Homeowner girds for battle with the leafy foe

November 22, 1997|By Rob Kasper

LIKE MANY A soldier in the army of leaf rakers, I have been held in check by the recent stretch of bad weekend weather. But today I plan to strike back. Today I am going to get out in the yard and rake the leaves. Maybe, if it doesn't rain.

The past few weekends have been difficult times for those who battle fallen foliage. Trapped inside our houses, we have stood at back doors, our leaf-battling equipment in hand, and watched the rain soak the piles of leaves filling our yards. "Just give us one good day," we have shouted at the skies, "and we'll wipe the leaves out."

Instead of heeding our pleas, the heavens have dumped on us. One weekend, the rain came down so hard that some of us considered putting down our rakes, taking up hammers and building arks. Last weekend, the skies started spitting snow. Meanwhile, the wind turned cold and howling.

In the vicissitudes of leaf combat, a howling wind can be a plus. It all depends on whose leaves are geting howled at. If, for example, a wind pushes your leaves into a neighbor's yard, then you are pleased by Mother Nature's noisy behavior. However, if the howling wind dumps thy neighbor's leaves upon thy patio, then you're steamed.

Any backyard combatant who has ever seen a leaf skitter into his neighbor's yard has been tempted to form an alliance with the wind. Leaf blowers are good examples of guys using man-made wind to attack leaves. Recently, on a rare morning when it wasn't raining, I watched two workmen use blowers to move leaves off a roadway and into a nearby ditch.

It was an impressive display, a blitzkrieg of leaf warfare. If the leaves had been allowed to remain on the roadway, they could have become matted and formed a slick spot on the road. Thanks to the leaf blowers, a potential menace to transportation had been sent flying.

Witnessing this skirmish sent shivers down my spine. I couldn't wait to get into battle with the leaves occupying my back yard. Luckily for the leaves, I had to go to the office.

Later, however, when I mentally replayed the leaf-blower incident, I began to question the strategy of urging the leaves to move along. Couldn't another wind lift the leaves from the ditch and drop them back on the roadway? It seemed to me that the best way to deal with potentially recidivistic leaves was to apprehend them.

When it comes to methods of leaf apprehension, I favor using the rake. I know there are more modern methods. In addition to the blowers, I know there are power lawn mowers that can suck up leaves and, depending on the number of blades in the mower, spit out the leaves in either chopped or pulverized forms. One blade gives you chopped, two blades give you pulverized.

I have battled foliage with such mowers, and I must say that they are impressive pieces of machinery. But they do their best work when the sun shines. When it rains, and the leaves get wet, the machines can get clogged. Rakes, on the other hand, work in almost any kind of weather. That, and the fact that my leaf battlefield is a small back yard, is why I stick with the rake.

It won't be easy raking leaves today. The leaves that are out there aren't easy pickings. They aren't the lightweights that jump in the air when you wave a rake at them. These are big, heavy, wet leaves. These leaves have hunkered down and they are daring me to try to move them off my turf.

I will. And then I will stuff them in bags. Next comes the tricky part: abiding by the rules of urban leaf-pickup etiquette. If you abide by the rules, your bags are hauled away by men in trucks. If not, your improperly bagged leaves can sit in the alley for weeks. Passers-by see them and "tsk" their disapproval.

I think this year's rules in my city neighborhood are that leaf bags should be made of brown paper, should be placed out in the alley on Thursdays -- but not on Thanksgiving -- and should be facing the rising sun. Or maybe it is the setting sun, and bags are supposed to be black plastic.

I'll worry about the bag rules later. Today, if the sun is shining, I just want a rake and some room to work.

Pub Date: 11/22/97

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