Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster …
I think they call this season we’re in “fall” because that’s what the leaves do.
The three big maples in our backyard produced prodigious amounts of bright, yellow leaves this season.
Before I cleaned them up, the yard actually seemed brighter with the sun shining on the golden leaf carpet.
Here in our part of the world, it was a positively wonderful autumn.
Temperatures were mild and the leaf colors were brilliant.
Up until just recently, the winds had been gentle, too, so the leaf fall in my yard was pretty much directly
beneath the trees, which helped make clean-up easier.
So recently, my bride and I went after them with rakes, blowers and mulching lawn mowers and made
relatively short work of them.
My leaf-removal efforts over the years have evolved.
As a kid in northern Ohio, we’d rake them into the ditch along Crestwood Drive and burn them.
It’s when I fell in love with the aroma of burning leaves.
I remember the time when a neighbor sprinkled gas on his somewhat damp leaves and when a tossed match finally found the mark, the mini-explosion threw the leaves into the street and back into his yard.
Lesson learned regarding gas fumes.
We used to own a house that a had a huge maple tree in the backyard.
This tree was the size of Rhode Island.
I used to pull a trailer with our Wheel Horse tractor and our daughters would help put the leaves in.
Then I’d pull the trailer, loaded with leaves and little girls into the garden where they would toss them out.
Later I would roto-till the leaves into the garden soil.
Many times, the girls would rake the leaves into “rooms” in the bacxkyard where they and their friends would
play “house” with their dolls.
We’d sometime just make a big pile that they would jump into and run through until somebody got the
inevitable bug on them.
We’ve also bagged leaves or raked them onto tarps and pulled them to garden areas.
But now, I’m a leaf mulcher.
I’ll run my mower through the leaves with my deck raised to the highest point and then run back through the
remains with the bagger, attached.
It makes nice compost and keeps actual raking to a minimum.
Which raises the question, who invented the leaf rake?
In 1874, some guy named Edmund Brown secured the patent for the first one.
Thanks to our recent team clean up effort, I’ll be able to simply mulch up the remaining leaves with the final
“mowings” of the season.
When we first bought the house we currently reside in, we had but 3 trees on the property.
Twenty eight years later, we have about a dozen and a half and three of them are rather sizeable maples.
So I was curious to find out more about leaves since I moved so many of them recently.
A typical, good-sized tree can have anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 leaves on it.
In 60 years that same trees will shed about 3,600 pounds of leaves (that’s more than a ton and a half !).
Now, do you really go down a rabbit hole?
You can calculate how many leaves your tree might produce in a season.
Count the leaves on a twig times the estimated number of twigs on a branch times the number of branches.
But, short of that, I’m guessing my trees dropped more than 3 million leaves.
Based on the ages and numbers of trees, I would think that number might vary a bit, year to year but, suffice it
to say, that’s a lot of leaves.
So why do leaves change color in the fall?
Well, the chlorophyll that makes them green thrives when the days are getting longer in the spring and
But eventually, less daylight, combined with the temperature change and precipitation causes the leaves food-
making process to end.
The chlorophyll breaks down and the green disappears.
We like to believe “Jack Frost” colors the leaves but it’s actually less daylight from late summer on.
By the way, a leaf is “an appendage on the stem of a vascular plant” and is the primary site of “photosynthesis”
in plants which converts water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar.
I also found out that leaves have 7 parts.
I never thought about that when I would find that special big red maple leaf that I had to iron between two pieces of wax paper and take into school to show the class.
My guess is some of you might still have a couple of those wax paper leaves in a photo album in the attic or stuffed between the pages of an old school yearbook.
But if you missed out on that this autumn, don’t worry.
Next year my trees will probably produce another bumper crop of leaves and you’re welcome to grab a few.
I’ll even supply the wax paper.
And, if you feel like raking what’s left into a pile, I’d be happy to mulch and pick them up with the mower
for composting at the palatial Foster estate.