Last fall, during a particularly cold and cloudy grey day, I was scouting around town for the easy leaves that fall from the trees to the streets and sidewalks. To my delight, I spotted a municipal crew who had just raked up big piles of them. We were all smiles with this sudden win-win scenario, for they had been spared the additional work of removing them and I only had to bundle and bag them to take them home to my waiting cherished little chipper!
So I got hoppin’ before the rain started droppin’ and began stuffing my little Subaru.
I was pretty much on my own on that misty morning road, save for my old doggie in the back of the car having a snooze after his walk, or an occasional passing car or woollied-up walker.
One pedestrian actually paused to enquire as to why I would want so many of those lovely leaves and for what purpose, so I launched into a overly-long and enthusiastic lesson as to their nutritional value in our composts and mulch covers, which most likely left her cold and sorry that she ever stopped in the first place. So there I was, zoned out and alone while busy raking and bagging, when the deep throaty throttle of a macho-sounding motorcycle slowly entered my brain as it approached me from behind and rumbled to a stop just steps away. I instantly snapped to attention, forcing myself to resist my natural female fight-or-flight instincts, but was nevertheless on high alert. I stood up to face this unexpected stranger, squared my shoulders to appear confident and instinctively took a step back. Sure as suspected, he was a burly, bearded brute straddling a black Harley hog, with eyes hidden behind dark glasses. “Was he some kind of hoodlum?” I could hear in my head, and maybe I should be calling the cops, I thought.
As his muscle machine sputtered and stopped, the sudden silence became unsettling with only the occasional amplified sound of a leaf hitting the ground and my breathing. A quick glance down the street showed that it was deserted, that my deaf dog was still deep in sleep and that it was clear I was here to deal with this dude on my own with the rake being the only means of defence. Just why had this guy have to stop to see me, when there were so many others that he could’ve bugged instead?
Up to this point, not a word had been spoken between us, so while he was hassling with his helmet strap, I began preparing myself for the three likely scenarios that were about to take place the minute I got wind of what kind of person had paid me a visit: 1) that I would try to pull off faking I was a foreigner who didn’t understand English; 2) that I would be having a good jaw with a jaunty and friendly fellow; or 3) engaging in a cool and crispy conversation with a Cro-Magnon type male.
As I waited, I wondered what it was that he would want with a middle-aged, grubby-looking gardener like me?
Was he a bloke selling coke, or some stud with the duds? Did he need directions or a bathroom or perhaps somewhere to dine? Was a he a creep from the deep or was he hopefully just fine?
To my surprise and secret relief, I was greeted with a great big grin and hearty hello and that he had only stopped by in case I happened to know, about his cottonwood leaves and would they be OK to go into his compost because he had heard that there was too much tannin in them and that the microbes won’t like it. It was the last thing that I expected to come from a guy looking like that! So the moral of this story is ya never know when you’re going to meet a sheep in wolf’s clothing and a gardener in disguise.
So in case you’re wondering yourself, cottonwood leaves are best shredded because their texture is tougher to break down and they do indeed have lots of tannin in them which is fine, but they’re best mixed with other leaves, along with whatever else you can get your hands on such as grass clippings, wood chips (a little cedar is OK), clean ashes, rotten apples, needles, easily digestible-sized plants that you’re pulling out of your garden, kitchen waste and anything else tasty and nutritious for your compost critters. Always make sure there’s enough moisture and cover it up to keep the rain and snow out. After all, variety is the spice of life, along with all the interesting people that might come along during your day! Happy fall everyone.