I love to garden. It helps me to feel at one with nature, and there is the added benefit of fresh food for my family. We have put our house up for sale, and I am building a new one. One challenge I have had is that over the thirty-five years we have lived in our current house, I have worked hard to make a nice garden.
It is soft, sandy soil, and I have hauled in loads of compost, leaves, and straw. It is rich in nutrients, and plants grow abundantly. But our new place is packed clay. When it rains, every step you take is like walking in cement, and the soil accumulates on a person’s shoes until they are carrying ten to twenty pounds of it on each foot.
After the soil dries, like cement, it hardens to the point that it is impenetrable. The first time I tried to dig a posthole in the hardened soil, I had to use a pick to break through the top layer. So, I am trying to put every ounce of mulch into my new garden area that I can.
The closest town to where I live is where I work. In the fall, the town allows people to put bags of leaves on the sidewalk, and the city crews pick them up. I decided I would pick up some of these for my garden.
This leaf season, as I like to call it, lasts about six weeks. My wife posted on Facebook that I’d like to pick up leaves. People started posting that they had some, and I hauled many loads. But soon, people just suggested that I take any that were put out along the street, and everyone seemed to agree that it was fine. I started loading my little pickup twice each day. After work, I would pile on a load and take them to our new place. Then, after working there all evening, I would go around and load another load and take it home to my current place.
I would unload that load into a pile to take down after leaf season ended. The next day, I would start all over. That way, I got two loads each day, six days a week. I could pile on about thirty to forty bags, so over the six weeks, the bags I have hauled number in the thousands.
Each time I loaded, I would pull through some neighborhoods until I found a good amount the city had not collected. But one day after work, a lady came out to talk to me as I piled on the bags from her yard.
“Do you work for the city?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. “I just work for myself.” I then explained what I did with the leaves. As I loaded, we talked. Another lady joined us, and she, too, asked if I worked for the city. Once more I explained what I was doing. As I was finishing loading and strapping down the load, a third lady joined us, and once more I had to explain what I was doing. But her eyes lit up like she understood something the others hadn’t.
“Have you loaded from our street before?” she asked.
I nodded. “Quite a few times.”
She then turned to the others. “Ladies, that answers the questions we had the other day at our block party.”
“What questions?” the second lady asked.
“Well, you remember how Lana asked what day the city picked up leaves? We each said a different day.”
The ladies smiled. The first lady said, “Mrs. Hansen insisted her leaves even disappeared on Saturdays when the city didn’t work, and I mentioned that mine seemed to disappear overnight. No one could come to a consensus as to what day the city picked up from our street.”
The ladies all laughed, and I asked if it bothered them. “Not at all,” the first lady said. “It is nice to know they are going for a good use instead of being burned. The next time we see leaves disappearing at different times, we’ll all know it is the Leaf Man.”
I smiled. That was a title I had never had before.