Sunday, November 8, 2009

AHHH-H-H-H…LEAVES!

Leaves!
I'll probably be seeing them in my sleep for the next week. Why? Because I spent most of yesterday raking leaves and piling them into waist-high rows. Then I loaded those leaf-mountains—one wheelbarrow-size portion at a time—and trucked them around the cottage to my make-shift compost dump, which is really just a narrow space between the base of the hill below the road and several piles of topsoil I had dropped off to use for landscaping. There, the leaves can spend the next few months breaking down without the wind blowing them around or me looking at them—and next spring I'll add them to the dirt and use the enriched mixture when planting or for top-dressing.
About midday, when I had the rows raked but before I'd begun the wheelbarrowing, I took a short break. From the perspective of the deck rocker, where I sat sipping from a bottle of water after washing down a couple of Tylenol for my aching back, I decided the long leaf piles resembled a range of small mountains—possibly the Big Snowbirds down in North Carolina, or the Cumberlands in eastern Kentucky.
Leaves!
There's no shortage of leaves to deal with or not, as you wish, when you have almost an acre of ground that's mostly in trees—and big trees, at that. Trees in the 50–100 foot high range. Sycamore and hackberry, box elder, basswood, walnut, elm, to name a few. The largest sycamore is easily five feet in diameter; a big tree that produces big leaves and lots of 'em.
I've never worn out a rake…but it might happen here, providing I don't wear out first.
When the pain meds kicked in, I ended my break and began moving the mountainous leaf piles around to the composting cul-de-sac. We're talking maybe 50 wheelbarrow-loads here…and when I finally called it a day around 4:30 p.m., the hauling part of the job was only half done. Today's work is visible through my window even as I write.
However, that's not the whole story. The way the cottage is situated, the 300-foot stretch of river just beyond my great-room windows is what I consider my front yard. No leaves to rake and haul there! To the rear of the cottage is a parking area, and the drive leading down from the road. This steep, 50-x-300 foot section of hillside, between the road above and the level land where the cottage sits, is covered with trees and various bushes. I never do anything with all those leaves, preferring the au naturale shaggy, woodsy look.
But…and this is the the kicker…the cottage sits about midway on the bank-frontage portion of the property. Therefore, I have both an upstream and downstream side-yard. Yesterday, I worked in the lower side-yard only. I've not even begun to rake or pile, let alone haul, leaves from the other yard! And probably won't get around to that one until later in the week—providing the weather holds.
Leaves!
So common and unobtrusive we take them for granted. They seem so simple. Yet mankind has never managed anything half so marvelous. Through the process of photosynthesis, using the chlorophyll that gives a leaf its green color, a leaf converts sunlight into energy, adds water and carbon dioxide, and forms the various sugars and starches which feed the plant. As a byproduct of this magical manufacturing, the leaf exhales water vapor and oxygen. How cool is that!
At summer's end, with reproduction duties and growth over for the year, a plant begins storing it's energy reserves in the lower stem and roots, preparing for that long winter's nap. Days shorten; sunlight wanes. Chlorophyll regeneration slows, then halts. No more green. The leaf changes color—or rather, it reveals its true colors—the carotenoids and anthocyains which color leaves in scarlet and burgundy, crimson and rosé, orange, yellow, gold, lemon, russet, tan, bronze, amethyst, and dozens of shades in-between. That breathtaking autumnal patchwork we oooh and ahhh over come fall. One final show, just for us, courtesy of that lovely little leaf. How many manmade factories look that good after they've shut down production?
Of course, not all leaves turn color and fall off in autumn; many, such as holly, periwinkle, mountain laurel, stay green all year.
Then there are trees which seem to drop their leaves reluctantly—oaks being high on this stubborn-minded list. Even in the midst of February's whipping winter winds, you can usually find an old oak still hanging onto many of its leaves, though they're by then looking an ugly brown and decidedly tattered.
My big elm kept most of its bright yellow leaves until last Wednesday, when for whatever, it decided to drop them over a matter of hours—a gold cascade that I found both thrilling and sad. But my weeping willow hasn't yet taken that final step—in fact, its narrow leaves are still more green than yellow. They looked so marvelous against yesterday's blue sky that theirs was the only portrait I made.
An artistic moment between bouts of landscaping labor. Rake, rake, pile, load, haul, dump, rake some more. As I said, I'll likely being seeing leaves in my sleep for the next week.
Ahhh-h-h-h…leaves!

24 comments:

Jayne said...

