Leaves. Leaves, leaves and more leaves. Holy cow for leaves. I feel like I never noticed them before… sure I’ve noticed the pretty colors in the fall, I hear about people going on “leaf watching” trips, I usually feel a little sad when they are all gone from the trees… but leaves that need raked & bagged? Nope, not in my normal routine.
Cory and I have lived on an acreage for 20 years as of last May. For 20 years I’ve never had to deal with leaves. For 3 years before we bought our acreage we lived in a little rental house in Roland but I’m convinced we were too young and too naive to even notice we had leaves.
Some of you may have seen my Facebook post last week when I was cleaning up the leaves at our Clear Lake property. It was unreal. How can one, just one, pretty tree drop so many friggin’ leaves?!? Lucky for me (ha!) the wind had piled most of the leaves in 2 spots, up against our garage and in the walk way between the neighbors’ house and ours. In most areas they were 2-3 feet deep!
I’m quickly learning this a yearly task that I’m going to need to add to my fall to do list and it’s a task many, many people face every year. So here’s what I learned & some helpful tips.
#1 Make a plan for your leaves. If you’re really lucky you have a bagger on your mower & you can skip the rest of my steps completely! But if you don’t keep in mind that some towns allow you to burn leaves, others don’t. Some allow burning during certain times of the year. Some towns have yard waste pickup (make sure you know the rules & have the right bags, etc). Some towns have a yard waste site where you can take your leaves. Here’s a few links below to different towns’ rules on leaves, sorry I haven’t included every town but you can call your city hall or look up the city’s ordinances online. My plan was to bag our leaves & leave them on the curb on a Monday for curbside pickup as Clear Lake offers this service.
Here’s a handy site that seems to have links to all the towns… Iowa Municipal Codes.
#2 Get your tools organized. Like I said, this whole leaf thing was new to me. In my newbieness glory and excitement I bought a big rake and 3 of the “leaf bags” I kept seeing in all the hardware stores. This was going to be a fun adventure! As soon as I arrived at the house I knew I was in over my head. I’m not real good at math but even I could compute the fact that all of those leaves = way more than 3 bags but I started to work anyway. I quickly realized my huge rake was worthless for the leaves already piled up on the concrete driveway and way too big & awkward to use as a scoop. Several trial & error sessions later I found that a simple broom and dust pan worked great. More on my technique later…
#3 Buy quality equipment. I’ll admit at times I can be a real cheapskate. Why spend money on something just to throw it away? Why buy something different/new when we have one that works already? Well, let me tell you… cheap leaf bags and a not-so-good leaf blower… that’s why. As soon as I announced I was heading up to the house to “do leaves” Cory said, “go buy a good leaf blower.” No, no… we have one & it works fine I said and off I went. That didn’t last long. Within the first hour my $.19 cent leaf bags I bought on clearance were in the trash because they’d torn easily and wouldn’t stand up, I’d worn out 3 batteries on our cordless leaf blower and I was on my way to the local Ace Hardware Store for new bags & a better blower. I know it’s overkill but I bought and highly recommend a really good leaf blower … the Stihl Kombi KM 111. The main motor unit can handle a bunch of other attachments too. And let’s just say it’s the bomb!!
#4 Have some entertainment. It took me two days at about 4 1/2 hours each day to get all of our leaves rounded up. The first day I had a lot on my mind and it was very therapeutic to be in my own head but by the 2nd day… I needed something to occupy my mind! Grab some headphones and fire up some music, a true crime podcast (I can suggest several!) or your latest audio book and get get to work.
#5 Get your technique down. I mentioned earlier I ended up using a regular broom and a normal/large dust pan. Now our leaves were pretty dry and there was not much wind the two days that I worked on leaves. I was also working on a concrete surface, not dirt. My first suggestion is to stomp on the leaves. Yep, stomp. I’m not sure that this is actually necessary but it made me feel a lot better. Hearing the crunching and seeing the leaf pile get smaller (read more condensed, not as high) was well worth the extra effort. I also felt like I was getting a little bit of physical work out in too. Then I used the broom/dust pan combination to get a big scoop of leaves & drop in the large, heavy duty leaf bags (don’t be cheap, buy the good ones the first time). Next step… this is important… use your broom to tamp down the leaves in the bag after each scoop. I didn’t do that on the first bag and it’s amazing how much more I could get into a bag when I pushed the leaves down inside the bag.
#6 Be a good neighbor. The picture below is the walkway between our house and our neighbor to the south. Technically it’s not our property, it’s theirs. But technically it’s our tree that dumped all those leaves! I had some time on my hands so I did the good neighbor thing and rounded up 90% of the leaves that were in that walkway. Only 90% because I ran out of daylight and I got really cold! I’m not saying you have to always do your neighbors leaves but be kind, don’t blow your leaves into their yard or driveway, go a little further than have to… just be nice. Four different people/couples from our little street stopped for a quick chat while I was working, every one of them thanked me for bagging the leaves and every one of them mentioned that the previous owner hadn’t done anything with the leaves and they usually blew into everyone else’s yards.
All in all, it was a great experience. I have the right tools to jump right in next year. I spent 9 hours in the great outdoors during some of the best fall weather we’ve had in years. I got a little bit of bonus physical activity. I met 4 really nice people/couples from our neighborhood. I’m completely caught up on all of my podcasts.
And I have 13 big bags of leaves!!