s enjoyment of peace and quiet. And by the way, ‘get a life’ isn’t a very good argument.

  29. @durang0, if you suck as well as blow you are undoubtedly a complete man. But sadly a rarity amongst blower wielders.

  30. Durang0; you come down my street and offer to suck up the leaves and I’ll set the dog on you.

    Stick to sucking something that gives pleasure.

  31. Another advantage to living in Wellington – no need for leaf blowers. We have our own natural ‘leaf blower’ most days (though not the last 10 days).

  32. Ben, How big is your dog? will it go up my Stihl?
    What about the dog barking I could solve the leaf problem and the dog shit and barking problem. Dogs deface the place piddle and crap everywhere and barking, all year round. I suck up leaves once a year in Autumn.

  33. I am very lucky. My man comes once a month and leaf blows and it’s always mid morning.
    The thing that drive me nuts is the constant beeping that we have to put up with in our lives. The text noise, email, the dishwasher, the microwave, the washing machine, the dryer and on and on and on. I feel more that my life is interrupted by constant beeps etc., that then have you acting like a robot, cos if you don’t attend to them they beep again to let you know you’ve ignored them.

    BE: Quite agree. The only thing that doesn’t beep in our house is the one thing you want to tell you it’s finished – the washing machine.

  34. “BE: So I should move and not the noise polluters around me? Hardly seems fair.”
    Usually agree with everything you write, Brian, but not this. If the person is not breaking any law then they have just as much ‘right’ to make their ‘infernal combustion engine’ (my late father’s description) noises as you do to complain about them. Thus if they ARE within their legal rights you either have to put up with the noise or move. ‘Fairness’ is subjective.
    I made that choice some 30 years ago when I left Auckland for the countryside.
    It’s all your choice really.
    I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever heard a leaf blower in my life, but right now I can hear the leaves blowing in the trees around me which I suspect is a far more pleasant sound.
    Oh – and I can distinctly remember having the same thoughts about lawn mowers as you do about blowers, back when I lived in suburbia.

  35. Hilarious post Brian, even with the serious intent. Wholeheartedly sympathise.

    I find it deeply ironic that it is only the leaf-blower operators who wear ear-muffs – surely they should be handing out sets to all affected parties i.e. us!

    Surely this ‘gardening’ phenomnenon is an example of market failure: how is it beneficial (“efficient”) to our entire economy – synonymous with ecology in my view – to have at least half-a-dozen or more fossil-fuelled carbon-emitting gardeners, green bin trucks, leaf-blowers etc etc to be driving up and down our streets any day of the week (any time of the day!).

    To those who say they have the right to make such noise whenever, wherever have clearly not considered Externalities. You may have a right, but you also have a concomitant & simultaneous duty to ensure that the exercise of those rights do not infringe the rights of others. If you can’t understand this: I will drown you out with my Silence!!!

    Quiet is my preferred mode: I need it to work for starters. Personally I’m in favour of curfews: everyone who wishes to make unreasonable noise in our neighbourhoods can all do it at the some designated time of day, once a week, or fortnight even. Knowing when noise is about to erupt, gives us others a chance to escape somehow – a thoughtful & reasonable idea surely?

    Otherwise compel these recalcitrant noise-makers to live together in their own noisy enclaves: Din Bay, Mt Racket, Glen Clamour, Chainsaw Downs, and the new subdivision Noise Heaven

  36. As I’ve often said in a different context, we need better property rights – in particular the right to peaceful enjoyment of our property with normal sunlight, clean air and quietness. Just legislate for that and abolish all the nonsensical bureaucratic and nosey-parker “planning” b.s.

    Then your leaf-blower friend would have to find a quieter solution or make a deal with you as to how, when and where to use it and at what cost.

  37. I completely sympathise. I’ve never understood why, with all the advances which have been made in technology, it hasn’t been possible to invent quiet machines. Surely it’s possible to create a quiet lawn mower, weed eater or leaf blower. And what annoys me is that the noise-maker is always wearing ear muffs making sure their own hearing is protected.

  38. Have you never enjoyed the buzz of hefting the weight of a leaf blower? Shoulder strap taking the weight; the testosterone charged surge of power; blowing away thousands of pesky leaves in killer blasts like Rambo with a flame thrower?

    Blame the testosterone?

  39. Summer nights are very short in Norway. I was once woken by the sound of a human-powered lawnmower at 4am.

  40. Spend a little time on Stewart Is. for a very palpable example of how fantastic a lack of noise pollution is. It might be a while, but I can’t wait to get back there for another holiday.

  41. I don’t get why these guys don’t get electric devices. I traded in my late husband’s petrol chainsaw for an electric model…less noise, starts every time. Only problem, can’t use it more than 35metres form a power point.

  42. We live in an apartment in the centre of Wellington. It is faintly street noisy (horns etc) but no sound is constant or repedative. It is easy to live here compared to my old house in Karori. Rich folks with their noisy gardening toys drove me crasy.