From bother to bounty

Of all the homeowner’s chores we have to deal with every year, raking up fallen leaves is probably the one we hate the most. It’s the chore we keep putting off long past the point of procrastination, because not only is it tedious, but there’s just so much of it, and we have so little free time. With one or two 50-year-old pinoak trees on each corner of the house, plus a dozen other mature trees… we have ourselves a lot of leaves.

They have their uses, for sure. The leaves in the play yard get dumped into a big holding cylinder next to our compost container, to get layered with our kitchen scraps for a good carbon/nitrogen balance. The leaves in the back yard get drug in giant tarploads to the swampy area of the garden and piled a foot deepĀ in order to gradually build up the soil. The rest of the leaves will become either mulch on veggie beds, or first chicken bedding and then fertilizer/compost.

The waterer is swathed in saran wrap and painted black for passive solar over the winter; the PVC structure is the hens’ jungle gym.

See, straw has gone up in price lately to about $7 a bale. It takes a full bale to cover the coop and run; so that means if I freshen the coop every week (I practice a deep-composting method in which you pile fresh bedding atop the old), I’ll end up spending $364 so the chickens can have nice clean feet. Of course it all becomes fertilizer/compost later, so it does earn back some of its price… but wouldn’t it be even better if it’d been free to begin with?

And the solution was lying all over my front yard, if only I had the time to gather them up and schlep them all down to the coop. It was time to call the neighbor and see if her son could come help.

Every neighborhood should have a guy like him. He’s an Eagle Scout, he’s a churchgoer, he’s only a sophomore and already touring colleges. He’s an honor student, an athlete, responsible and respectful and I wouldn’t be unhappy if he ended up being my future son-in-law. And since I’m not likely to raise me up one of my own, I have to settle for borrowing him for a few hours every now and then.

He got a little spending money; I got a presentable front yard again and a huge pile of potential savings in bedding and mulch. (I will try to shred it a bit first with my tiny leaf-sucker before using it as mulch. If it doesn’t work, oh well.)

Look how big that pile is even without the 3 tarploads we upended onto the raspberry bed and the 2 tarploads we emptied into the chicken coop. It’s so big it might start composting on its own. Bonus.

I love it when nuisances get taken care of in such a frugal, useful, and sustainable way.

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