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Shut UP! A plea to lawn mowers and leaf blowers and inconsiderate neighbors

This morning, I went out to work in my garden. It's a beautiful, sunny morning, with the sun glinting on leaves and bees quietly moving between the flowers. Ahhh. I expected a tranquil, peaceful communion with the singing birds, the gentle breeze, and the buzzing of insects. That is, after all, one of the reasons why I live in a place where I can have a garden.
As soon as I got outside, though, it started. I am not exaggerating, though you will think so when you hear my story. As I knelt into the gentle grasses and began to prune back weeds, the lawn mower started up. ROARRRRRRRRrrrrRRRRrrrrrrRRRRrrrrr. And I don't know why I thought it would be any different. This is the way it always is, every time I go out into my garden. Every, fucking time.

The noise was deafening, and angering. This wasn't how I wanted to feel. So I came back inside. An hour later, when the lawn in the nearby yard was FINALLY fucking mowed, for the FOURTH TIME this week, I went outside, a little worse for wear, but still ready to forgive the intrusion and return to Eden. And then... the leaf blower started. I'm not kidding. And I despise leaf blowers. What kind of a dumbass invention is that, anyway? A loud, obnoxious, oil-chugging, pollution-spewing, phallic contraption intended to blow leaves, dust, and garbage up into the air and over into someone else's garden. In the days before leaf blowers, people used to sweep or rake by hand, and it was quiet and clean and did not pierce holes into the ozone layer or melt arctic ice caps. Not anymore, this is progress.

I stayed out there as long as I could stand it, gritting my teeth and trying to forget that this man standing out there huffing over his leaf blower is the very same man who actually called the police last year to complain about my chickens. He said they were making too much noise. In fact, all through the winter I have tried to forget about that, each time his dog barked into the night. Because I like dogs, and I did not want to think about it. But now, as his lawn mower cooled in his big garage, and his leaf blower heated up over his sterile driveway... it was hard not to remember. I was out there in my garden, now, out of an angry determination that I would not be driven out of there by the likes of him. But there was no peace left in it. I leaned into beds and pulled up weeds because they needed to be pulled, and not because I could feel the tender seedlings I had planted there waiting for me to tend them. I reached a pair of rusty shears down into overgrown clumps of grass because it had to be done, and not for the joy of doing it. This wasn't at all what I wanted to be feeling out there. But I stayed, because I knew he could only blow dust around in his pen for so long, and then he would grow tired.

As at last he did, after nearly 40 minutes of roaring, blustery, inconsiderate noise.

When at last it stopped, I took a moment to let the ringing leave my ears. I made an effort to re-focus on the warm, green earth. I took a deep breath of relief, and bent to the herbs trailing around my ankles. But the peace did not return to me. Instead, I kept thinking about how utterly inconsiderate it was, of this neighbor of mine, to fling this unnatural noise of his out into the air on such a peaceful spring day, without even a thought to his neighbors. And I thought about the messed-up priorities of our culture, where the cops will come if your chickens cluck contentedly in your garden, but not if someone's roaring lawn mower shatters the songs of birds and tears up the tranquility of paradise. One thing is an aberration to be dealt with, the other is just an operating expense. It's just an accepted norm.

And so these thoughts moved restlessly through my mind. And as they did, after awhile, I realized I was thinking them to the rhythm of a song. A rock and roll song that I don't particularly even like. A Bob Seger song, whining about how hard it is to be a rock star. Blek. And I realized I was listening to, of all things now, KGON. From the car radio of, you guessed it, this same fucking neighbor. Shit. What a fucking asshole. I shook my head, but kept gardening. Why did I expect it to be any different than this? This is, after all, how it is every time I go out into my garden. Any bright day that calls me out calls him out too. Calls out every neighbor with a lawn mower, in fact. Why would I think it would be any different today?

