HUDSON — It's not unusual to see a woman tooling around a yard on a commercial mower, or sometimes evening chucking branches into a professional tree trimmer's chipper.
But an all-female landscaping crew? That's a rarity.
For Deb Erwin, however, it's the essence of her business — All Women's Landscaping.
Erwin and her cohorts increasingly can be seen tending residential lots in Spring Hill, where she has expanded her business since the recession.
Her team's work orders range from trimming hedges, palms and trees to laying sod, mulching and weeding to more strenuous, seemingly "manly," chores such as pressure washing, cleaning and painting exteriors of homes, scouring gutters and patios, and installing pavers and ponds.
They don't mow, but, yes, they do windows.
The business' ads declare: "There isn't much I can't do, just ask me!"
"I grew up with brothers and an all-boy neighborhood," said the 59-year-old Erwin. "Dad taught us to work hard. We were out there putting an addition on the house, (making) auto repairs, changing oil, painting. We were out there leveling ground and laying big pavers for a carport.
"He was a good teacher," she said of the late Curtis Anderson.
Erwin and her daughter, Crystal Erwin, were out driving 17 years ago when Mom observed, "There are women out there in that hot sun, not a lot of them. You've got to be a sturdy woman to go out and work like that all day."
Mother and daughter exchanged looks, and a light bulb went on, Deb Erwin recalled last week. The business was born.
Crystal Erwin, now 36, is her mother's No. 1 employee. Three women are on call. The number working depends on the scope of a particular job, Deb Erwin said.
A recent task saw the Erwins spreading 225 bags of mulch throughout a landscape along Thorny Ridge Road in Spring Hill.
"I have to lay another hundred," Erwin said.
For that undertaking, the crew wasn't all women. She enlisted the help of four grandsons — ages 19, 16, 10 and 5 — partly because the spring season wasn't yet busy enough to call in her other women. Also, Erwin likes to pass on her skills to family members.
The economy over the past several years has been her biggest challenge, the entrepreneur said.
"Other than that, there's not much work I can't do," she said. "I haven't found a job that's beaten me yet."
At a work site recently, Erwin said, the senior woman homeowner mentioned that Erwin has been taking care of her outdoor needs for 17 years.
"Mostly, all my customers are regular," she said. "Generally, they're older people."
"I love the work," Erwin said. "All of us have to have money to survive. For me, it's going in to do the job. When it's done, I'll drive back and say, 'Wow, that really looks good.' "
"I don't do shabby work," she said.
One of the things that pleases Erwin most is when customers tell their neighbors about her.
"If you don't do a job good, how are you going to get more customers?" she said. "That's from Dad again."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]