I honestly can't think of many things I hate more than raking, and raking, and then raking again. Ugh. I feel your pain, and will try to appreciate the beauty as well as the pain relievers kick in. ;c)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Your artistic moment at the end, Scribe has produced quite a lively little poem. Leaves - what would we do without them on the ground in Autumn = I expect we would miss them terribly. Round here some people leave them for Boreas (the North wind) to sweep up.

Jenn Jilks said...

I have been enjoying the leaves! I do not rake them anymore. The clover seems to like it. My neighbour keeps surreptitiously dumping them in the swamp we share. When she thought I spotted her coming, she hid behind a tree.

I loathe that she fills the swamp, for the water feeds the frog pond.

But I am helpless. I leave the leaves lie where they lay.
They make a nice path. I love the sound when I walk.
No grass to mow. Only crunchy pine needles and leaves.

Happy trails. Keep those drugs coming!

Bernie said...

Hi Grizz, blogger has been giving me a hard time lately and I was unable to open your blog...glad I got through today. I immediately thought of your back when I saw your title....hope it is okay today. Leaves can be a burden but then when used as compost it makes it all worth while....hope today's weather allows you to continue on preparing for winter...:-) Hugs

Carolyn H said...

Griz: i'm sorry for your raking. I don't do any of that here at my cabin. I will likely, eventually, broom them off the back deck. Maybe. If I feel like it.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Actually, I don't mind raking. I'm really whining more than complaining…understand? I can whine with the best of 'em. (And yes, I'll take a wedge of cheese with that whine. Plus I like violin music. Whine whine whine.)

Back injuries and their subsequent problems make a lot of things I do painful to near-impossible. Some days and some tasks are worse than others, of course. Usually if I can sit occasionally, pop a pill, the pain subsides to a tolerable level. No big deal in the scheme of things. I eventually get whatever done. I may pay for it the following day—or for a week or two after—but I do it anyway. Never let life get you down!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

If it weren't for leaves recycling all that carbon dioxide back to something breathable, I'm not sure what any of us would do.

From space, the earth is a beautiful blue-green sphere…the blue of oceans, the green of plants. Chlorophyll green. Leaf green. Unimaginable as our home world without that life-giving green.

Boreas would get my leaves, too, if I didn't get them first.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I could simply rake my leaves over the bank and the first high water would carry them away…and I don't think anyone would mind, nor would I feel the least bit guilty. Or I could just go over them a time or two with the mower. But I want my leaves, broken down, crunched up, mixed with loam, to enrich my flowers. Wast not, want not. If I had a big garden, I'd been trying to have more leaves dumped here.

I like crunching through them, too; and Moon the dog loves wallowing in them.

And yup, thank God for drugs!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Don't let bits and bytes get the best of you…or the Internet or Blogger. You have to show 'em who's boss.

It's gray and cooler here today. A good day for raking except I'm mostly in recovery mode. Not much work getting accomplished.

And you're right—leaves as soil-builders are worthwhile. That's why I'm loath to let them go to waste.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

I like the idea of the wind tossing them up and away like 'The Weaver of Grass' mentioned. :-) I was exhausted just by reading about your days work and more to come.!!!

I would REALLY like to see some pictures of your cottage and how it "sits" above the river. And I would like to see what your 'Great-room' looks like too. I believe I asked once before but whose counting?? :-) heehee

Love you big guy
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

I swept my decks and the steps leading down to the water's edge. I'd imagine you can turn up a truckload of leaves whenever you wish. Plus you don't have grass—right?

I have a lot of big sycamores, which drop a huge amount of large, leathery leaves the size of dinner plates. They are like laying a carpet atop the grass—and would do the lawn no good if I allowed them to remain over the winter. They might even kill the grass off. Plus I want to use the leaves and their organic material. So rather than simply raking them into the stream or mowing them in place—either of which would suffice—I rake, haul, and feel rather smug for having done so—though I whine about the process to anyone who'll listen.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Now you really must remember that Weaver lives on a farm…with, as she refers to him, "the Farmer."

Farms with cattle and sheep and the like have lots of ready-made organic materials, often wonderfully enriched and practically crying out to be stirred into the soil of your flower beds. Moreover, in Weaver's case, they come with a rather accommodating Farmer to do the collecting, mixing, and possibly the spreading. You just can't beat a deal like that—so it's no wonder she likes to whistle up that ol' North Winds and allow him to solve her leaf issue.

I, by contrast, have no farm. No herbivores to assist in the conversion of organic materials into useful natural fertilizer. So my leaf issue is thus labor intensive. Hard work, painful, character building. (I made up that last virtue.)