I kept weeding and plucking and tending, and listening in the back of my mind to stoner music from the 1970s. I tried not to mind. But then some song they must have liked over there came on, and they turned it up! So loud that I could hear the crackle of his speakers, so loud that a flock of starlings leaped out of a nearby tree and took off for other places. So loud that I grew angry and stomped my foot, and glared into the briars and trees that separate his Americana from my garden. I began muttering to myself about how this must surely be the loudest family on earth. And still the noise continued. Loud, loud AC/DC, loud ZZ Top, loud and obnoxius angst-filled, smug young men screaming out inane lyrics over my garden. Fuck them all. And fuck all lawn mowers, and all leaf blowers, and all assholes who can't hear their own noises and presumptions, but can't abide the clucking of a chicken. Fuck them all. I was in the middle of something now, or I would have gone in right then. But as I worked to finish what I was doing so that I could get out of there, I was treated to the sound of this neighbor's wife loudly vacuuming out her car, at the same time that his teen aged daughter hummed purposefully along with a Quiet Riot song, and shortly afterward all three of them got into a noisy and lingering and hate-filled argument that hung in the air over the top of all the dated rock songs and the sound of the abandoned vacuum hose, growling against the floorboards of their car, and the ringing in my ears. I gave up and went inside then, to write this. And as I write, I can still hear the knocking, plinking, booming noise of KGON drifting through my closed window.

Of all the damn nerve.

I would ask people to please consider how loud things like lawn mowers and leaf blowers are, and frankly, in the city, how fucking unnecessary they are. No city lot has a lawn so large it can't be mowed with a push mower. No one needs a power mower here. And no one EVER needs a leaf blower. And PLEASE, there is no need to treat all your neighbors to your taste in music. (Especially if you're arrested back in your party days and still listen to "classic rock.") Geez. Maybe there are other people around you who still long for the sounds of birds singing, bees buzzing, and the sound of the breeze blowing through the grass. Maybe, just maybe, some of us don't want to listen to your damn fucking lawn mower. How did it become socially acceptable to make so damn much noise like that, for no good reason at all? You know, as soon as this asshole neighbor of mine shuts up, another neighbor will mow his lawn, and then another, then another, and I will be listening to this roar until I go deaf. There's just something wrong with that. Doesn't anyone else think so?

I think it's time for... 26.May.2007 13:24


Attack of the Lawn Gnomes!

Seriously though. Sometimes it seems like humans can't believe they're alive unless they're making noise. They probably think "living out loud" makes them interesting... like the guy at work with the hip hairdo who can't go 3 words w/out talking about the next tattoo he's going to get. tattoo. tattoo. tattoo.

at least he doesn't seem to have a leaf blower. those stupidass things should be illegal... or something.

loan me your goat 26.May.2007 13:58


I feel your complaint.

The city inspector came by and said I had to mow the grass that I inherited with the house, or face a $300 fine (for starters).

I hate grass.

I'd pull it out but my arm is (temporarily) injured.

I'd salt the damn stuff but I don't want to ruin the soil for other plants.

Any ideas?

mental illness? 26.May.2007 14:29


I think it's like obsessive-compulsive disorder for men.

We've got a guy here... Leaf Blower Man, who spends hours with a leaf blower on his driveway or yard, making sure not a scrap of barkdust is out of place. Couple weeks ago he was on his roof, leaf-blowering the roof. Luckily it's an electric leaf blower, so it's not all that loud.

I'd thought at one point that it'd be fun to get some strong or something and a bucket of barkdust and a paint roller and glue individual bits of barkdust down to the sidewalk, making them impossible to leaf blower away... but then, that could send the guy completly over the edge.

My folks had a Porch Sander Lady in their neighborhood a few years back... she had a belt sander and would spend hours every day sanding her front porch.

Good luck... I feel your pain.


sheet mulching 26.May.2007 15:32


layer away, get rid of your lawn today.

oh yes 26.May.2007 16:59

I so agree

Just yesterday I was wondering if people ever stop anymore...I mean, stop with the noide and the toys! Is there ever a time for people to simply contemplate the world around them quietly anymore? It seems we all must be endlessly entertained. If not, we want to entertain others with our noise. It must be insanity. That's all I can call it. Perhaps we are trying to drown out the horror of the endless war this p(r)esident has gotten us into.

Lawn removal 26.May.2007 17:12


- I don't mind leaf blowers so much but the CONSTANT pressure washing is very annoying, not to mention unnecessary.

1) Rent a Sod Remover. They are heavy and noisy but very effective. Strip off the sod and form am attractive pile on which you can plant something. Only the grass on top will live so you'll have to remove that.

2) Cover the area with ground cover and or indigenous plants comensurate with the amount of sunlight the area receives.

