Wanted Dead or Alive: Leaves

Well, I’m back after nearly two weeks traveling around Germany via plane, train, auto, bicycle and foot!  From train windows I saw the backyards of many Germans and their gardens full of vegetables, flowers, chickens, goats, and solar panels.  In the cities, flowers and plants on balconies and window sills.  Loved it loved it loved it!  I needed this trip to recharge my soul!

Before I left I created a flyer asking for leaves and left it at a number of houses on my block.  Yes, those red, yellow and brown things that either fall all too quickly or take their time hitting the ground.  My request was for “clean” leaves, from non-sprayed trees and no recently sprayed “Round-Up” anywhere, also without trash and dog poop. I even mentioned I would rake the leaves as well (one time only and in the front). Also, I didn’t want their plastic bags and mentioned that we need to reduce our use. Obvious to the least attentive observer, I placed too many conditions on my request for leaves because I only heard from one neighbor. I am trying to collect as many leaves as I can.  The leaves are going to be used in composting, mulching and garden prep. There is just one tree in my yard that drops leaves—the crab apple. Then again, my neighbor’s leaves mostly fall into my yard and what is a typically opposite reaction of most, they are welcomed! I’m sure several of the neighbors must think I’m nuts. The grass in my front yard has disappeared more and more each year and replaced by wildflowers. Now that’s changing with designs for an edible front yard. This will appear in bits and pieces as one can only do so much at a time.

Before I left on a two-week holiday to Germany I left a sign in my front yard that said “Leaves can be dropped here.” It obviously didn’t raise anyone’s curiosity because there weren’t any extra leaves in my front yard when I returned, except for what the wind blew from other yards.  But I did have a voice mail message from a neighbor three houses down and I stopped by earlier this evening. She has back problems and is unable to rake them so I will stop by tomorrow night and begin the task.  I’ve also decided my offer is now off the table for anyone else.

I have two fruit trees I planted earlier this year that need mulching, the existing garden, three new raised garlic beds, the front yard wildflower beds and shrubs.  Plus, I need a stockpile for composting this winter and through next summer. Even though there are many items from our trash that can and should be composted, leaves by far in my opinion make some of the best “browns” in the compost salad. It seems we have enough food waste (your green salad ingredients) at any given time but not enough browns or carbonaceous materials. Plus leaves are easier than shredding paper and cutting up cardboard for the pile. I do use a number of things from the trash for the compost pile, but I still like a lot of leaves!  I use cardboard for building new garden beds by layering the cardboard on the short-cut grass and placing raised boxes on top.  It’s easier than digging up the soil, and the cardboard will eventually decompose.

So after visiting the neighbor and scheduling some time to rake, I came up with another idea—ask my colleagues at work for their leaves! Off went an email and within five minutes I had several replies and then several more! Oh boy! And I say that with a little trepidation! Am I going to show up at work to a mountain of bagged leaves? Hopefully someone with a truck will help me get them home if that does actually happen! I also had to change my thinking and accept them in bags even though I am trying desperately to reduce my use of plastics! I know, I know, you wonder how I would get them home unbagged. Well, originally, I was just asking for neighbors’ leaves and they could rake them onto tarps or load in their 96-gal trash bins and just dump in my yard, but that didn’t work.  So I will accept the plastic bags and reuse them for something else.  What?  I don’t know yet.  It is very hard to remove plastics from your life!

I’m also going to bring home 3 more pallets from the office and build a third compost bin so I can have two good piles smoking and use the third to turn the other two.  There’s an area fenced in with chicken wire that will hold the stockpiled leaves!  Yep, right next to the area of the yard where I plan to raise chickens!  As the one neighbor said to me last night:  “I think you’re doing a great thing by collecting and reusing leaves and we don’t think you’re nuts!”  So there you go, hopefully a lot less leaves heading to the landfill and maybe next year my other neighbors will have changed their thinking and will build compost piles and use their own leaves. One can hope!

Hey!  Did you ever as a child collect leaves, iron them between wax paper and take them to school for show and tell?

4 Replies to “Wanted Dead or Alive: Leaves”

  1. Deb…oh how I wish I was your neighbor….with a grove of oak trees in the back yard….I dread leaf time every year! but you did get me thinking about building my own compost bin and putting those leaves to work for me. So I hope to do so and turn around my attitude! Great idea to use skids! awesome!

  2. Excellent post. And what a great neighbor, reassuring you that they don’t even think you’re nuts! Ha! Wait til everyone is doing it and they’ll be like, Oh ya my neighbor taught me that ages ago 😉 And yes – I did do the wax paper thing, and when my boys were young I loved getting them to rub a crayon over a leaf laying under the paper (Ok I might have loved that craft even more than they did). Cheers! Gina

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