The leaf blower and the breeze

(Photo by Priscilla)
(Photo by Priscilla)


The lawn needed to be mowed. But a thick layer of leaves had fallen onto it. There’s no problem with mowing a few leaves into the lawn. They actually make great mulch. But there were so many of these that they would have choked the grass. I needed to rake them up.

This was a task that Priscilla and I used to polish off together in a couple of hours on a crisp fall afternoon, raking the leaves into piles all over the yard and then dragging them on a tarp to our compost heap. But I soon discovered, when I tackled the job yesterday, that doing it by myself was a lot harder, and took a lot longer.

For one thing, when two people are working together, it’s more efficient. For example, one person can be bringing the tarp over while the other is putting the finishing touches on a pile.

It’s also more fun. When Priscilla and I would rake the yard, sooner or later a “leaf fight” would break out, along the lines of a “splash fight” in a swimming pool, and a pile would then have to be raked back together as we both pulled leaves out of our hair and clothes. We’d have hot chocolate together when we went inside.

But two people also each contribute their own energy. If you’d run out of energy just as you were completing a job with somebody else, that means you’d run out of energy halfway through (or perhaps even less, because you wouldn’t have those efficiencies) if you were doing it by yourself.

After raking leaves for three hours, I was exhausted, and I’d only done half the yard. While I’m making good progress recovering my strength and energy, I still need to be very careful. So I quit for the day, resolving to finish today, if energy permitted.

Kind friends have offered to help me with my yard work, and I may well take them up on it when the rest of the leaves fall. (These ones were just the “early birds.”) But this time around, something very interesting happened.

I realized that I could use the leaf blower, which I customarily pull out only to clean off the driveway and walkways after mowing, for its intended purpose. When raking, the idea is to make piles all over the yard and come get them with a tarp to avoid moving ever-growing (and ever-heavier) quantities of leaves unnecessary distances. “Don’t bring the leaves to the tarp, bring the tarp to the leaves.”

But with a blower, since you’re going to have to “sweep” the whole yard with it anyway, and it’s no more effort for you whether you kick up a few leaves or many, there’s nothing wrong with moving ever-growing piles of them to one end of the yard. So just before I called it quits yesterday, I did a little experiment. I tried to see if I’d be able to blow all the leaves on the remaining half of the yard down to the end closest to our compost heap. It would be easy to load them all onto a tarp for a short drag from there. It seemed as if this would work fine, so that was my plan for today.

The problem was, when I tried to carry out this plan, I found that I was  facing a stiff breeze. (Yesterday was calm.) When I kicked up the leaves with the blower, a few of them would move a couple of inches forward. But a greater number would lift into the air and come back towards me, in many cases landing farther from the compost than they’d been to start with.

“This is horrible!” I said to myself. “I’ll be fighting that breeze the whole way. It’s going to take for-e-ver.”

Then it dawned on me. I could blow the leaves away from the compost heap into one big pile at the far end of the yard. I could still pick them all up in the tarp and drag them from there to the heap. This would be a somewhat longer distance, but it would represent only a trivial increase in my overall workload.

I tried out my idea. The blower kicked the leaves up into the air and the breeze carried them away down the yard.  I finished this second half in about thirty minutes. I said to myself, “I can’t believe how fast that went!” It really was as if someone else was working with me and helping me. I had plenty of energy to mow the lawn right afterwards.

The lawn now looks immaculate. And I’m sipping hot chocolate as I write.

Author: endlessmercies

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister and served local churches as a pastor for nearly twenty years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School. Dr. Smith answers questions about the Bible, particularly those that arise from the use of his study guides, at

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