3) Lay down barkdust, wood chips or even 1/4" minus gravel (If you live SE like me you'll have to deal with the hundreds of cats that will poop in the barkdust). I DO NOT recommend using and plastic or other fabric. It may keep the weeds at bay but will just be a hassle for someone later on - even the biogradable stuff.

Depending on the plants, you may not have to water much at all.

To Crank 26.May.2007 19:21

Great Question!

Yes, get rid of that grass. Although grass can support a healthy ecosystem if it's allowed to grow tall, diversify, and go to seeds and "weeds," the current chemlawn obsession is nothing but a wasteland. Nothing can live in it other than slugs and cutworms. And God bless the slugs and cutworms, but that's not a very healthy or vibrant ecosystem, and the grass lawn in not much of a habitat even for those. The problem, as you see, is that city officials are so far behind the times and current understanding about these things, that they will actually ticket you for allowing a healthy ecosystem to develop on its own. And ignorant neighbors might complain as well.

So here are some ideas. I like to garden, so my lawn went away bit by bit, plant by plant. I just kept starting or dumpstering new plants, and then planting them out where the lawn was. (Fall is a great time of the year to hit the Fred Meyer dumpsters. They throw away all the plants past flowering, and all the plants whose leaves are dropping for the season. Idiots. But you can get great plants that way.) If you like to garden, maybe you might want to do that. If your arm is bothering you, someone above has already suggested a good way to start. Rather than having to dig up all that sod -- an enormous but satisfying task -- you can simply mulch it away. I did this to make vegetable beds in some of my lawn. I took sheets of cardboard (though you can also use several layers of newspaper) and laid them over the grass. Then, I piled lots of dirt over that, and planted things in it. The cardboard keeps the grass from poking up through the dirt, and eventually when the grass decomposes, so does the cardboard. If that sounds like too much work, hauling all that dirt, you can also use black plastic to mulch down the grass and just wait till it's gone. Kind of hard on the soil fauna, though.

Another thing you might try is having an old fashioned work party. You could ask neighbors to come out and help, and maybe provide a meal for their efforts. Still another idea that I really like is to "loan" your yard out to a gardener. Lots of people in the city love to garden, but don't have enough room to do it. You could ask at the local food co-op, or put up an announcement here on this site, for someone interested in gardening in your yard. Let them know you have a plot of grass that you don't want, and that they are free to use the area to garden in so long as they can keep it neat enough to satisfy the neighbors. Then, the two of you could share the flowers or herbs or vegetables that were planted in place of the chemlawn. That's the best way to get a great, healthy garden without having to strain your arm.

Hmmm 26.May.2007 19:34


I understand the last poster, but some people are just OCD/anal retentive when it comes to these things. The best thing is to minimize the square footage of grass by having native, drout resistant plants, ground cover, bushes and flowers so you have less grass to mow. Another thing I avoid is throwing out the yard litter. That should remain in the yard to desompose. When I do mow, the leaf litter stays in place. Also, stay away from weed herbicides - unecessary. Just live with the dandelions. Use some hard work and pull out what you don't want.

making noise laughing out loud! 26.May.2007 19:45

kirsten anderberg kirstena@resist.ca

This article and these comments here have me laughing out loud! I can relate!! I cannot believe it when I have to walk somewhere in the morning and there is an army of blower guys, just aspewing exhaust as if there is no tomorrow, all up and down the streets I walk to the bus, to move some leaves and three cigarette butts around? Are you kidding me?

First of all, I know that tattoo tattoo tattoo guy!
And the comment "I think it's like obsessive-compulsive disorder for men " made me burst out laughing. Perfect analysis. They act like you are trying to take their drugs away when you suggest their pollution is obscene.

bring back the fungi! 26.May.2007 20:50

soil yourself

lawns that are mowed become sterile and require way too much water, they also lack the decomposing matter that fungus feeds on which contributes miccorhizae to tree roots, helps them absorb nutrients and water from the soil. mulching keeps moisture in the soil! less watering, I've been slowly delawning the little bit of earth around my house and there is new life each spring, and all year with new moss and mushrooms. Can you all get city leaves delivered in Portland? we can in eugene, thats what I'm doing next autumn. My neighbor is a freakish lawn mower head too and classic rock fan, I can totally relate, he used to mow my lawn when I wasn't home (sooo pissed!) he has run over my plants and his wife weed wacked one of them! now I leave piles of sticks and have enough plants and trees and built a home made fence with some willow and other sticks to keep them out. Fuck lawns

Not ALL men are obsessed with those things 26.May.2007 20:53

a man

I would just like to point out that not all men insist on the smelly mechanized contraptions. I am a man, and I have been a landscaper for three years, and I refuse to use a lawn mower or a leaf blower.

