That enormous ‘thud’ you heard about three weeks ago was all of my Acer macrophyllum leaves falling to earth all at once. I don’t believe in the Butterfly Effect, so I feel confident the air displaced by the falling leaves did not circumnavigate the globe and cause Hurricane Sandy, but the impact concussion was so great I cannot say the same for the 7.7 – magnitude earthquake that rocked the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia on October 27, right on the same fault line as the Pacific Norwestern U.S., where I live.
My friend Elaine recently spoke of Bigleaf Maple, with a mild allusion to their potential annoyingness. Paghat, whose site is an amazing compendium of seemingly all things vegetative, strikes a more elegiac tone for the tree. Personally, I think that anyone who says anything good about Bigleaf Maple doesn’t have one growing in their yard. The twenty or thirty I have in the deep woods don’t bother me, but I have eleven of them, pretty much at each point of the clock face, ringed around my home and clearing. The only place I don’t have one is dead center in my driveway, and I solve that shortcoming by having a very large specimen right across the street. I don’t speak of them in warm sepia tones or subtly hint at their makework-making. I hate the #@&* things.
As my clearing and most of the space around my home are planted with tender forest
mosses and many, many young plants, I can neither allow the leaves to sit in place and rot away over the two years it takes for them to decay (because they will smother anything beneath them, and form a multilatyered, overlapping hydrophobic mat, and by the time they decay they will already be covered with another season’s layer of leaves. I know this from close observation of the areas where I do not collect them), nor can I just rake them up (because I’d rake everything up underneath them). I vacuum them up with my sucker/shredder, which is good for the plants underneath, and leaves me with nicely shredded mulchey leaves to use as soil amendments.
It also took me a total of 43 HOURS to completely collect all the baseball-mitt-sized leaves from the time of the first significant drop until all the trees were bare. I now have about ten cubic yards of shredded leaves–think: mid-sized four-door sedan–and well more than I have use for. That is a lot of leaves, a lot of time spent razzinfrickenrizzenracken’ while I bloody my knuckles clearing clogs in the impeller, and an extremely sore leaf sucker/shredder arm–even my Popeye-like forearms wilt under the strain of a 12 pound tool and a twenty-five pound satchel of damp leaf shreds over three or four hours of sucking. It kind of hurts even to type, right at this moment.
I think these trees are stupid. They don’t fully leaf out until early June, and the leaves begin to fall in mid-september. From a distance and en masse, they show a gold ribbon through the forest in autumn, but up close this gold is revealed to be a blotchy and
unattractive hue midway between green and a dead brown. When bare, they present a spectral form against the grey sky I kind of like, and festooned with licorice fern, moss, and liverwort, can be visually very appealing. But trees with extremely fast growth tend to have relatively short lives, and when branches as thick as my waist and dozens of feet long suddenly crash to earth through the forest canopy, it can be ahem…alarming. One minute, they are just standing there tree-ing, the next minute they want to flatten your roof, your car, or your head. I fantasize about cutting them down, but I don’t have a chainsaw with a 48 inch bar, and my blue ox is in the shop.
I like fall as much or more as the next guy: I’ve taken my family to two corn mazes, five pumpkin patches, visited seven farms, consumed about eleven gallons of fresh-pressed cider, bought and actually eaten an entire 25 pound box of of Skagit Valley apples. I love
brilliance, burnishment, burnished brilliance, brilliant burnishment, all of Autumn’s glory, oh yeah. But dude. I am burned out on leaves, and so happy now to look up and see nothing but winter’s bare ruined choirs. Enough, I say. My youth lies on an ashy bed of shreddy leaves.
I am pretty sure an upgrade to my leaf sucker/shredder is in my future; my tool works,but it is underpowered and limited in capacity for the paces I am putting it through…Stihl makes a gas-powered commercial leaf sucker/shredder that gets pretty good reviews. There is a Stihl dealer in my zip code, I am going to have to check it out next weekend…and if you live anywhere near me, and want some shred-y leaves for your garden, Hit me up! as the kids say. I will happily point you at the pile, if you bring your own containers and conveyance. I might even help you, if my arms feel better by then.