1. Raking is the easy winner. The weather is usually temperate, and I have nothing but positive childhood connotations with raking. Last week the boys played for hours in the piles in the front yard. Of course, that meant I had to rake again, but that hardly matters. It was almost a pleasure. Admittedly, if I had more than one maple tree, I might not feel so generous about the activity. It also gains appeal for its rarity. Fall always seems to me the briefest, most fleeting of seasons. Unlike shoveling or mowing seasons, which go on for months, there is a very small raking window.
2. Shoveling also has good childhood connotations. Like piles of leaves, piles of snow mean great opportunities for playing. Working against snow removal are the facts that it can at times be extremely cold, that often it may have to be done at inconvenient times (e.g. before you can leave for work), or that you’re already tired and ready for a drink because your commute time has more than doubled due to the weather. If the snow is heavy it can also be a burden physically.
3. Mowing is the hands-down loser. There is really no play involved with mowing. It is a chore and nothing more. The weather is often unpleasantly hot, and a pile of grass clippings gives none of the satisfaction that you get from creating a pile of leaves or snow. It isn’t picturesque. You don’t want to dive or fall into it. And the fact is you’re going to have to do the same thing again in a week or so.