Noise Ordinance 26.May.2007 21:38

9/11 truther

There is a city noise ordinance. You can call the police any time and complain about noise. I suggest you make it a habit. The car radio from pro-war KGON is the icing on the cake.

Veggies! 27.May.2007 06:25


Why not put in a vegetable plot instead and make use of the land, leaving grass for walking space between plots. Or if you do want the grass, get a push mower. I find it has a soothing sound, gives me a tiny bit of exercise, and you mulch the grass as well.

YES! 27.May.2007 09:18


I love this discussion.

Yes, landscaper man, I catch your point that not all men have to have noisy, vibrating leaf blowers hanging from their waists to feel like men, and I applaud you for bucking that trend. You gotta admit, though, that there is a lot of that about.

As I write this, I am listening to the loud and sterile drone of some kind of gas powered yard implement driven by the man who lives behind me. It might be a lawn mower, but sounds even noisier than usual. It almost sounds like a rototiller or something, though I doubt he has the creativity to ever have anything other than a lawn in his nearly lifeless patch of earth. It's always something over there.

I love some of the suggestions above. Regarding dandelions, they're awesome. If they were rare, we'd all be paying lots of money, if we had it, to buy them in garden shops. We would carefully tend the little seeds, waiting for the flush of delicate and delicious leaves, the glow of bright, yellow flowers, the thrill of seeing those flowers turn to lacy globes and then take flight. Not to mention that every part of this plant is edible, and that its roots and shoots and flowers and leaves are a cleansing spring tonic.

As for the person whose neighbor mows your yard when you're not there, yes that would piss me off too. this time of the year, I don't cut the grass in my garden. Nor do I weed out the dandelions or other wild flowers that climb merrily out of the ground there. Some of them grow waist high, and sprout succulent leaves that the slugs and aphids prefer to the vegetables in my garden, so they leave my other plants alone. And when you let the grass grow, and the other plants that grow among them, you find a whole new world that you didn't know was there. Suddenly, you see little blue-grey caterpillars resting at the tip of almost every stalk of grass. You see spittle bugs nestled among leaves. You see little striped beetles and bright, shiny insects on wings. You see little spiders burst forth in great numbers, climbing to find their own places in the world. And if yoou keep watching, you will begin to see birds coming to forage among the seeds and insects that you've never seen before. Perhaps you might see small, furry mammals that you didn't know were there before the grass and plants grew high enough to protect them. This is what I see, because I let my garden grow where whim and nature take it. I live in a place where I can do this, and I manicure the very edge along the human paths, so that no one knows what strange and secret worlds lurk back here, behind the hedges and the flowers. It's beautiful!

My neighbors have neatly manicured lawns, and never see the bounty of life. They don't even know it's there.

Slash em 27.May.2007 10:45


Maybee you could try talking to the guy. I'd try that first. Make sure not to threaten him or his property as this can be used as corabotory evedence of your involvement in any future crackdown. In otherwords don't "broadcast" your punches.

If that doesn't work, get a possie of your 10 biggest and strongest looking friends to do a co-ordinated gardening day. If "dude" starts with his passive aggressive bullshit, have your friends go to the side walk in front of dudes house and chant "Shut the fuck up! We all live here!" a few times. Some dudes recognize nothing that they don't percieve to be a "greater threat" or force than themselves. Like cops. I think this has a lot to do with how americans have internalized capitalism as a kind of "moral value."

If that doesn't work slash his tires. If he doesn't "get the point" cut the flippin hoses on his mower, or stick some sugar in his blower. Better yet take the no evedence solution: Steal his fucking blower, and mower next time he's away and donate it to goodwill. What's the worst that could happen he reacts by slashing your tires? Two cars for the price of one. Right? He might be blindsided by any ninja shit you pull on his mower, and un able to really prove your involvement. Where as you will be prepaired with a security system in your car, and a loaded camera by your window.


