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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Leave the Leaves

Air Date: Week of

Host Steve Curwood decides to dispatch with the task of leaf raking this year... and enjoy the ecological benefits.


CURWOOD: Recently, I've noticed a more pronounced desire to stay in bed just a little later in the mornings, to get to bed a bit earlier in the evenings and crave that second helping at meal times. As winter approaches, I confess, I'm getting lazier.

Now, that wouldn't be so bad if I were a bear or other such hibernator. But as a 20th Century hominid, I'm expected to continue with my various chores, despite the dipping temperatures and longer hours of darkness each day.

So, you can imagine my delight when my sister-in-law Mikki suggested a way I could quickly and ecologically dispatch with the task of leaf raking this year. Now usually, I love to rake leaves. When I lived in a house with a small yard, I'd take a few minutes with a bamboo rake to pile up the leaves, and then feel deliciously paternal as my kids and their friends jumped in the big mounds and collapsed in laughter. And we'd all swoosh the leaves over to a composting corner by the back fence.

But last year I moved to a house bordered by a wonderful stand of huge old maple trees and a yard about the size of a soccer field of two. Raking by hand claimed too many weekends. So this year I was tempted to rent one of those noisy and polluting leaf-blowing machines, to make quick work of my chore and the mother of all compost piles.

But Mickie, who is a professional plant person, said, "Don't. Since you're talking about polluting anyway, just run the leaves over with your mulching lawnmower. You'll feed your lawn. You won't have to drag the leaves or compost anywhere, and it will take a lot less time."

"You're kidding," I said. "I'm not," said Mikki. "And, uh, this is okay for my lawn?" I asked skeptically. Mikki just gave me one of her looks. So, I tried it. I got some funny stares from a couple of passers-by, but more than one neighbor nodded knowingly. I got the feeling that a lot of you figured this one out a long time ago. And when I was done, the lawn looked just fine. The tiny bits of chopped-up leaves blended right into the green carpet with gold flecks that mirrored the fall colors. I did have to rake an especially heavy section to spread out the shreds. It's not perfect, but no bags, no piles, and no lost weekends.

I guess it's like so many things in life. What's best is what's simple, and what flows with the season. Hominid or not, when the days get shorter, the right flow is nice and lazy.



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