Yesterday was one of those bucolic autumn days, a bit like a hybrid of an episode of Martha Stewart Living and a J. Crew photo shoot. Pumpkins were carved and the seeds toasted, leaves were raked, and pie was baking inside the house. All that was missing was a brace of handsome purebred Labradors and several attractive friends tossin’ the ol’ pigskin around.
In reality, however, there were six pumpkins and two zuchinnis (‘Spoochinis’) that needed to be carved to the exacting specifications of a first grader: she drew upon them and I carved them, no adult embellishments allowed. Certainly, their loopy grins and misshapen visages are charming, but that’s just a lot of slimy gourds to hack up in short order (even with the assistance of a vast array of power tools, yeah!). My wife takes no shortcuts when forging a pie, and so the Meyer lemon meringue project that began just after breakfast was not available until almost 9:00 at night. This is not a complaint! Only an acknowledgement that the pie I could smell as I was raking, raking, RAKING, was sadly not waiting for me when I
finished raking gave up (when I did get the pie, it was awesome).
And truly, I did not ‘finish’ raking. Over the course of several hours I collected 7 densely-packed 32-gallon containers’ worth of leaves. I started out by blowing them away from the
house with my child-sized electric leaf blower, a fairly effective means of consolidating the massive load of wet and smother-y Bigleaf Maple leaves, and then began to rake them up with the assistance of my child-sized helper–who happens to be a child. A year ago I ignored the leaves until about January or so, and then they were collected in a day-long vigorous raking project that also gathered up deadfall sticks and branches and a great quantity of invasive weeds. Deadfall branches and weeds have given way to tender young plants and transplanted forest mosses; an indiscriminate and vigorous raking is out of the question (For me anyway. My daughter is a very vigorous raker, and a dozen or so moss pads made it into the leaf pile. This is sad, and I tried to show her how to rake a bit more gingerly and still support her urge to help–I don’t want to quell that. Eventually, she realized the need for fairy shelters for the oncoming winter and went into the construction business, and later into the house to toast pumpkin seeds). So the raking of the massive leaf drop is a dainty process performed with a small hand rake as I try from memory to avoid damaging valuable plant material. The couple hundred gallons of leaves I gathered diminished my surface volume by about 25%, and my surface coverage by about 5%–and the damn trees are only about 75% bare. For those doing math at home, out of 750,000 leaves on the ground, I picked up about 200,000 or so, but another 250,000 are poised to drop. I am still not even sure what to do with all of them, though their hydrophobic smother-y mat-ness will be welcome in a couple areas slated for future planting that currently are still host to weeds and grasses. The rest I intend to shred for beneficial leaf-mold-y mulch…but I am not sure I how I’m gonna do that, either.
And the toasted pumpkin seeds? After some hours of scrambling about on my hands and knees in my rain jacket-slash-mobile sweatlodge, a glass of icewater might have been preferable or at least a welcome accompaniment to my snack of warm and buttery toasted pumpkin seeds with a light sprinkling of lemon pepper and sea salt, to be sure. But when your six-year old says, “Mommy made them and I served them, so they have double love!”, you take the salty snack and eat it, no matter how parchy your throat. It’s what you DO. And I could taste the double love…but I can’t help but notice that I am not a hunter in a stubblefield, all puffy-vested and creased chinos with glossily-brushed spaniels at my feet.