Great ideas, all 27.May.2007 11:19


Thanks for all the support! I was beginning to think it was just me. (That's what this culture does. It destroys things, and isolates us so that we think we're the only ones out here who are injured by it.) As I write this, he's out there mowing his lawn. Again. Unbelievable. He was out doing something loud with a power tool at 9:00 this morning, and now he's out there mowing again.

And yes, Slasher, I have tried to talk to him. He called me a "bitch." Actually, I was being pretty nice to him and his awful wife. I was trying to be a good neighbor, in spite of his never having given me reason to be. He has called the police on my chickens, and has called me names for asking him not to spray herbicide at my back fence. And when I politely mentioned that maybe he could get a push mower, and that I would even loan him mine if he wanted me to, he told me to "quit your bitching," and then threatened to call the city to complain about the "weeds" in my garden. (He was pointing at a drift of sweet melissa.) He really is an ass. A noisy, obnoxious, ass. If I were an ass too, I would call the cops on him, because he grows pot in an upstairs closet, and sells speed from his back porch. But I don't call the cops on my neighbors, no matter how much they deserve it.

I like your other ideas, though, Slasher. I have actually thought about the posse of friends before. I can see them, chanting and menacing from the sidewalk. I think I may just do that. (I also thought of sending scented love letters to his house after he returned from one of his frequent business trips. Letters that his wife would be sure to read. Letters signed in some scrawling hand with some erotic sounding name, all about how much "I" miss him, how nice it was to see him, how sad it is to hear from him how awful his mean wife is. But that seemed cruel and immoral, so I didn't. Then I thought about planting poison oak and nettles all along my back fence to keep him at bay, but I figured I might not want to contend with that.)

These are all good ideas, though!

Veggie Garden 27.May.2007 12:39


If you have ample sun, grow veggies. I've been planting tomatoes since I was nine. When you get a fresh ripened garden heirloom tomato (and if you don't have a problem with nightshades), there is absolutely NOTHING tastier and more healthy on the planet. Nothing needs to be added. The natural flavors are all that's needed. Also plant some jalapenos and cilantro (buy a lime) and you'll have the best salsa anywhere.

PERMACULTURE! 27.May.2007 13:18


Portland is the home of many knowledgeable and impassioned gardeners who are disconnecting from "civilization". They are a great resource for you, and they will welcome you to their groups. See:  http://www.pdxpermaculture.org for lots of free information, including sheet mulching "recipes". Google "permaculture" for lots more. Permaculture is a way to get off the grid and reduce your expenses to a minimum, as well as to increase a sense of community among your neighbors. Political activism is more possible once you've shared your fruits and vegetables with your neighbors (although assholes like the one described may be immune - hopefully he will be isolated in a community that comes to share your values.

been there 27.May.2007 18:59

and hated it

when i was a kid growing up in the deep south, my parents had a huge house and a very large yard. they even bought the big lot next door to keep someone else from building a house on it.

each saturday my job was to cut the massive lawn, which took about four hours of constant labor. NOT fun in 95 degree heat with 90 percent humidity!! and i have a relentless heat intolerance problem which made summers in my youth a living hell.

my parents got angry with me when i skipped a saturday and planned to cut the grass on sunday. my father told me that i was NOT to cut the lawn on the lord's day. "what will the neighbors think?!"

when i finally outgrew my job as groundskeeper, my dad hired a crew to come cut the grass each week. they showed up in a pickup with a trailer. four or five guys piled out and each grabbed a mower or a leaf blower. they cranked all of the mowers and leaf blowers at the same time, but with all of that labor, they got the job done in about 30 minutes.

now i live in portland on a piece of property that does not have a single blade of grass in sight. it's fantastic!

KILL YOUR LAWN (but no chemicals, please)!!

Oh yeah. 27.May.2007 21:44


I dig the love letter idea. I think that a drop of perfume and some dime store itching powder would do the trick. Make sure to use a stripper name. Google stripper and you'll find a shit tonne of these. Online magic shops have the itchy stuff.

I still think that some lawnmower liberation might be in order. Good will has a bunch of drop off sites. Make sure you park aways though cause most of the shopping center parking lots they're in have ye ol' security cameras.

Fuck Shit Up,

Bring on the noise! 17.Nov.2009 08:43


Do not worry, soon we'll be as deaf as the people
in this machine society who subject us to this noise
are dumb.