Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Our Trees Leave!

Fall is a wonderful time!  I love it.  Allergies are little, the temperatures are moderate and cool, and with the season changing, the colors are a delight.  As the season comes to a close, those delightful colorful leaves turn brown and fall to the ground.  We have several mature trees surrounding our property.  Mature trees give a huge abundance of foliage.  Both in the air and on the ground... in Fall.

As our town has curbside leaf pick up, our seasonal cleanup is made much easier without having to bag our fallen leaves.  All we need to do is pile the leaves on the curb and each month the town comes by with a massive vacuum and sucks them up.

Last year, I spent each day after work raking, raking, raking.  The rake was small and splintered.  The handle had a split in it so each time I would pull on a large pile or hit a snag, the wooden handle would pinch my skin.  Raking a half acre was quite painful leaving my hands looking like I just tackled a chupacabra.  At that time, we did not have the tools we have today.

This will seem silly, but I figured I'd make a post about it since I have a bit of pride in accomplishing this task for the first time as a home owner.  So here we go.... the essential tools required for leaf removal from one's property:

No. 1:  A decent rake!  Yes, yes, a simple device, but a device that can cause a headache if undersized or in need of repair.  For less than $20, you can get a big-box store rake that's wide and perhaps of the unclogging type.

No. 2:  A big strong tarp.  The bigger the better.  The one I used cost me $25 from Ace Hardware and is 12' by 25'.  I had purchased a previous one from Walmart.  Was it cheaper, yes.  Was it worth it, no.  It was $12 and low quality.  As I hauled a pile of leaves with it, the handles broke off and yours truly received a swollen bum from the ground.

No. 3:  A leaf blower!  This can help save your back.  Constantly twisting with a rake can cause back pain and heaven forbid, pulling your back out.  The blower can move a large amount of leaves without placing as much strain on your back as raking.  I have an older one that my father-in-law handed down.  It's bulky and ironically contributed to me pulling my back out last month, but that's due to my own stupidity (don't be macho).  Gas modeled leaf blowers are typically a two cycle engine.  They require an additive of oil which you can actually buy at Walmart... go figure.  Always follow the directions.  Electric blowers are cheaper, lighter, but are less powerful.  Purchase (or borrow) one that suits your needs and budget.  Always wear ear and eye protection.  Gas powered blowers are loud and blow air at speeds equal to a Category 5 Hurricane (150 mph), throwing fine debris around.  Safety first.

Here's the routine.  Starting from your property's perimeter, blow the leaves towards the center making one pile.  If you have a huge amount of leaves, like I unfortunately have the "privilege" of having, make slightly smaller plies throughout the yard.  Work your way around the property making piles (or a pile, as the case may be).  Use the rake to get to the areas that trap leaves like shrubs and decorative grass.

With curb-side leaf pickup, all I need to do is pile up all the leaves long my curb and a vacuum truck comes by sucking them up.  Getting my mass of leaves to the curb is where the tarp comes into play.  I place the tarp next to a newly created pile and rake the leaves onto it.  I then simply drag the tarp to the curb, roll the tarp over upon itself pulling one side over the other and walla!  A mountain of leaves on the curb.

A note regarding leaf blowers.  You can go crazy with them.  There are handheld units in both electric and gas, back pack units and walk-behinds.  Likewise, there are inexpensive and expensive units.  

In the future, I hope to be able to make a mulch pile in the back yard.  With grass clippings and dead leaves, I would have a very fruitful smelly pile of mulch for a future garden that my wife and I are trying to figure out.