By Jocelyn Jane Cox
Having lots of trees on your property is a wonderful thing: they provide shade, atmosphere, and a nice habitat for birds. Besides, if you live anywhere that enjoys the four seasons, the changing of the leaves in the autumn will turn your property into a beautiful colorfest. Unfortunately, these same leaves will soon begin to fall onto your lawn and accumulate at an alarming rate. Before long, you’ll have a big mess.
Isn’t it disrespectful how all these trees just drop their leaves to the ground for others to pick up? The first autumn in our house, I joked about installing “no leaves” signs on our lawn (i.e. a leaf with a red slash through it), but I suspected the trees wouldn’t pay much attention to them. Instead, my husband and I found some old rakes the previous owners left in the shed and got to work. I quickly remembered something I learned while helping my dad with raking as a kid: it takes only about four minutes for a collection of nasty blisters to form on your hands even if you’re wearing good gardening gloves.
My adult self also soon realized that it probably would have been a good idea to go through a routine of pre-raking stretches in order to prepare my lower back and my shoulders for this repetitive activity. Of course, leaves don’t look heavy (and, individually, they aren’t), but pile a bunch of them together, add a little moisture, and you’ve got some serious hefting to do. I recommend at least doing a few side bends and toe-touches before you get going.
By the second autumn in our house, my husband and I had the good sense to invest in one of those obnoxiously loud contraptions called a leaf blower. It’s my husband who does the honors, and he does so wearing those super-sexy ear protectors, which look like a cross between earphones and earmuffs. It’s very important to wear these so that you don’t blow out your own eardrums while blowing leaves (and the added bonus is that they’ll drive your spouse wild.)
Life suddenly got easier, but I still wouldn’t say that it got easy. You still have to make lots of tactical decisions such as: where exactly are you blowing the leaves? Are you blowing them to the street for the town/city/municipality/county to pick up? Are you going to be bagging them? One of the best tips I can share is to get a large tarp and collect them on this for the purpose of dragging them across the lawn. It’s like giving your leaves a magic carpet ride.
If, like me, you’re determined to make this leaf removal process at least slightly fun, it might be worth your while to invest in those orange leaf bags with jack-o-lanterns depicted on them. If you just have the plain bags, you can DIY a simple version of these with the help of a black magic marker. Along similar lines, I thought the long scraggly, leaf pile we made on the street last year for pick up, bore a striking resemblance to Sesame Street’s Snuffleupagus. Naturally, I was compelled to make some eyeballs out of paper plates and secure them into one end of the pile with twigs. Did any of our neighbors get the joke? Did they think I was crazy? Or both? I suppose these are questions only they can answer.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games. You do have to be aware of falling acorns and pinecones (this is an argument for wearing protective head gear, which I suggest for most DIY projects on the both the exterior and interior of your home.) If one of these does hit you in the noggin and you live to tell the tale, you have every right to call out, á la Chicken Little, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” because, in a way, it is.
Think twice before burning your lawn refuse: it’s dangerous and not that great for the environment. If you’re determined to do so, you may want to get the fire department involved (seriously) and whatever you do, don’t fall asleep on the job.
Finally, if you have any obsessive-compulsive tendencies, it’s wise to get a handle on them before you tackle the leaf project. Inevitably, as soon as you clear your lawn, more leaves are going to fall. For example, before a party we had last year, I found myself out on our yard picking up leaves individually and stuffing them in my jacket pockets…let’s just say I was not a picture of psychological health. The wind also has a tendency to undo all of your hard work: once it hits an un-bagged pile, a big gust of wind can suddenly make your recently-cleared lawn once again look to be strewn with confetti, much like 34th street after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
And last but not least, don’t blow or rake leaves onto your neighbor’s property, even if these leaves are clearly coming from their trees … Or don’t do this in broad daylight, anyway.
Jocelyn Jane Cox is the author of “The Homeowner’ Guide to Greatness” and is also a writer for thehometome.com.