Sooner or later (yes, an expression of the positively indefinite) you'll have a picture of each. And I'm not counting, either. :-)

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I can see nothing but leaves too! We've all been engaged in the collection of them - oh and what bliss! (I do get neck-ache, but nothing a little aniseed liqueur doesn't deal with!)

I love the smell of the leaves, the sight of them, the sound of crunching and rustling, and the movement as the wind swirls them round. Oh Autumn!

TheChicGeek said...

Whew, Scribe...I'm all pooped out with all that leave raking...LOL
You surely have your work cut out for you! The toils of living in paradise...ahhh :)

I appreciate the science lesson too. It's always good to stretch my...ahem...aging brain...LOL

Today I shall send you a back massage for your aching back :) Rest up...there's always more tomorrow....Ahhhhhhhhhh...LEAVES! LOL
Kelly :)

PS: Even when you're miserable you make me laugh. Thanks for that! Oh, and PSS: my sister is doing so much better! Prayers answered! She will be going home next week :)
Hugs :)

Wanda said...

I'm sorry that I can't feel sorry for you, because similar things are going on here too...rake, rake, rake. We had a mountain range in the yard too for a few days. A little of everything goes on here. Some get mulched by the mower, some go to compost pile, some get dumped on the garden and some get raked over the hill. I keep telling myself, it's exercise and it will keep us young. Right?

Rowan said...

Raking leaves is really hard work, I'm afraid I pay someone else to do it for me! The bounty is stored in a couple of chicken wire cages at the bottom of the garden and gradually turns to rich black leafmould. Most of them are down now but like you I have an oak that is holding grimly on to its leaves and a willow which is still entirely green and also a magnolia which is another tree which keeps its leathery leaves as long as it can. You are so right about leaves - they are truly wonderful things. Don't overdo things with that back of yours though!

Grace said...

I don't believe I've ever had the image of leaves burned into my retinas so that I still see them with my eyes close, but I know what you mean, it happens to me with my blueberry bushes after pruning.

I hope you're taking a well deserved break.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

No aniseed liqueur here, drat it! But plenty of acetaminophen.

I love leaves in every way, too.

I don't suppose anyone does such simple, wonderful things any more…but when I was growing up, every fall my parents would taken me to the hills and we'd all roll down a few steep, leaf-covered hillsides. My late, best friend, Frank, a minister, writer, and fellow fisherman, used to take all the young people of his churches (wherever he was pastoring at the time) on "leaf roll" outings, which became the highlight of autumn—and was often crashed by parents who weren't going to allow their kids to have all the fun.

And it was fun—rolling down a slope covered in a thick, noisy, fragrant knee-deep carpet of new-fallen leaves. Yeah, I love leaves!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly, aka ChicGeek…

There is no "free lunch" even in paradise. Shade in the summer means leaves in the autumn. To rake or not rake is the question, and choice.

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do…
—————
That is really wonderful, wonderful news about your sister. I'm happy and thankful for you and everyone. Prayers do get answered every day. I'm so glad she's doing better and will be coming home. Thank God!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Takes one to know one…right?

I bet about next week we leaf rakers will be able to recognize one another in public by the way we gimp and stoop and groan across the parking lots, then cling desperately to the push carts once we limp our way into the store. I'll be that hunched, grimacing guy in the drug department trying to reach the pain meds and liniment on the top shelf without moving my aching arms and stiff shoulders. We won't shake hands…it'd hurt too much.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I believe you have the perfect solution—let someone else do the work. Pay them for their labors. Take great pleasure in your contribution to the economy.

Unfortunately, I was born with that stubborn (possibly stupid) Irish streak which thinks there is virtue and pleasure—in a masochistic sort of way—from doing such tasks yourself, when common sense and a body in near ruin from age and abuse, screams otherwise.

Plus I'm too cheap to pay. Scotch-Irish.

Perhaps I'm like those oaks…hanging onto my leaves when my neighbor beeches and maples have faced the fact that winter is a'comin'.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Grace…

Pain and repetition are two key tools for remembering (and hence dreaming about) certain tasks. Just ask any football coach. I've never pruned blueberry bushes. But the principal is the same—for humans, football players, and mules. (There may be a message in there somewhere.)

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Oh Grizzled - what a wonderful idea! You've just given us giraffes a new pastime: leaf-rolling! Here in Knollshire there are plenty of steep slopes ... Giraffitude! I'm off to tell the others ....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

Mind the necks…but have fun. I assure you, it's right up there with sledding, except no worry of frostbite.(You will have to shake the crumbles out afterwards, though.)

One good leaf roll and you'll eagerly look forward to every autumn thereafter.