Autumn leaves, a less troublesome topic


The falling leaves drift by my window,
The falling leaves of red and gold.
Frank Sinatra (1954)

Now that the midterm elections are over, all those intrusive political ads of the past few months have settled down. Let’s move on to a less troublesome topic. Few subjects illustrate more neighborhood differences than the falling leaves. We have the rakers, the leaf blowers, the mulchers and the leave them aloners.

First off let’s all agree that the maples, the oaks and the chestnuts of Western New York are the best. They provide shade in the summer, helping keep our yards a bit more comfortable and making our homes easier to air condition during our warm, sunny days. They lose their leaves in fall, which allows the sun’s warming rays to shine through our windows, giving us the benefit of solar gain.

Donna and I used to watch a small boy and one day he was watching the city workers collect all the leaves on dump trucks and haul them away. He said that he couldn’t wait until spring when “the men” would come back to put all the leaves back on the trees.

It seems to me like the leaves came down all at once. One day they were green, then they turned various shades of red, orange and yellow. Overnight the trees are all nude, suddenly stripped of all their modesty, their naked branches exposed for all to see.  Those leaves are still around though, covering the driveway, the deck, the sidewalk, the porch, and, worst of all, the grass.

There are those who are unconcerned about the leaves like those who rent and those who are blessed with the patience to wait until all the leaves are down before dealing with them. But not everyone is like this. I had a neighbor who was rather fastidious about his yard and home. This is the neighbor that I used to watch every year taking off his gutters so he could repaint them, who would paint his sidewalk white every year. The neighbor who I used to watch trimming around his flower beds with a chrome plated, black handled pair of scissors. He would be out every two hours in the fall raking his leaves. I was surprised he wasn’t running around with a wicker basket to catch the leaves before they hit the ground.   

Here at the Rug household, we are of two minds. Donna likes to rake the leaves to the curb. I find that there are two problems with this. The first one is if there is a wind storm before the leaves get picked up, they all blow back into my yard. The second one is if there is a snow storm before the leaves get picked up, they all get thrown back into my yard by the snowplow. So the only thing that raking the leaves managed to do is give her some outdoor exercise. I like to run the leaves over with the lawn mower returning the nutrients to the soil. This eliminates both of these problems.

There’s a decision that you can make that will annoy everyone in your neighborhood. It is a gas or electric powered leaf blower. Even those of us who get up early can get fairly grumpy when my neighbor’s lawn service comes over, foisting their leaf-blowers, tranquility annihilating, roar on me just after dawn while blowing my neighbor’s leaves onto my property. Seriously? You have the whole day. Just do it later. Some blowers just move leaves from one place to another. You still have to get them to the curb or bag them up for collection.

While searching for the necessary rakes for my wife, the thought crosses my mind. Can’t the leaves just stay on the trees? Pine trees seem to have mastered this art. Are they smarter or more evolved than other trees?

But for now. Unless you’re obsessive-compulsive, it’s fine to spend your time doing something else. That’s because the grass is dormant right now and the leaves aren’t going to kill it. In fact, the leaves might just give the grass some protection during the snow and cold of the winter. They simply have to be off the grass by March, when it will start growing again.

If you have pine trees, you might just wonder how to get rid of the needles. Raking is the very best option and it’s also good exercise. Personally, I would leave them where they were. Turns out that the pine needles decompose slowly and are extremely useful in preventing vegetation from growing under the trees. They act as a natural mulch. If you must remove them you can put them on those places of your yard where you don’t want the grass to grow like around your flower beds.

But positively the best way to get rid of leaves from your yard is to hire some neighborhood kids to do it and pay them generously. Use your free time to take a walk in the woods, shuffling thru the layer of fallen leaves.

I miss the smell of burning leaves that used to permeate the air during my childhood during the fall and remember walking or dragging my feet thru a thick layer of fallen leaves. I also remember raking the leaves into a big pile and then jumping into them.

Norb is a writer from Western New York, You can follow him on his blog,


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