A Sustainable Alternative to Power Leaf Blowers

My dear friend and colleague, landscape contractor Ken Foster of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping in Santa Cruz, California, has been one of the few brave landscape professionals to speak out against that sacred cow of the garden maintenance industry, the gasoline-powered leaf blower. And he speaks out well, having marshaled the many troublesome impacts of blowers into his definitive blog post of January, 2012. He has even founded a Leaf Blower Task Force in his community in order to bring some sanity to the unfortunate and widespread deployment of what he calls “Polluting Noise Bazookas” (also known in some circles as “Lucifer’s Trumpet”). Others too have decried the folly of the leaf blower, and there is even good data showing that there is no actual efficiency to be gained by their use.

But what are the alternatives? Well, of course brooms and rakes still work as well as ever, and there is much to be said for their revival. They are fossil-fuel-free, they always start right up, don’t make a racket, and are dirt cheap to purchase and maintain. But there are those whose dispositions seem to require a more elaborate technology in order to feel good about their gardening chores. To help meet their needs, I recently set out on a quest for an ideal, pollution-free alternative blower, and I believe I’ve found something that really works. It has taken no small amount of research, but I’m proud to say that I’ve come up with a great little device that’s human-powered, recycled, and, believe it or not, that also eliminates a completely unrelated but quite troublesome problem.

A little background: Not long ago I attended a concert of Celtic music. Things were going along pleasantly enough until they brought out the bagpipers. As you probably know, bagpipes were developed to use when sending armies off to battle. Medieval military strategists discovered that the sound of only two or three of the instruments was sufficient to stimulate the murderous impulses of up to a thousand soldiers. Bagpipes work fast, as I was reminded at this concert. After just a few seconds of exposure to the awful droning I was more than ready to slay a few of my neighboring audience members. As I gripped the arms of my seat, I realized that a great deal of wind was being blown about to no apparent purpose. That’s when it dawned on me that the bagpipe, properly modified, would be a wonderful eco-friendly substitute for the leaf blower. I envisioned teams of kilted gardeners roaming suburban streets, pumping the distended bladders of their instruments and happily whooshing litter into tidy piles.

Back at my laboratory, I put on my best tartan coveralls and began to tinker with a set of bagpipes, working out the details of its transformation into a fine gardening implement. (Tip: Used and reclaimed bagpipes are easy and inexpensive to come by. Neighbors of bagpipe players are often happy to break in and steal them for you, usually at no charge.)

I discovered that a few minor alterations (easily accomplished by any reasonably handy person using a power drain auger and a ball peen hammer) can quickly render the typical bagpipe mute, while retaining and even enhancing its Aeolian properties, sort of like de-scenting a skunk. This results in improved conditions in two entirely separate realms, in the manner of Will Rogers’ observation about the Dust Bowl migration: that it raised the collective IQs in both Oklahoma and California. Without bothering you with the technical details, I can tell you that a properly transformed set of pipes and a strong pair of lungs can equal or exceed the 200 mile per hour streams of air touted by power blower manufacturers.

Using the Scottish Leaf Blower™ is easy. Just mount the device under your arm in the traditional position, exhale into the blowstick to fill the bag, point the drones at the ground, and pump away at the bag to achieve maximum velocity. You’ll find that using the SLB, as I’ve come to call it, is quiet, easy, and enjoyable, and every bit as effective as that gas hog you’ve been using.

For detailed instructions on converting a set of bagpipes into a Scottish Leaf Blower, please contact me. I am making this information available as a public service to gardeners and music lovers everywhere.

In my next post I’ll show you how to turn a vuvuzela into an eco-friendly bulb planter. For now, happy puffing.

9 thoughts on “A Sustainable Alternative to Power Leaf Blowers

  1. Does this SLB also work as cardio vascular exercise? If so, perhaps users can multi-task performing work and working out at the same time…and getting paid. What could be better!

    1. Yes! First there are all the health benefits of deep breathing. And then there’s the great upper body workout. Fitness, silence, clean air, clean gardens. Who could ask for more?

  2. Since I love bagpipes (sorry Owen but I think they are magical), this would have the added benefit of producing music while you work.I’m all for it!

  3. It is a rare essay about anything to do with landscapes and landscaping that is Funny — I can testify to that as a landscape writer. Even if the SLB is mythological (and I admit to disappointment that the post doesn’t actually reveal a serious alternative, much needed) this was wonderful.
    For those who appreciate such humor, try to find a copy of a British book titled “Legal Daisy Spacing” which I have long believed to be the only funny book about landscape design on the planet.
    I’m afraid the dearth of humor says something about landscape (as it is practiced in the northern hemisphere, at least) that we should probably be thinking about, ahem, seriously.

    1. Thanks, Kim! I think that funny is essential, and I try to mix a serious message with some silliness, because life is too short to be serious all the time. The book you mention is new to me; I shall have a look. Why are gardeners and landscapers so serious? Beats me. I’m trying to change that (see some of my earlier posts for more in this vein).

  4. I recall one member of our cyclist group of Scottish descent, playing his bagpipes each morning to wake the riders bright and early. Although at first I was annoyed, I learned to appreciate the sound. Perhaps a non-muted SLB used by gardening crews early in the morning could increase our productivity and limit the need to sleep in…

  5. I’m guilty of using leaf blowers, but definitely against gas powered blowers as well. This one is interesting and never crossed my mind that a bagpipe can be used as a great alternative to leaf blower. Would like to see how that works.

  6. Plant trees and aid in cooling the earth
    Who says we have to blow away tree leaves from the earths crust which is so thin anyway
    After we blow it all away we go out and buy mulch for the gardens…..is something wrong with this picture I ask???

    Nothing is more silly than the easteners lawn that they brought westward-ho
    They grow it…they water it….they feed it….they weed it…they over seed it….they cuddle it to be primo ornament out front of their bungalow ????
    Than after that long haul investment…THEY CUT IT AND THROW IT AWAY as a non ususalale item from the landscape…..DUH!

    Remember the days of the Dicondra lawn frensy when folks were on their hands & knees cultivating and trying to have the blocks most gorgeous patch of round leaves turf in the neighborhood?

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