Blowin' (loud) in the Wind
It’s a perfect spring afternoon; the air is still and there’s not a cloud in the sky. The light gleams through the newly budded trees and you can hear the squirrels chattering away to defending their territory. Chickadees call to each other looking for a mate. Last year’s oak leaves gently drift from yard to yard. Frog and toad symphonies are well under way near the water. The rains have brought on a bright green carpet of new grass. Amidst all this beauty, the monsters arrive.

Leaf blowers come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and noise. The gasoline – powered leaf blower exists in a category of environmental hell all its own, spewing pollutants: carbon monoxide, smog -forming nitrous oxides, carcinogenic hydrocarbons into the atmosphere at a literally breathtaking rate. A 2011 study by Edmunds found that a two-stroke gasoline-powered leaf blower spewed out more pollution than a 6,200-pound Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck. And leaf blowers are loud.
Seven leaf blowers descend on a single residence.
Photo credit: Kati Lacker
How loud? Some produce more than 100 decibels of low-frequency, wall-penetrating sound or as much noise as a plane taking off at levels that can cause tinnitus and hearing loss with long exposure. The risks come not only from the noise and the chemical emissions that leaf blowers produce, but also from the dust they stir up. That dust can contain pollen, mold, animal feces, heavy metals and chemicals from herbicide and pesticides. All this adds up to increased risk of lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, premature birth and other life -threatening conditions.

More than 100 cities across the country have already banned or restricted gas-powered leaf blowers. For people committed to their manicured lawns, the good news is that powerful electric and battery-operated leaf blowers now exist and they are quieter, greener and healthier than gasoline powered blowers. The best thing to do with fallen leaves is to mulch them with a lawn mower.

As I sit writing this today, it’s about 5:45 pm. I can hear the neighbor’s leaf blower from inside my house with the windows closed. Its time we start rethinking our lawn care practices.
Standards for “perfection” need to change. Most people's standards for perfection in trees are not perfect at all. Pictured are some perfect tree leaves -basswood, walnut, and oak. Yes, they have holes in them as caterpillars, leaf miners, and leaf mites have been feeding on them. Well spotted! "How could these leaves be, in any way, perfect, then,” you might ask?

Trees are incredible organisms. They are nature’s grocery store and are meant to be eaten. Plants support the entire ecosystem from the caterpillar to us. Most of us clamor for greater wildlife and biodiversity, a stay on the extinction of the many species being lost from our world, yet it would seem we have double-standards when it comes to the leaves of plants in our own gardens. Finding that bits of some of your leaves have been fed into the food chain should be a joy to see, if one has any conception of what creating biodiversity locally is all about.

This, of course, requires exceptions: if an insect species it taking too much for itself, then that one may need some management. This is mostly the case with non-native invasive species such as the Japanese beetle or emerald ash borer. There is a natural balance to all the organisms involved, so long as humans do not expect our trees to have unpierced and uneaten leaves all over them.

Sure, we could pump some systemic pesticides into our plants, and the leaves would seem "perfect" on a normal human's scale of measurement, but that is just the sort of poisoning of the environment that is reducing species diversity to its lowest dregs. That approach, in my view, can only be justified in the short-term, to save a valuable tree/plant in the long-term.

What is perfect? Living within and being part of a thriving ecosystem, where the bugs are eaten by the bats and the birds? Or is perfection having every leaf on your oak tree unperforated? Enjoying the ecosystem of leaves, from the sapsucking greenfly and the nibbling of caterpillars, to the bugs and birds that eat such critters, while acting as an advocate for ecological balance is surely the way forward. It may seem a fine line between perfection and 'perfectionism' - but many millions of lives depend on that distinction.
Chewed and skeletonized basswood leaf by various insects.
In many cases the perpetrator of this nibbling will not be present on the plant when you arrive. 
Plants are used by insects as they feed, make homes, and lay eggs on and in plants. Here a gall wasp makes its ‘warty’ home on an oak leaf.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
½ cup butter
½ cup cream cheese
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ cups chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment, combine butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, sugar. Beat for 1 minute. Mix in pumpkin and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop 2 tablespoons batter per cookie onto baking sheet. Gently press the cookies with your fingertips to flatten them slightly. Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes 24. 
Thanks for Reading
and Happy Planting!
Faith Appelquist
President & Founder