leaf removal 101

Well, it’s late fall and here in the Northeast that means everything is a complete mess. Isn’t it a bit disrespectful the way the trees just let their leaves fall to the ground for others to pick up? I, for one, was taught to not drop my clothes all over the floor. (Instead: I pile them on a chair, bundle them onto shelf in the closet, or throw them in the backseat of my car, vowing to eventually take them to the dry cleaners.)

This is our second fall in our house, which sits on far more property than we need (almost one acre) and boasts approximately six million trees. Our first fall convinced us that we needed the most evil of suburban contraptions: yes, a leaf blower. We broke down and got one a few weeks ago. After all, why rake when you can can let air do the work? Why just get blisters on your hands when you can also permanently damage your eardrums?

Actually, like most mechanized toys we have procured for yardening (snow blower, lawn mower, weed whacker…backhoe), I am afraid to even go near the leaf blower. So Rob has taken it out for a few spins wearing that dorky sexy ear protection.

What we have quickly learned is that just owning a leaf blower doesn’t magically solve your leaf situation. Turns out, leaf blowing is not only a decent amount of work, it is also a science. For example, what direction are you going to blow these leaves? What’s the desired longitude and latitude of the pile you’re going to create and what is the most direct and logical route to get the leaves there?

Here is what else we have learned so far during this season of leaf removal:

  • Surprisingly, even if you have a leaf blower, it is still necessary to employ the use of a rake for escorting/cajoling/coaxing leaves toward The Pile. Besides, pine needles, pine cones and fallen branches don’t respond as well to the leaf blower’s command.
  • It takes approximately four minutes and 32 seconds of raking for blisters to appear on your palms even while wearing fashionable sensible yardening gloves.
  • If you’re a right-handed person, you rake righty. Switching to a lefty stance will indeed alleviate some of the pressure on your wrists, back, and shoulders, but it will make you feel horribly awkward. If most of your self-worth is derived from your sense of grace and coordination, this could puncture your ego.
  • Wheelbarrows are woman’s best friend. Ours came with the house, circa 1965, and has a nice turquoise paint job: it is one sweet ride. Seriously, this thing can roll. Soon, I intend to paint retro lightening bolts along its sides:

turquoise wheelbarrow

  • Picking up hundreds (thousands?) of pine cones one at a time and walking them over to the wheelbarrow several feet away is extremely inefficient.
  • Picking up pine needles or leaves one at a time and walking them one by one over to the wheelbarrow is even more inefficient.
  • The orange, scruffy mound of pine cones and pine needles you pile up by the road will bear a striking resemblance to Sesame Street’s Snuffleupagus. Look! He’s parked outside our house:

Snufflelupagus pine needles

  • Dry leaves in an organized pile + heavy wind = leaf party. And all of your hard work is, poof, suddenly undone. Your lawn once again looks to be strewn with trash and confetti, much like 34th Street after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  • Installing “NO LEAVES” signs all over your lawn (i.e., a leaf with a red slash through it, see above) doesn’t work. Those irreverent trees probably don’t follow crosswalk rules either.
  • Finally, the energy output and navigational math required for all of the above is compounded when your neighbors are blowing their leaves onto your property. The etiquette here is admittedly murky: maybe their leaves are actually your leaves since they came from your trees? Still, it is a strange and slightly offensive sight to see them blowing them in your direction.

In sum, leaf removal isn’t an easy process, and pretty much the only fun I can guarantee is putting eyes on a pile of pine needles so that it looks like good ol’ Snuffy.

Thanks for reading. And if you have any tips (helpful or otherwise) on this subject, please do not hesitate to share.

12 replies

  1. My neighbor sets everything ablaze. He spends all day attending this bonfire, which he strategically puts in the middle of our un-paved road. So, the rest of us just hope our cars don’t explode while we pass.

    • ha! Yes, that would make me just a bit paranoid…but that scent of burning leaves is SO FALL – makes me want to curl up in a big sweater and sip cider…

  2. What happened to jumping into the pile? Wasn’t that how our parents conned us into raking leaves? I plan to employ this w/ the next generation.

    • Doesn’t that activity require a swing attached to a tree branch? I don’t know if installing one of those is such a good idea, in light of all the limbs coming down lately. Another concern: piles of leaves can contain mice or spiders or your brother waiting inside in order to terrify you.

  3. My Tip: I don’t try and keep up with them. I let them all fall hoping the elements will condense them. Much easier to rake than when they’re fresh off the trees. Also I’m not obsessing every weekend as to when I’m going to go out and rake. I know there will be only one day I’ll get to it when their all down.

  4. Fair warning, even after 40 years of leaf raking/blowing/ mulching, you still encounter the same logistical problems. I would like Suffleupagus’ autograph!!!! He is too cute!

    • If you can believe it, I had to wait in line to get Snuffy’s autograph – I am having it framed for you. Turns out his signature is as abstract and sophisticated as Rob Strati’s!

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