I have been fighting a desperate battle the past three weeks. Unfortunately, I am losing — badly. Not to worry. This particular battle is not health-related. God and my doctors seem to have my health problems under control right now. No, I am fighting the battle of the autumn leaves, and I am losing ground every day.
Get the picture — as “The Legend” used to say. I live on a farm and our house is at the edge of an oak forest. In the part of the forest that we have claimed for our back yard there are 30 hardwood trees. There are literally hundreds back past our fence line and it is beautiful behind our house when the leaves begin to change. It’s not bad in the summer, either — or on those rare occasions when the woods fill up with snow and the whole world looks kind of Robert Frostish.
But this time of year — down come the leaves.
Honesty compels me to admit that there have been many winters when I didn’t particularly care if the leaves were raked up or not — because there was nothing under them except brown earth and moss. But a couple of years ago my lovely wife, Lisa, decided that we needed to grow grass in the back yard.
We thinned some trees and cut some branches and conferred with some horticulture experts and — miracle of miracles — after spending a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of energy, we have a green fescue lawn on our heavily wooded lot. Now, of course, we have to keep it that way and that means overplanting with rye grass so we will stay green all year and keeping the leaves off the grass so it won’t die.
You know, you can’t get the leaves to fall all at once. That would be way too simple and Mother Nature doesn’t do simple. Our leaves began falling, as I said, three weeks ago. I woke up one day and there was a thick brown, yellow, red and orange blanket covering our back deck and yard. There was not a blade of green grass to be seen.
There was nothing for me to do but get out the blower and the rake and put on my yard gloves and get to work. I spent most of the afternoon blowing and raking, and I burned so many leaves that I felt like Nancy Bogart’s neighbor. (Inside joke; don’t worry about it.) I went to bed that night feeling good about myself for doing such a good job. The next morning when I woke up two leaves had fallen for every one I had raked the day before. The next day, the collection on my deck and lawn had quadrupled — and not just leaves, but sticks and stems and limbs and acorns adorned my property, as far as I could see. They don’t call it the fall of the year for nothing.
And thus it has been. Just me and the leaves. All day, every day, for weeks now.
And you know that Murphy’s Law is in full effect during leaf season. I’ll get all set up and ready to work and the blower won’t crank — or it will run out of gas. I’ll go and get gasoline and then realize I don’t have any oil to mix with it. I’ll decide to just rake for a while and before you know it my blisters have blisters. Or the wind will decide to conspire against me and the leaves are blowing back up on the deck as fast as I can blow them off. Or I’ll get a huge pile ready to burn and can’t get a permit. Two hours later and half the pile is scattered across the lawn again.
Of course the trees are knee-deep to Jay Moody up against the house and it is almost impossible to get them all up. You use the blower and they just swirl around and light right back where they were. You use a rake and — well, you are using a rake, and that’s just too much like work.
Sometimes I wish I could just pave over the yard and paint it green. I have been doing this for weeks now and when I look up into the trees they still look 95 percent full. Yet another disadvantage of being a retired school teacher. When I was in the classroom I had kids fighting over who would come over and help me in the yard in the afternoon. Everybody needed Christmas money this time of year. You’d be amazed at what six teenagers with rakes can accomplish in a couple of hours.
Oh, well. It’s all part of living the American dream, I suppose. Besides, all the leaves and acorns don’t fall on the lawn. Some of them wind up in the gutters. You wouldn’t believe the crop of saplings I have growing in my gutters. I will make a fortune come harvest time.