In the state of Washington, voting is done by mail, which I did a few weeks ago, so instead of going to the polls this election day, I decided to blow some hot air myself . . . in the backyard . . . . at the dead leaves.
First Time with a Leaf Blower
Despite living in places where leaf blowers would have been handy, moving up to the Pacific Northwest has been the first time in which I have actually bought and used one. The one I got is an electric, lightweight Worx. Small, but surprisingly powerful and majorly easy-to-use.
Please forgive me for not taking before and after pictures. I started this project early in the morning, I had no idea that it would inspire me to write a blog, and I didn’t start taking pictures till halfway through.
The moment I turned on the leaf blower for the first time, I started to evil-giggle, because everything in front of me blew away in all directions.
After getting over the giggles, I went to work.
Techniques on How to Blow
When I took my leaf blower out of the box, I followed the instructions to snap it together – piece of cake. I then looked through the instructions to see if there were tips on the best ways to blow leaves. Instead, there were pictures. I figured if they could explain everything in six pictures, most of which were about assembling the device, then it couldn’t be that difficult to figure out.
Here is what I learned about blowing leaves today:
Dry Leaves Are Awesome
These buggers move quickly, and mostly they do what you want them to do. With gentle, back and forth strokes, you can roughly herd the dry, dead leaves in the vague direction that you want them to go.
Mother Nature’s Kindergarten Paste Project from Hell (I.E., Wet Leaves)
Living up here now in the Pacific Northwest, you have to plan out your yard work based on what the weather psychics tell you. The only reason I did anything today was because we had two actual dry days together. I figured it would be enough time for the leaves to mostly dry out. Sadly, I was wrong.
If you have to deal with wet or damp leaves, I recommend trying these three techniques:
The leaves on the top are generally looser, so if you start blowing those ones off of the mass of leaves, it lightens the load a bit and makes it easier to get the leaves moving.
Focus the blast on the edge of where the leaves are located. Slowly chip away the sticky layers of leaves. Then you can get them going where you want them to go.
Destroy the Structural Integrity Method
Unlike the top-down method, aim your blast at the bottom of the pile. Keep your blast targeted on one place and soon you will see the leaves start to rise and ripple like a wave. Slowly move your targeted blast upward, watching the cave-like ripple that you have created move. If you do this to a few places, it loosens up the structure and lets you blow the leaves away.
No Matter What, Corners Suck!
With the leaf blower, you can actually move the leaves far faster than you may have anticipated. If you move them away from you, it’s great, but when you come to a corner, it’s difficult to get the blast from the leaf blower to move the leaves, because the corner deflects your blast and causes the leaves to go crazy everywhere.
I realized that if I aimed the blast low in one place, the leaves would start going crazy, but if I slowly moved the blast away from the corner, I could get most of the leaves rolling in that direction. It’s not a foolproof method, as the pics show, but it gets the bulk.
A Blower, a Hoe, and a Can Lying down on Its Back
When we moved here, even though I know we had several shovels and a rake at our old house, those tools somehow did not seem to make it up here with us. I did not realize this when I planned my leaf blowing excursion today. Nevertheless, I MacGyvered myself a plan.
Of the yard tools we do have, (a leaf blower, a gardening hoe, and a broom), I decided I would turn the yard waste can on its back with the lid out like a makeshift dustpan. I blew the leaves toward the upturned can as best I could. In my mind, I thought perhaps I could blow all of the leaves in there without the use of other tools, but leaf blowers are not that precise. Luckily, I was able to get the bulk of the leaves in one place in front of the can, and with the help of the gardening hoe, I moved most of the pile into the can.
Of what was left, my partner helped me lift the yard waste can upright, push down the leaves, and gather up the small remaining pile of leaves by hand. He was also kind enough to wheel the can to the curb.
The Undeniable Truth of Trees
As I stood there looking over what I had done, proud of my ability to use a leaf blower and accomplish my goal, I was reminded of the undeniable truth about trees:
Trees are littering bastards!
No sooner had I finished leaf blowing and getting all the leaves gathered into the can when leaves started to fall from one of the nearby trees. Not only did the leaves start to fall, but one fell and landed right in my face!
The leaf blower may be put away for today, but the ongoing war with our neighborhood trees will last till the thaw of spring. Then the trees go to a more insidious type of warfare: POLLEN!!!