Boy, can I tell it is fall. The backpack blowers are in full force, screaming their way into our ears and hearts (not so much), while the people who haven’t discovered rakes are cranking up their lawn mowers two to three times per week, corralling their leaves. I don’t know what this fascination is about landscape power equipment and, for that matter, motors, to facilitate recreation is all about.
The constant expansion of motors in our culture has got to end. If you thought we are all trying to change our behaviors and lifestyles to counter and reduce climate change; you’d be fooled by my neighbors. Many of my neighbors, whom I like and respect, are continually adding more machines to their already stacked motorized equipment arsenals. They exude excitement and pleasure as they fire up their machines, scanning for and pulverizing that one last leaf left on the driveway. From mowers to blowers to weed trimmers and snow blowers, the motorization of our world has gotten out of hand.
My neighbors even go to the extreme of running their mowers (and snow blowers at the end of winter) stationary in their driveways at season end for up to an hour to burn off all the gas in the engine so it will operate and start easy for the next season. I’ve never done this with my mower (I don’t own a snowblower) in all my 35 years of home ownership and have had no issues with poor starts or operation. Perhaps they just like the attention, power and sound the engines exude, but at what cost – noise pollution, air pollution, waste of resources, increased CO2 production?
Don’t get me started, either, on the number of machines needed to enjoy nature. From motorboats, to snowmobiles, ATVs, jet skis and on and on, it seems we cannot be in nature without a motor. What happened to the days of rowing a boat and setting a fishing line or perhaps canoeing, cross country skiing or hiking? I guess the only way to enjoy being in nature is to harness it and put it in its place through dominance via machines. Whipping by at 40 mph through woods in winter is truly being at one with nature.
I guess I’m an old-fashioned manual rake, broom, hand weed-puller kind-of-man, foregoing most landscape and recreational motors (one exception is my lawn mower that will be electric come spring 2022) for the quieter and quite frankly, more physically demanding and fulfilling way of landscaping. But then again, I’m the neighbor, who I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy, who regularly sweeps (yes, using a broom) the street in front of my house so that leaves, grass and other items don’t go into the storm sewer, increasing nutrients in our nearby wetland or water body.
I enjoy the quiet, therapeutic solitude of pulling weeds, planting landscapes and working with nature, not against it, as it becomes with all our motorized mechanisms. But as I look around most yards, most homes do not embrace landscaping, minimizing and manipulating it as much as possible. Truly it is not landscaping, just mowing and blowing; many neighbors leave the landscaping alone, not venturing into plants beside grass at all.
Well, I’ll get off my soapbox and get back to reality – the screaming whine, window-rattling buzz and annoying hum of being out in nature is calling me.
Jim Vaughan is the former natural resources coordinator of St. Louis Park.