I've lived in New England my entire life, and if there's one thing that Yankees treasure, it's tradition. I'm no different, and yet today, I grudgingly decided that one tradition is not worth keeping.
Ever since I was a child, my family engaged in one of the most time-honored New England traditions of the autumn: raking leaves. Raking leaves is a noble chore. You get exercise and fresh air, your lawn benefits from being dethatched by the tines of the rake, and it instills a solid work ethic in the young.
It's a chore that I have always cherished. This year, however, I was rather dreading it. I just purchased a new home in September, and it has a substantially larger yard than my previous home. I knew that it would take me weeks to rake the entire property, and with a full time job, young kids, a wife, and everything else that keeps a family busy, I was trying to figure out how I could squeeze an extra 12 hours into each day.
Mostly out of curiosity, I decided to try a leaf blower. I'll categorically state that I find this to be cheating, but in the face of weeks of raking, I saw little reason to not give it a try. I'll have to admit, I was highly skeptical of the tool. As I mentioned before, one of the benefits of raking by hand is that the lawn gets a good dethatching; that is, all the dead grass and other material that forms a carpet right at the level of the soil and blocks nutrients from reaching the roots of the grass gets pulled up by the tines of the rake. I didn't see how a leaf blower would help with this.
At this point, I have to concede that the idea for the leaf blower was not mine. The leaf blower was a gift to me from my father, who is much wiser than I am. When he first gave it to me, I had no intention of using the thing for the reasons I had mentioned above. I have the unfortunate tendency to forget about things that I dismiss as useless, even if my determination regarding the usefulness of a thing is based on little or no prior experience. I don't know what it was about today that made me rethink my position on the leaf blower, but I was pleasantly surprised by its effectiveness.
As I mentioned, I have a large yard. Nearly two acres of level lawn, ringed by a thick woods of maple, oak, birch, and sumac. I was able to completely clear my backyard of fallen leaves in under an hour, a chore that would have easily taken me six hours had I resorted to my traditional techniques. The leaf blower was powerful enough to scrub the lawn and underlying soil clean. However excited I was about my progress and the ease of clearing the leaves, I could not help but feel sadness.
You see, I'm addicted to technology. I work with it every day, and run my life with it. The use of technology, even simple technology like a leaf blower, has implications. Using a leaf blower is a one-man job, and the tool is so loud, there's no chance for discussion and conversation while working. Furthermore, when you use a tool that cuts your work time down to next to nothing, the issue of work ethic is not even worth mentioning.
I was left wondering how I will teach all of these things to my sons. How will I teach them the value of sweat equity, the importance of physical labor and the satisfaction of putting your body to work with fantastic results? How can they learn the fine art of Yankee conversation, which occurs in short bursts, layered on top of physical work? The great New Hampshire author Noel Perrin described this very thing in one of his essays.
Sure, I can choose to abandon the leaf blower and go back to traditional methods. But as much as I have this choice, my Yankee sense of frugality forbids me from doing something that takes so much time when I have at my disposal the tools to get the job done faster leaving room for other things. Would I rather rake or spend the extra time with my sons?
As my father always reminds me, there's no such thing as setting aside quality time with your kids. He points out that any time you spend with your kids is quality. Perhaps I'll take this to heart and take my kids for a walk in the woods instead of raking up the woods.
[tags]autumn, chores, leaf+blower, leaves, new+england, new+hampshire, raking, work, yankee[/tags]