My family lives in an area that is considered “semi-suburban”. When we look out off our deck we see the forest and mountains in the distance and it can feel like we are out in the middle of nowhere. We have enough privacy that laboring during my son’s birth on the deck all day seemed perfectly normal and private, but that’s another story for another day!
In fact, we often don’t see other people, except for a few cars driving down the dead end road. But on a beautiful day we hear the almost constant hum of leaf blowers. What is this? It was a strange sound to me when first moving here from the city as leaf blowing was hardly a thing in Maine when I was growing up. What happened to raking?
After having our back yard cleared of bramble and invasive plants and replanted we got an education in what this blowing is all about. We couldn’t resist the offer from the landscaper to sign up for weekly yard maintenance. And it is glorious. A team of people come and mow, weed wack and then clean it all up with their magical leaf blowers. But, now I’m part of the problem. But wow it’s nice to have this taken care of when you have small children and don’t want to spend hours mowing with your small but eco friendly electric mower.
We decided to forego the service as it moved into fall and the grass slowed it’s growing. But now the blowers are out in full force all around us. Echoing through the meadows, over hills and down streams. They are calling out the siren song of those who want every leaf removed from their lawns and from their property. Because leaves are bad? Or useless?
When I started my garden I found a big pile of decaying leaves beside the road on our lane and counted myself quite lucky to have found such good organic material to build my soil with! I mulch it with my mower and add it as part of my “lasagna gardening”. It’s great!
This year I took my crazy nature loving self a step further and asked the neighbor’s landscaper to blow all of the leaves they were clearing into the wooded area between my lawn and the road. My hope is that the extra organic material will act as a mulch to help to slow the growth of invasives plants in the area I cleared out there. I also love that the leaves will provide a home to lots of little creatures like caterpillars that will become butterflies in the spring!
I recently learned that worms aren’t actually native to the US and that prior to 1600 they wouldn’t have been found here. At that time the layer of leaf litter in the forests would have been about a foot deep as the other bugs that break it down work slower. The faster decomposition of ground covers, along with the destabilization of the natural ecosystem due to the presence of humans and overpopulations of some animals, such as deer, could definitely be a part of why so many of our forests are covered with invasive bushes and vines that are choking out the trees.
So, yeah, let’s keep trying to create closed systems in our yards and use the gifts that are right in front of us. Those leaves can be better used than just being sent “away” for composting. They also are just lovely dipped in beeswax and taped to the window, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.