Sunday, November 21, 2010
It’s leaf gathering season on 21st Street. Every night, I eye the piles as I walk home and if there’s a new one, I’m out there with the equipment before dinner. Lucy loves it. She rushes down the street ahead of me and rolls around on the sidewalk, accosting everyone who walks by. I used to use a big blue tarp and drag it into the back yard, but wet leaves are HEAVY and Mark didn’t like helping that much. He was afraid someone would see him making off with their leaves. This year, I have a new piece of equipment; I stole a yard waste container from the rental down the street. They were not using it and drunk people were knocking it over every Thursday night – you cannot believe how loud an empty plastic container is until one is bowled over at 1 AM—so I snagged it. I was, after all, doing the landlord a favor at that moment by raking up his leaves, so I figured it was fair game. I’m sold on the thing. It has wheels and a lid. I can pack it full, haul it down to our yard, flip the lid over it, and leave it there until I have time to spread my harvest on a bed. Lovely. The leaves even start to compost in there, warm and cozy.
Harry uses 40 to 80 truckloads of leaves every year out at Sunbow. The city drops them off in the fall as they sweep the streets and they sit in huge piles for at least a year before he digs in. They are his prime mulch; we spent hours this summer weeding out the fields (no easy task) and then laying five gallon buckets of leaf mulch around the plants. One day, there were five of us working steadily. It was a lovely day—clear and warm, with a light breeze dancing the purple leek flowers and the ripening wheat stalks in the distance. We cleared out an entire field and laid down the deep brown leaf litter—green and brown in the sun, straight rows of beans and tomatoes. “Imagine,” I said, “What it would look like if we did this every day.” Harry nodded. “We used to,” he said. “There were a dozen people working here years ago, 16 hours some days. We raised a lot of food.”
I’ll be gathering leaves for a few more weeks. The willow and hazelnut on the back yard still have about half of theirs. The oaks across the street, with their beautiful warm and shiny browns, are still green. They’ll be laid on the front beds over Winter Break. Most of the veggie beds have at least one layer down, although the chickens have been tossing them out with wild abandon. The raspberries and blueberries are covered. The blue bed has some high piles and I’m waiting for a good frost to take out the mints before I lay down more. I still have the leaf hoop in the far back to fill and the compost pile can always absorb some more….It’s the last work of the season. Soon, the back yard will be resting, tucked under its winter blanket for a few months before the cycle begins again.