Fall lament: leaf blowers

Am I the only paddler who is noticing more and more industrial-sized leaf blowers that ruin fall paddling? The sound projects for miles.

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My neighbor is a great guy who loves working with anything that burns gas. He mows several times a week and now can’t stand a leaf on his yard.

Got a chance for a slow two hour paddle on Lake George, southern Adirondacks today. 55 degrees, little wind, only a single sailboat nearby. Perfect relaxing interlude except for the dull roar coming across the water from a leaf blower. Compost the things, dammit.

I had the exact same experience today, except not just one but several leaf blowers all up and down the lake. When I say “industrial-sized” I’m referring to the ones used by professional landscapers. They’re all noisy, but the landscaper versions are deafening. There’s no escaping them.

Luckily where my normal paddle inputs are is a water management area. It is a wild area with no homes close enough to share their noise pollution.

It is only at home that there seems to be someone with one during all of the hours of daylight.

My Ryobi 40v cordless is the quietest one I have ever heard.

We get leaf blowers all year here, from lawn maintenance. They’re awful, but I can’t say that I hear them at most of the places I paddle. I’m mostly at state or county parks and preserves, and off the beach.

I did get stalked down the entire 3 mile gulf coast of Fort Desoto by a garbage truck once. It was basically traveling the same net speed as me with all of the stops to pick up trash. The noise was incredible even 1/4 mile offshore.

I am embarrassed to admit that I bought a leaf blower a few years ago after having dissed them for years as the ultimate excess of suburban consumerism. Why? My current house is surrounded by Red Oak trees and conifers. The Oaks are nice to look at most of the year, but in the fall they shed enough leaves (and bushels of acorns, OMG!) to smother everything in the understory. And the high tannic acid content of Oak leaves means they do not decompose over the winter like Maple or Birch or Ash leaves do. After the snow melts in the spring, the Oak leaves are still there and almost anything that they covered all winter long is dead.
So, I use a leaf blower. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.

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No leaf blowers are used around any of the places I paddle. There aren’t many deciduous trees in general.

Now, weed whackers, OTOH…

My lament is “raking.” Time is limited and I’d rather be out on the water. Still, I have a cordless blower (avoiding gas power yard equipment) that I use at a “reasonable” time of day to blow the leaves to a corner of the yard where these are left to compost.

The only sound out on the water on a surf day is that of breaking waves (and me screaming to myself, “COWABUNGA!!!”). More waves this weekend. NO yardwork for me!


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I’m on rivers so the leaf blowers are annoying but don’t ruin my paddles since I can get away from them.

I’m pretty sure they sell the same blowers the contractors use to regular consumers; my neighbor brags about having the most powerful blower on the market (we are surrounded by oak trees). But when contractors run 2 or 3 at once it gets very loud.

My Fall lament is gunfire. Earlier this week I paddled with a European friend and he was clearly VERY disturbed every time we heard a gunshot (only heard 3 or 4 all afternoon) while I felt pretty relaxed since it sounded like it was at least 1/2 mile away. But I do occasionally end a paddle early rather than continuing to get closer to gunfire in a rural area.

I have never heard one in 50 years of paddling.

I suspect more of an issue when paddling “suburban” venues.


Yup. This I also get in western ME. Actually come October, if you want to be outdoors, better have on orange hat and clothing! It was the loud jolt of rifle shots when I first bought a “camp” up in Western ME. I quickly got used to it. Some “newer” flatlanders complain as they buy up more rural land and post these. It’s a heritage and cultural way of life (and survival) for rural/wilderness folks. Don’t think it is appropriate for me to object to folks trying to stock the freezer with food to get through the long winter.


We’re totally accustomed to the sounds of rifles and shotguns. We live in the boondocks. There also is a small and very old gravel pit about 1/4 mile away, where people like to do target practice and sight in their guns. HOWEVER, we recently heard an alarming and extremely loud BOOM nearby, while we were building canoe racks in an outbuilding. Ran outside to see a flock of turkeys running across the driveway. Then we saw the guy in an orange vest in the thin strip of woods between the road and our driveway. The driveway is 1/8 mile long, the outbuilding is about in the middle, and the driveway runs at a very shallow angle from the road to the house. So the spot where he was standing has a view of the road, the driveway, the outbuilding, and the mailbox. :rage:. I may have yelled at him. I may also have called the DNR.

I sometimes hear a gunshot and think “hmm - that sounded pretty close”. Now I know. The unexpected sound of a shotgun at 200 feet is crazy loud.

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I paddle quietly cross lawn,
I hit-n-switch strange line.
Wake through rising waves pressed on.
But you know these things take tine.

For years as a surveyor, often on varying construction sites, through mighty GM earthmovers, Terex Euclid dump bodies, Caterpillar D9s and Case backhoes, the auditory bane always remained the Gradeall machine. Its diesel-din was equal to B58 Hustler bombers taking off in scrambled force.

Thenst the modern era of the three-acre, houses-in-the-field mega residential lawn arose, mid-to-late eighties, with its noveau, semi-riche call-ups for the mini-army landscaping services. Suddenly, a peaceful, golden-glorious mid-autumn mid-day was shattered. Duelie Dodges, Chevys, Fords, towing 18-foot trailer boxes pulled up, like LST’s to the Omaha Beach, and pouring out came the sulky-Gravely overlord, and three other soldiers sporting backbacks of cyclonic fury, marching across pristine Kentucky fescue, pushing brown, fluttering waves of the dead soldiers before them, out onto the bituminous fringe. Curse you Stihl!!!

