Make Like a Tree

It’s after Thanksgiving now, which means it’s officially acceptable for me to upgrade autumn things for winter things, but it also means that I’m in that post-holiday turkey-induced slump where I don’t have much energy or motivation to trudge up to the attic and dig out the Christmas decorations, so I’m just going to write about it instead.

The autumn-to-winter swap is happening outside too. Some parts of the country have already had significant snows (not this part, though; we’ve just had a single flurry) and most of the trees are bare. I’m of the opinion that once the leaves fall, I’m ready for a continuous blanket of snow until spring. That doesn’t happen around here (and I’d probably feel differently if it did). Before the snow gets here, though, we need to do something about the leaves. Our city has a program where they hire a truck and a crew to go through the city and vacuum up leaves from residents’ yards with a big mulcher. When I first heard about it, I thought, “Hey, that’s kind of a cool idea!” Everyone just rakes or blows their leaves to a big pile by the curb in front of their house and the city takes care of the rest.

There are good things and bad things about this though. I like that it reduces the number of people stuffing biodegradable leaves into plastic garbage bags to take up space in the landfill, or burning them and filling the skies with that weird pungent stink. I like the implementation of public services in general. The city claims it’s to help stop the leaves from clogging up the storm drains, which is also good.

I also know there are lots of benefits to just letting leaves lie in your yard, mostly centered around the shelter that leaf litter provides for dormant pollinators and the beneficial nutrients released from the leaves’ decomposition. Our neighbors have a truly magnificent oak tree that shades most of our yard, though, and the people who say to just leave the leaves have clearly never seen the blanket of foliage and acorns that fall to our yard each year. To aid the decomposition of the leaves, I’ve found that mulching them and putting them on the flowerbeds is a nice compromise.

“What about letting the city clean them up? I thought you were excited about that!” you might be asking. I was excited about it for the first few years we lived here, but I’ve become rather jaded about the whole thing.

For starters, the city doesn’t dispatch the leaf crews until after Thanksgiving (presumably to give all the leaves plenty of opportunity to fall first), and they work their way through the various neighborhoods as weather permits. Our neighborhood is often among the very last to ever see a leaf crew, often as late as February. By then, the leaves are no longer neatly piled between the sidewalk and the street. Most of them have blown away, back into the yard, into the storm drains, and into our cars. Most have been waded through by dogs who use them as giant toilets, and jumped in by children, blissfully ignorant of the dogs’ doings. The leaves that haven’t blown away have become a sodden mess and smothered the grass we were hoping to save by cleaning up the leaves in the first place.

It’s also just a major pain hassle to get the leaves from the back yard around the deck, through the gate, and up to the front curb, and because there are so many leaves on our tiny lot, it’s impossible to confine them to just the space where the city wants them. The crews don’t go through the service alleys, only the main streets, and so moving the backyard leaves there won’t help anything and whatever leaves fall in the alley just stay there, even though they would almost certainly be easier for the crews to rake into their vacuum mulcher than the ones in yards.

Because the crews take so long, many residents grow tired of waiting and fall back on bagging leaves anyway. Some, instead, blow the leaves into the street (even though the city specifically asks us not to do this) where they are more likely to clog the storm drains that if they had been left alone. Others burn the leaves anyway in their impatience, unwittingly summoning the fire department to plead with them to put out the flames because it’s so windy here, and they know your neighbors might be a pain, but that’s not really a good enough reason to “accidentally” burn their house down.

It sounds like I totally hate the leaf pickup program and want it shut down, but that’s not true. I see how close it is to really working and want it to be better. I just wish they’d either hire more workers and vacuum trucks or (better yet) start earlier and make a couple passes as the leaves continue to fall.

Kalen is ready for the leaves to go too, but I don’t know how much he cares about the ones in the yard. His beef is with the decorative leaf garlands I have around the house. He’s a kind and patient man, slow to complain about anything, but when I put up the autumn decorations, he heaves a resigned sigh because the only place I can think to put these things is on decently large flat surfaces. He doesn’t mind the garland across the top of the hutch, or when I place one on the fireplace mantle. But inevitably I need decorations in other places and the garlands end up in front of the televisions where they block the remote control sensor (and the bottom of the screen).

Sorry, sweetie, I’ll take the leaves down soon. (And then I’ll replace them with green Christmas garland because it gives me all the same decorating problems!)

3 thoughts on “Make Like a Tree

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  1. This might be a good article to submit to your councilman/woman. There is humor, but there is also much substance that reveals a problem that is potentially solvable. I am sure you cannot be the only one feeling this way about the Joplin city leaf disposal program. Take some action to your words! Go, girl!

    And about that giant leaf in the picture….wouldn’t that make a lovely impression in concrete (or whatever medium those crafters use) for a yard decoration or bird bath/feeder! It is gorgeous!

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