The season is, upon us now, a time for rakes and draining.
Annual leaf harvest, Casa Del Sank-a-ray. This years harvest seemed to be not quite as bountiful as previous years. I’m not sure why, maybe the dry fall we’ve had as retarded some of the leafing stuff? Most years I have to do rake and collect Mother Natures fall gifts 4 or 5 times, filling bag after recyclable bag of leaves. In the past I’ve just tossed them over the fence, returned to them Mother.
Living in the woods as we do, it doesn’t take long in October to find the back yard, deck, flowerbeds etc under 18 to 24 inches of leaves. Makes quite a pile. When I had kids at home would were actually helpful in this regard we’d spend our October afternoon, bundled up, work gloves on, more to protect form the cold than to ward off blisters, and we’d all be out there raking, piling.. the old process was rake the leaves onto a giant blue tarp. Collect the tarps edges and then, like Hanukkah Harry in blue bag, deposit the leaves on the other side of our chain link fence, the deluxe one, black with the nice top and bottom rails. Problem with that plan, the leaves remained in plain sight all winter long. And frankly into the next spring and summer. Mrs S doesn’t like seeing 4’ of leaves piled on the fence.
And, neither do I, which is why I attack them with a blower. Not that it does much good, but it makes me feel better.
Regardless. There is a better way.
The new approved method for leaf gathering is the combine method, developed by me, with consultations from my oldest son and next door neighbor. Here it is. Pile the leaves on the lawn as needed, preferably on flat spots. I have a lawn with hills in the back and some of the hills frankly, too steep for the mower to get up. Safely anyway.
Pile the leaves then, remove the bag attachment from the mower, but leave the bagging assembly on it. Now, drive the mower over the leaves, over and over and over again. This looks exactly like a corn combine.. mower plowing along, a stream of chopped up leaves, sticks, random tennis ball and uh, and uh some canine organic material that I never pick up shooting out the side of it. After several laps the piles are reduced to rows of finely chopped organic material, Mother Natures Fertilizer which can be collected or simply left on the lawn awaiting Mother Natures other gift, the gift of that great equalizer that makes my crappy lawn look just as good the next doors finely manicured, bright green, weed free carpet of a lawn. SNOW
Ah, snow. Foot of snow and even Mrs S stops offering feedback on the lawn/dirt open space we call a back yard. Bring on the snow.
Two hiccups this year with the Neigborhood Coop Mower, remember thats the mower we all chipped in on to use? $700 a piece for the Mac Daddy, racer red mower. Here the first issue I experienced. Fire.
No shit. I’ve learned that we need to keep the pile of leaves down to about 6 inches to give the mower enough clearance to suck up the leaves. My first pass, however, the pile of leaves was about 3’ high. Rather than get up off the machine and pick up the Teen-Leafmover..aka rake I simply plowed through it. Fun, just missed the corgi, and may have put a dead possum through the mower.. but s’all good. Anyway after a couple runs through the pile I noticed a delightful fall smell from my past, the crisp smell of burning leaves. I even stopped to appreciate it, the olfactory sensation taking me back to the old mans 55 gallon drum where in the old days we burned leaves. And garbage, and plastic, and witches and what ever else he could find.
Mmmm wonder where that smokes coming from, I don’t think we’re allowed to burn leaves anymore in the new organic sustainable world. Seriously, where is that coming from.. I turned around to find it was coming from a series of small flames, tiny little flames mind you, glowing embers with lazy smoke wisps rising like some sort of incense for a middle aged guys memories. Except, it was coming from the leaves I’d just driven through. Apparently the leaves hitting the hot manifold on the mower, 2 feet off the ground, had ignited. And some were still burning. Some were actually still stuck to the manifold directly under my left foot, and they were still burning.
Little stomping and a squirt bottle and all was right again. Lesson learned.
Second lesson, one should measure the width of ones new mower before one takes it through a gate it’s never been through before. The idea that “old one fit through this” isn’t good enough. Oh and the mowing equivalent of the adage “when you’re in a hole, stop digging” is, when “When you’re stuck between fence posts, REVERSE”. Trying to horse it forward when the posts are metal and in cement isn’t a great idea. How embarrassing to have to find a neighbor or two to push on the front end to free the damned thing.
Another suggestion from my neighbor, try going through straight. Would’a made that way. Everyone has a great ideas.
Once the leaves were up, time to drain the pond for the winter. Back in May, when the pond was still fresh and full of promise, I deposited a bunch of goldfish in it to eat the mosquito larvae. They did this pretty well, not perfect, but good enough. The gold fish in turn attracted a snapping turtle to the pond, he lived in it for about 4 weeks or until there were no more goldfish. Where he went, I don’t know. More goldfish were added in early July and up to about Sept 30 they were living in the pond. They actually got pretty danged big in there.
Then the leaves came. I uh.. my pond filter, thanks to the constant rain of leaves and other organic material was getting clogged up about once a week. So about once a week I had to reach in, pull out the filter box, clean it out, and reassemble and put it back in the pond. I faithfully did this all the way through Sept 30 or maybe August 15, can’t remember when I lost interest. But the fish survived and all was well, except..
As the leaves really started piling up, the decomposition started and from what I can tell, the oxygen level of the water crashed and my fish, well they packed up and moved out. Or died and decomposed either way they were gone. Too bad too as I was starting to think about how I could overwinter them. I figured a 100 gallon tub in the basement with a $75 pond filter and assorted equipment would do the trick nicely. Mrs S reminded me, this was to support 8 fish that I’d paid 9 cents a piece for. The math was not in their favor.
Saturday I made an effort to determine if there were in fact any fish in the pond at all, looked long and hard and as best I could see in the tannin stained water, nada. But.. there was something else in there, something I’d never seen before. There were hundreds of odd white grub looking things each with a long hairlike tail about 2X their body length trailing behind them.
Looked like something out of X-Files. Brainworms perhaps? Alien life forms incubating in my pond? They were sentient, they were moving and wiggling. Showed the daughter, her response “disgusting”. Hmm. Calling one of G-d’s creations disgusting, they’ll be no blaspheming in my house.
But she was right, they are grody. I don’t like ticks either. I think ticks, in the creation process, were subcontracted out an Angel who was bitter about one thing or another, probably because the Big Guy said “absolutely not” to his vampire idea. Next best thing.
So what are these little zoological misfits in my pond? I’m happy to say that thanks to the internets, the Google and some smart key words on my part.. I can report that my pond was infested with , ready for this.. Rat-Tailed Maggots.
And now I have a new word in my lexicon. Let me use it in a sentence; you sir, are a rat- tailed maggot. Sounds great eh?
Good can always come from every situation. I’ve also got the name of my next rock band. The Rat Tailed Maggots, live a garage near you.