JoAnne Skelly: Good tools make a job easier

Leaf blower in yard blowing fallen leaves into a pile on a bright sunny autumn day

Leaf blower in yard blowing fallen leaves into a pile on a bright sunny autumn day

On, off, on, off… That’s what I keep doing with our irrigation and hoses as the daytime temperatures stay warm, but with nighttime temperatures below freezing. On, water; off, open spigots and hoses and drain them. While this is tedious, I am enjoying the beautiful weather.

But I really want to talk about how the right tools make a job easier. For weeks, we have been trying to stay on top of picking up what seems to be millions of leaves. We have a sweeper we tow behind our riding lawnmower. After one short pass, it’s full. We unload the contents of the sweeper onto an old king-size sheet (lighter than a tarp), wrap it up and haul it off to our fenced leaf containment area.

The sweeper is the first tool that reduces our leaf challenges. Next, of the four leaf rakes we have, my favorite is a lightweight wire one. Once I have raked a pile of leaves, I pick the leaves up using it and another lightweight rake like a scoop.

I then put them into a sheet-lined cart. The sheet makes it easier to dump the leaves onto the tall leaf pile. Otherwise, I get stuck pushing the cart up the pile trying to load the leaves from the back of the area forward. Instead, I simply drag the bundled leaves in the sheet to the back of the pile, which is much easier. A well-balanced large cart is a great tool for a big property likes ours.

Who knew that an old sheet could also be a great tool with less stress to the body? We have found having a leaf containment area lets us only rake leaves once, rather than repeatedly when they blow back against the house if used as mulch. After all, we are in windy Washoe Valley.

Maybe the best tool is one my husband ordered recently. It’s a battery-powered blower. No more cords limiting our reach. At first, I was skeptical. Would we really use a blower? However, what a gem!

We have blown the driveway (which is huge), the lawn (20,000 square feet) and even flower beds. The rechargeable batteries last a long time and the blower is lightweight, but powerful. Since my husband likes power tools, he finds it fun and I’ve been overjoyed with his enthusiastic leaf removal.

The right tools do make a difference, but what’s right for me might not be right for you.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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