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succombing to the blowers

Blowers are a nuisance, and I’m sure many agree with me. Perhaps in the country or in the suburbs they might have a more innocuous presence but here in the city, the sound of big gas blowers is overwhelming. Worse than the garbage trucks. It ricochets for blocks.

Austin is not a big city, not an urban jungle, so I don’t live every day with the sound of metros and subways and alarms. It’s more like a big village. There are very few cities in the world where one can live nearly downtown and still have a quarter of an acre, more than half of which is yard. That’s what I love about Austin and what it’s known for, its funky little old neighborhoods of cute Arts and Crafts houses and big yards.

Despite the fact that the urban planners are implementing a European-inspired mixed-use-housing thing where stores and condos are piled on top of each other, Austin’s old neighborhoods are, in my opinion, the thing that makes it feel so laid-back and easy to live in.

But I was writing about blowers. In our small yard we have seven mature pecan trees and a slowly dwindling population of chinaberries. I got rid of five chinaberries last year, and five more are slated for destruction. Not that I don’t mind the shade they provide, I have an intensely shady yard, but chinaberries are becoming one of the garden nightmares around here.

Anyhow, last year was an awful year for raking, even in such a small yard, for two people. We had an enormous crop of pecans, due to all the rains that summer, and the leaves dropped continuously for almost two months. This year, there are no pecans but everything waited to drop all at once, and my garden is smothered with pecan leaves and twigs loaded with berries from the chinaberries. (They are the nightmare.)

The real issue is that our brand-new backyard hardscaping with stone paths and circular patio are not mortared, they are loosely packed on sand with gravel in between the cracks and it is impossible to rake over this without getting leaves in all the cracks or raking all the gravel out. We tried a few solutions like using a broom and hand-picking leaves (oh boy), but we knew once the major leaf-fall happened, it’d take us months of Saturdays to clean it up.

In comes the blower. We danced back and forth. Every Sunday morning, usually all winter long, the elderly home center across the street from us has a company tidy up their grounds and they use these blowers that make us cringe and run for cover. It’s the last thing you want to hear on your peaceful Sunday morning, when you wander outside with your coffee to read the New York Times in your pjs. This is the day at last all the business people and students are no longer parking and yelling on our street. Everything is supposed to be quiet.

But sometimes necessity is the mother of compromise, so I did my research and found a home-garden electric blower that might just give us the edge we need. So far I’ve invested in an electric mower and an electric tiller, and despite the fact that you have to drag around a long cord to use them, they are among the best garden investments I’ve made. The tiller has saved me a lot of digging in the awful hard gumbo that is my soil. There may come a day when I don’t need it anymore, after I have dug all my permanent beds, but by that point it will have been worth every penny. Both the mower and tiller are quiet as heck.

And this blower didn’t disappoint. When Derek first fired it up, I prepared to hold my ears but it almost sounded like my blow-dryer. (I actually thought about using my blow dryer but then might have killed its engine.) The only thing about using a blower in tightly crammed spaces and beds (I don’t have a lawn in my backyard), is that it starts to blow things in corners and sometimes even blows off the mulch. Oh well. I’m happy to have a few easy tools around. I don’t have help, children, or neighborhood teenagers willing to make a few bucks as my parents might have had, to help with the raking or other garden chores, so it’s just me, me and on the weekends my husband, and my quickly growing shed of gardening tools that I love.