I have owned two houses in my life and both have been in areas with lots and lots of big trees. Which I love. Until I am faced with that question that comes up every October – what do I do with all those leaves?
I love living around trees. Perhaps this is because I grew up in what I call a “cornfield addition”, a housing development that sprung up from what had previously been flat, cleared farmland. Each sun-blasted house was graced with one or two scrawny silver maple trees in the front yard, and there ya go, instant suburbia.
There were parts of my neighborhood which had been woods of some kind because some of those huge, majestic trees remained to shade the homes and provide some nature beyond the grass and dandelions that the rest of us had.
Where I grew up the idea was to rake what leaves you had out to the curb. Two or three times every fall big vacuum trucks would come along and suck them all up and take them – – – somewhere. Although a few folks burned them. After homesteading in Indianapolis I discovered that 1) most burning was outlawed and 2) there were no vacuum trucks.
So I did what my neighbors did, raked them up and stuffed them into plastic bags for pickup. When my lot measured only forty feet wide this was not a tremendous undertaking. When I moved to my current place with a lot that measures a bit under a half acre, it was a little more of one. Or a lot more of one.
I asked a friend who ran a landscape company what was my best option. “Get the biggest leaf blower you can afford” he said. So I did. I bought one of those backpack style blowers that made me feel like someone from Ghostbusters.
For several years I was fastidious about cleaning my lawn of tree cast-offs. A full day would be spent two or three times a season. Leaves would be blown into large piles, which would then be scooped into large plastic bags which were stacked at the curb. The one year I counted resulted in the tightly-packed filling of 110 of those big bags.
It was one of those jobs I really enjoyed – for about the first hour. After that it was a full-on chore that was the cost of living among the trees. And while I am certainly no member of Greenpeace, the idea of cramming naturally biodegradable leaves into non-biodegradable bags for disposal struck me as, well, not one of the best ideas ever.
I eventually found someone who would do the job for me, collecting them into a trailer and hauling them away. To somewhere that was not my yard. Then that person lost his dumping spot and suggested that he mulch them up with his mower. Which has been the plan ever since.
This year I have taken on that job again with great gusto (now that I have the equipment that makes the job reasonably easy). And so I have another appointment with my lawn this afternoon which will be spent mulching leaves.
Which brings me to the squirrels. I can’t figure them out. My walnut trees do their best to keep the squirrels happy and awash in food. So why are the squirrels not picking up all those nuts on the ground. Are they waiting for my mower to hack off the husks for them?
Or have they come to prefer the insulation material under the hood of my car (which has now been largely eaten away).
Squirrels have been my nemeses for awhile now. There was the time I thought there was something wrong with my car when the accelerator pedal would move only a little bit, just barely enough to drive in traffic. I took a look under the hood, expecting to find a broken linkage or such. Instead I found an engine in which every available crevice had been packed with walnuts. I could boast of the only Ford sedan with genuine walnut trim under the hood.
I felt like an evil robber as I removed every one of those walnuts and threw them into a trash can. That squirrel was a hard worker because he started to restock in the days afterwards. A restocking that proved as futile as the first because I plundered that one too. That was enough for him as the walnuts never reappeared. Did I put him on the squirrel-dole for the winter? Or is that not a thing?
I really don’t understand the missing insulation from my current car. I cannot imagine that it tastes very good, but then I have never tried Honda’s under-hood insulation. Perhaps it goes well with walnuts?
I had plenty of time to think about these things a few days ago as I fixed more of that squirrel damage. The windshield washers in my Honda had stopped working. I had assumed that I was out of the fluid. Until I bought a bottle and filled the reservoir. The little pump whirred and whirred, but there was no squirting.
“Maybe it’s the squirrels” offered Mrs. JPC. I will admit to some embarrassment that I did not think of it first, but she turned out to be exactly right. It seems that a little rubber hose must have been in the squirrel’s way because it had been chewed apart. Perhaps washer fluid is a great chaser for the insulation. Or maybe he made a luxury squirrel-condo with a squirrel shower.
Either way, it was one of those inexpensive ($5.14) but time-consuming jobs that involved removing a fender liner and re-plumbing the washer system. And sorry dude, but your nesting material is GONE.
There was a time when those squirrels would have been considered pretty good eatin’. Fun fact (which I just looked up) – did you know that the famous cookbook The Joy Of Cooking once contained illustrations on how to skin a squirrel before cooking it? I’ll bet Mrs. JPC won’t think of THAT first.
Photo of fallen leaves used per a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license and was found at https://torange.biz/fx/fallen-leaves-texture-179845
Because I was too busy to take a picture of my own leaves and all leaves covering the ground in the fall look alike.