The beauty of a New England autumn has a downside
First, there is autumn. Everyone loves autumn. People come to New England from all over the world to see our spectacular foliage in autumn.
Then there is the fall. The fall is autumn’s underbelly. The fall is when the colorful leaves we once exalted change into debris. There is nothing romantic about falling leaves, despite the stupid song.
The fall means hard work for homeowners. Although raking leaves is often portrayed as being fun, it is not. Raking leaves is drudgery. And when you get done with the drudgery, there is almost always an opportunity to do the drudgery all over again.
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.”
Joyce Kilmer wrote that line in his famous poem, “Trees.” Obviously, Kilmer didn’t do his own leaves.
The average mature tree — average mature tree being tricky to define — produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 leaves weighing in at roughly 60 pounds. (While this seems like a lot, who am I to argue with Google.)
Between myself (one) and my neighbor (four), we have five above-average trees dropping leaves on my side of the fence. Doing the math, this means I have to do battle every year with some 1 million leaves weighing 300 pounds.
You know, whether they be maples, or oaks, or birches, or whatever, trees have one thing in common this time of the year. They’re all !$#!!**s.
And don’t get me started on the one tree in everyone’s yard that doesn’t drop its leaves until the entire lawn has been raked. Although some people think I’m nuts, I have found the best way to prompt a reluctant tree to part with its leaves is to squint at it while holding a chain saw and saying something along the lines of, “Go ahead, make my day, punk.”
There are many different ways to deal with fallen leaves. The first and easiest approach is to cut your grass really short and wait for the wind to blow the leaves onto your neighbor’s lawn. There are two major drawbacks to this strategy.
First, it can spark an ugly neighborhood war.
Second, the wind doesn’t always blow in one direction.
The most common way to deal with leaves is to rake them yourself. Raking leaves can cause all types of ailments, including sore muscles, back problems, blisters and an inability to stay awake while engaging in other activities, including, ahem, you know what.
A popular option of the past was to hire a neighborhood kid to do the leaves. In many cases, this is no longer viable. In case you haven’t noticed, kids today are much more business savvy. The last time I tried to hire a kid he wanted me to sign a contract, provide medical benefits and contribute to his 401k.
In my mind, the perfect solution to fall leaf cleanup is the homeowner-friendly flame thrower, which I have advocated for in the past in regard to snow removal. With such a device I estimate I could rid my entire yard of dead leaves in about a half hour, providing, of course, none of the brush fires get out of control. The problem is all anyone sees when I mention this approach are the downsides. The reaction of town officials borders on hysterical.
Fire marshals can be such weenies.
Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @jimboshea.