Leafing Home for Good

Screen Shot 85My mother offered to give me her leaf blower so I didn’t have to rake.

It was a generous offer, but we live in a forest. And there’s no neighbor’s yard to blow them into.

And I want them for my garden and can’t blow them there. So today’s tool (not of choice but of necessity) is the grass rake–not the dirt rake my stick figure is holding.

carLeavesOct15_480I’m pushing piles of them from the driveway and road onto a sheet, which even when they are dry adds up to about a huge sack-full of as many leaves as I can heave into the back of the truck. [Yard leaves are mulched in place by the last seasonal hours of the mower before winterizing the machinery.]

I can get exactly FOUR of these leaf bundles into the truck bed if I compress each of the first three piles as I load them, pushing with a bent-handle snow shovel to compact the fluffy mass forward against the cabin.

Then, standing in the bed of the truck, I use my string trimmer like a mixer to shred the captive load into fragments, since whole leaves can form a barrier to oxygen and water and don’t break down as quickly as shredded leaves (mostly maple and tulip poplar.)

And lastly, from the bed of the truck until they are all gone, I pull as many leaves as will go into a 30 gallon trash can and deposit that in place everywhere that [what the tiny green caterpillars have left of the] greens are not growing in the garden, now that everything else has been moved to the compost pile.

We are expecting our first freezing temps of the year in the next few days, and that will put an end to the grass mowing. And with the freeze and the winds we’ll have yet another wave of leaf abscission that will cover back up all the places I’ve made false progress against clearing away the falling leaves.

Good news, maybe, in that I have found someone to take care of the gutters before full winter. [Floyd Farm and Home Services] I am hoping this will be someone who is reliable into the years where more and more home care is hired out.

Someday, even the raking of the leaves? Yep, I reckon.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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