Jessie Raymond: Lazy raking leaves leaves behind
I had a great idea: This fall, instead of letting the guys who mow our lawn mulch the leaves with their mowers, I’d rake the yard myself and add the leaves to our manure pile.
My goal was to improve our compost’s green-brown balance (I’m not even sure what that is, but as a gardener I am contractually required to be passionate about it). And, after having spent so much time working in the garden this summer, I felt compelled to still be outside doing something to generate blisters.
Raking is perfect for that.
Though I have a long-standing tradition of staying inside between November and April, last weekend when the sun came out and the temps hit 70, I knew I had to put down my knitting and head out the door.
My plan was to rake a pile of leaves onto a tarp and then drag the tarp to the manure pile, as many times as it took. A gusty breeze, however, complicated the process. For a while I considered just flinging the leaves skyward and letting the wind redeposit them on my neighbor’s lawn. But why should she get all that future compost?
Every time I arranged the tarp on the ground, the wind would carry it off and I’d have to chase it down. I had some success securing one corner with my left foot and another with my right hand, and so on; it was like I was playing the world’s saddest game of Twister.
I cursed myself for getting rid of all of our old anvils, which I could have used as corner weights. (In my defense, the anvils did not spark joy.) At one point, I found if I lay prone and starfished on the tarp, I could sort of reach out with the rake and drag a few leaves toward me. I spent a few minutes this way, groaning and stretching, but I gave it up when a passing cyclist offered to call 911.
Eventually, I figured out that if I waited for a lull in the wind, I could release my grip on the tarp and quickly load enough leaves onto it to hold it down.
Waiting for the rare lull was the hard part; the raking itself was fast. Once I got the tarp subdued, it took less than a minute to mound it over with leaves. But even after dozens of trips to the compost pile, the lawn didn’t look much less leafy. Mother Nature can be a real wench.
A little number crunching, based on the dimensions of our yard, the estimated days before a significant snowfall, the thickness of the leaf layer and — the most important factor — x (my attention span), revealed that it was mathematically impossible for me to finish the job before winter.
“Why not ask Mark to help?” you might say.
Because then it would take twice as long.
Whoever said that many hands make light work never worked with a perfectionist; Mark doesn’t do things halfway. While neither of us feels strongly about the yard looking well-tended, he treats raking like any other task: If he’s going to do it, he must do it perfectly.
I, on the other hand, earned the nickname “Three Quarters” from my brother-in-law, who noticed that, while I am always busy with one project or another, I rarely see things through to the end. And I certainly did not intend to turn over a new leaf, as it were, raking the lawn.
Mark would want to start at the far end of the yard and systematically amass long, straight rows of leaves that we would rake into equidistant piles, dragging them away only after checking them for symmetry. He’d then go back over the whole yard, re-raking the areas I had already done, until not a single leaf remained on the property.
Unlike him, I am not insane.
Alone, I’ve been jumping around to whichever parts of the yard have the most leaves. If I can clear out the deepest areas under the trees, what does it matter if I never get to the wide-open spaces?
Yard-proud homeowners shudder reading stuff like this. They wonder how I can sleep at night knowing that leaves are scattered unevenly across my yard and that some of them will no doubt lie there all winter.
It’s easy: I just don’t care.
The point is that next spring, I’ll be rewarded with a rich, well-balanced compost pile. Or three quarters of one, anyway, and that’s good enough for me.
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