Remember rakes? Biking around the area recently, I saw – make that heard – many leaf blowers. I had grumpy, old person thoughts about today’s youth and softness and how when I was a kid my parents expected me to rake the yard. So I was heartened to hear from Aubuchon store manager Gary Whitmore that rakes actually outsell the machines by 20 to 1 at the Stevens Avenue store in Portland where he works: “Especially in this area, I do a bang-up business in the fall with rakes and the leaf bag.”

Granted, raking is slower and less efficient than blowing the leaves around. So why use one? It’s quiet, blessedly quiet. It burns calories, but it does not burn fossil fuels. It doesn’t annoy your neighbors; a report in the West End News last month noted that some neighborhood residents are seeking a ban on the blowers, as has been instituted in other parts of the country. The headline? “Leaf Blowers Driving West Enders ‘Crazy.'”

What makes a good rake? Whitmore paused, then said, “The person using it.” He elaborated on bamboo versus metal versus plastic, wet leaves versus dry, adjustable rakes versus basic models. Then he repeated, “But it is a lot the person using it.” The leaves are starting to fall. Put away the blower, take rake in hand and practice.

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