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I used to live in Wyoming where various hunting seasons lasted from about Aug to Dec. I was working outside in open country a lot. I just got in the habit of wearing a Filson orange vest all the time.

I don’t mind archery and muzzleloader season because the the country is quiet here in Nevada. But I avoid rifle season in October now that I have quit hunting.

In DC gas powered leaf blowers were banned on 1/1/2022. They can’t be used or sold.

One of a couple of dozen reasons why I sold my previous house earlier this year was I was sick of having to listen to my idiot next door neighbor scooting leaves off his front porch several times a day year-round (except during rare periods of snow cover) with an absolutely deafening gas blower, 30’ from the window above my desk (a charming back drop to Zoom meetings). The porch is half the size of my own and it would take about 5 minutes to just sweep it with a broom. Of course he never collected and bagged the scattered leaves, just blew half of them into the lawn and driveway so they would blow back onto the concrete porch within minutes. The other half he would direct through the skimpy hedges and into MY yard, though they were all leaves from his own giant maple. The accumulation consistently killed all the grass on my side yard, which was sloped and therefore eroded every time the plantings I tried to establish on it were killed by the shade and leaf litter from that tree unless I raked it daily.

Recent article on the environmental impact of leaf blowers linked below. And that is just those devices; when you include all the millions of GLGE’s (what the EPA calls Gasoline-powered Lawn and Garden Equipment in their studies), they contribute more than 5% of overall air pollution to the mainland USA and actually spew a relatively higher percentage of some of the most carcinogenic toxins than autos since their emissions are not regulated. Add to that the spilled fuels that occur in gassing them up and the fact that the high velocity air that the leaf blowers increases the airborne volume of surface and soil contaminants like pesticides and even lead particulate matter.

Our national obsession with close cropped monoculture “lawns” of non-native short grass species is not defensible on any level of environmental responsibility. Most state ag extensions recommend that municipalities eliminate compulsory mowing regulations and replace them with policies that encourage the cultivation of naturalized meadows of native plants. I’ve been fighting attempts by my own hypocritical small borough that tries to bray about how “green” it is while issuing me (and others) citations threatening jail time and/or $300 a day fines for “allowing noxious weed growth” on our properties. In my case, that is seeding my large front yard with red clover and letting it grow to 6" or 8" to nurture my neighbor two blocks down’s hives of honey bees and countless wild pollinators.

I do high-mow portions of my nearly acre lot occasionally (and have been systematically cutting it back for winter now that all the wildflowers have died back and self-seeded) but use a quiet and emission-free battery-powered mower and a similar compact trimmer/edger. For leaves, I use a rake (good exercise!), collect them on a tarp and mulch/compost them along the concrete wall of my detached garage and under the split rail fenceline at the woods along the back of the property. The deer, birds, squirrels and chipmunks have done a good job of clearing the mast year bounty of acorns from the driveway and backyard, though I sucked a lot of them up with the shop vac and dumped those along the fenceline as well, for backup larder for the critters over the winter. I’ll be removing a lot of the turf in the Spring and starting a vegetable and herb garden and extensive wildflower meadows. My strategy so far has been to mow a couple of feet wide border around isolated long growth areas so I can defend them per the “cultivated flower plot” exception to the odious “noxious weed” regulation. I do pull out any genuine “noxious weeds” (as defined by the Penn State Extension service’s list of pernicious invasives).

To add insult to injury (in the citations for “weeds”), my borough has done nothing for years to go after absentee landowners who have let hundreds of acres of vacant wooded properties, mostly hillsides and gullies, become fetid jungles of Japanese knotweed, invasive bamboo, poison ivy, barberry and garlic mustard, as well as choked with dead trees (mostly strangled by lianas and starved by crowding) that rot and regularly fall across power lines during storms. Another reason I sold that last house was I was weary of fighting the knotweed that kept invading my lot from the borough’s neglected stormwater drain valley that ran behind my house. I did actually exclude knotweed from some areas by establishing tall native wildflowers like helianthus decapetalus (thin-leafed sunflower)



I loved raking leaves when I was a kid! And then we got to jump on the pile, necessitating raking it a bit more.

I liked shoveling snow, too, especially if it meant school was cancelled that day.

Only my father and I shoveled; he like outdoor manual chores, too. My lazybutt brother and mother never raked or shoveled.

As an adult, I still enjoy shoveling snow if it isn’t too frequent or too much. Leaves, what leaves? Closest thing is clearing accumulated dead limbs, and that is not fun at all. Juniper wood scratches deeply and leaves scars on my skin.

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If it is their land, they have a right to be on it without having uninvited shooters on it.

The latter is trespassing.

Hearing shooters using their own land is different from having them on your own land.

If hunters trespassing on other people’s land is “convention,” that still might not be legal. Personally, I would not buy land in a state where trespassing is “convention” in this century. Two hundred years ago is just that—not the present day.

It is both legal and ordinary for people in my area to use their own land for shooting on. They can’t legally shoot on or into other people’s land without the owner’s advance permission. It does happen sometimes but is considered a violation of the OWNER’s property rights, as it should be.

There is a formal shooting range next to a public recreational trail system heavily used by MTBers, just east of town. Both sets of users have the right to enjoy their respective areas free of harassment.