Sunday, December 02, 2007

Arrgh: Leaf-Raking

It has been awhile -- okay, never -- since I had a yard as tree-covered as the one at the new place. If one has trees, one will have leaves; and I had left mine mostly alone after disposing of the initial batch.

Last weekend, I raked up ten huge heaps of crunchy brown/grey/gold leaves, ran out of daylight and left them. The week that followed was, of course, windy. And a bit rainy, so yesterday, I had ten medium-sized piles of leaves with damp centers and a nicely(?) leaf-carpeted lawn.

...I now have five medium-sized piles of leaves and a cleared front yard. The side yard and back yard remain. (Yes, I am a miracle of personal industry and efficiency). I've also got a nice set of sore shoulder muscles, some very annoyed squirrels (who knew it was their lawn and their leaves?) and a fine collection of bagged leaves.

Alas, no open burning here in the city (don't miss the fire hazard but the scent of the smoke, that's a sad loss), so I relearned the ancient art of squishing leaves in the manner of traditional wine-making. I'm not sure which is more odd: climbing in a trashcan and dancing about, or the 8-to-1 reduction in volume that results!

The trees are all bare now; Broadripple is in Winter dress, grey and severe, trees witchy against the cloudy sky. Holiday lights stand out all the more against such a backdrop, pushing back at the dark.

That's us; that's civilization: a few colorful lights, brave against the night.


phlegmfatale said...

I'm fond of the leaving-leaves-as-mulch method of leaf maintenance. However, I have magnolia trees, and the lawn oompa-loompas spirit the leaves away every Tuesday. (yeah, burning leaves DO smell good - could you save them for chiminea fodder?) I wonder what portion of our economy centers on leaf-maintenance? I'll bet it's bigger than you think. Can you imagine the hell of earning your living blowing leaves around with one of those hideously loud air-broom thingies? Still, I suppose it's a respectable way to make a living, as any. Also, there's something rather zen about tending your leaves on your ownsome.

Roberta X said...

I was hoping to find some leaf-snuffling service that would hoover up the leaves once I had raked them to the curb but it seems we haven't any; it's either Oompa-Loompas (co$tly) or shank's mares. As you point out, the work is a bit zen, all about process and being in the moment.

(Oddly enough, while door-to-door laef-rakers are in scant supply, we have gutter-hooligans; they showed up last weekend with their ladders and hip flasks and cleared 'em out: $40 for an hour's work, not a terrible rate for them and affordable for me).

--Did Tam tell you about my chiminea (preposterous coincidence #482) or dija simply intuit there had to be one? :) (It's some Randian/Heinleinesque mastery-of-fire thing, isn't it?) I have set some leaves and smaller deadfall aside. Haven't had a fire in it for some years: at my old place, the feral cats had taken it over as an extra home! Not as crazy as it sounds, there's a lid for the chimney.

Anonymous said...

I miss the smell of burning leaves. Maybe some entrepreneur could compress the leaves into fireplace logs.

Roberta X said...

H'mmm, that's an interesting idea, Turk! I wonder if one could compress the leaves and tie them into a cylindrical shape with twine?

Anonymous said...

Burning leaves, like baking bread, pipe smoke and the hashish-like fume of drying alfalfa, are not on the List for the 'cancer-free world of the future.' They used to use them to make leather, but I guess that's out too. Cellulosic ethanol sort of lacks romance.

I use a vacuum mulcher, and together with the grass clippings they yield a truckload of topsoil every year. But that machine seemed expensive to me, and the ones the right size for a single yard don't chop them up all that well. If you like raking, small machines that just mulch work fine, and may even come with electric motors (still noisy while running, though).

Remember trash compacters? For leaf-logs, those are your tool.

Anonymous said...

Some of the electric leaf blowers are also vacuum/mulchers. Big canvas like bag to hang off your shoulder that you hook to the blower tube. A large diameter tube hooks onto the inlet side. The one I've used isn't real fast, but it turns the leaves to dust. Unfortunately, the impeller is plastic, so unknown how long it lasts, especially if it has to cope with small twigs mixed in with the leaves. The 'lectric ones aren't real loud. Deeper tone than a household vac, due to the larger diameter tubing used.

Anonymous said...

oh man, Will, would I love to have a long discuss on the engineering factors (and screwups) those picker-uppers can entail. Until they bring one out that sounds like tin tines scraping turf when it runs, though, I can't really blame our jovial hostess for not early-adapting.

Health & safety tip, RX: If you're going to cap off a chiminea for extended periods, get the wood ash to hell out of there (it goes on the mulch-pile you won't have 'til you're making noise like Will & me). Cat-afflicting nasties (chiggers, ticks, who knows what all) lurv to lurk in moist ash under a cover. Goddam plague-o'-cats is bad enough without them being all verminy too.

phlegmfatale said...

Gosh, I can't imagine how I divined you had a chiminea - did you mention it, or do I simply have them on the brain, lately? Another cool thing to burn is if you have an herb that dies and dries out, it'll smell glorious for a few minutes as it burns. I've done that with lavender, rosemary, thyme and bergamot plants - nice.

Love the smell of the resins in pinon best, though.

Roberta X said...

Early adopter? I own a couple of rakes. A leaf-vac would cost money. I just bought a house and have had two car wrecked out from under me in the last 12 months; space cash, I don't got.

My chiminea is one of the gourd-shaped ones, like a tiny firepace; it dries out pretty well. So far, no outside cats have shown up begging at my new place. So the next fire should take care of any insects lurking.

Phelgmmy, next year for sure, I'll have some aromatic herbs! Moved in too late to grow any this year. At the old place, we had wild honeysuckle. The smoke has an interetingly complex scent...and makes my sinsuses act up. Live and learn.

Anonymous said...

The herb idea is a good one when you are smoking, or just grilling, though it is best to use fresh live herbs. No, not so that you can hear them scream. The nice green herbs will smoke a bit and help to impart some of their flavor into the food you are cooking.