A week ago I set about gathering up my primary natural resource: the almost unbelievable
leaf drop from a whole bunch of very appropriately named Bigleaf Maples. Four hours of scrambling about on my hands and knees netted me a couple hundred gallons of leaves. This left me with the question of what to do with them, as well as with soreness about my muscle and bone parts and a nagging despair that I might not get the leaves collected before they smothered plants and mosses…or I might just be collecting leaves throughout the fall and winter to the exclusion of any other gardening activity. But this morning, the leaves are collected all the way to the forest margin, and consolidated into a tidy pile of about three and a half yards of shredly goodness. Projects I want to do, here I come!
How did I do it? With the help of my new, all-time greatest labor saving device, the Worx Tri-Vac, as seen on late night TV infomercials hosted by the little unshaven guy from Extreme Home Makeover. Be ye not fooled by the infomercial-y-ness, however. This is a serious tool that essentially vacuums up your yard into a little zippered shoulder bag, shredding as you go. It pretty much eliminated most of the steps in the raking, piling, and shredding process, leaving only re-distribution to the locations of my choosing. The machine is not perfect: without the luxury of dried leaves, as the manufacturer suggests, the impeller housing needs to be scraped clean of a cakey leaf loaf with each emptying of the bag, and because my leaves are damp (this IS the Pacific Northwest), the bag gets very heavy and wet…and the shoulder strap broke. Supporting the tool and the bag with one hand is signifcantly heavier than just waving the tool around. This isn’t a paid endorsement, so I won’t go into it any more, but even with the downsides it is a remarkable improvement over the alternatives, AND you kind of look like a Ghostbuster when you use it. Got a leaf problem? GET YOU ONE.
Three weeks ago, before my clearing was buried under two and a half feet of leaves, I
noticed my other new favorite thing: the also-appropriately named Orange Peel Fungus. It does look quite a bit like an orange peel, but I think it looks even more like a perfect orange begonia blossom fallen to earth, and when I discovered one growing near my patio I wished for many more of these ultra-vivid scenes growing throughout the property. I was ecstatic to find that under my giant load of leaf litter that the bright little ribbon-and vase-like organisms are EVERYWHERE. I have read that they are edible–but not precisely ‘tasty.’ Seems like every other mushroomy thing I have ever tried benefits wildly from the judicious application of white wine, butter, and garlic; but since Day-Glo orange strikes me as one of those colors Nature uses to say, “Don’t put me in your mouth!” I think I will just enjoy Orange Peel Fungus as a Looking At Plant.
But to see what I haven’t been able to see for the past several weeks means to also see what’s been hiding under all that leaf cover…and that is Mountain Beavers . They have taken several native rhododendrons down to barren sticks and also chewed the lower branches from a number of conifers as well. There is other damage, more extensive still, that cannot be attributed to sixteen-inch long woodland vermin. I will take that as a separate topic. For now, let us just call what I see annoying…or should I say, a-gnawing. Mountain Beavers. I Hate those things.