Archive for Monday, November 16, 2015

Raking leaves an autumn tradition

November 16, 2015

Recently I read a survey that stated the most popular response to the word “fall” was football or leaf raking. Now football is fun and fans are normally “couch potatoes” enjoying games on television, while leaf raking can be a lot of hard work.

We have a reasonably good sized yard with lots of trees, which means dealing with the fall explosion of leaves can be a problem. Jean was worried about the issue when we first moved, however thanks to modern lawn mowers that are equipped to bag or mulch leaves, it wasn’t really an issue. The only problem is disposing of a huge pile of leaves, but fortunately Bonner Springs still issues burning permits. There is a growing national trend to prohibit leaves from landfills, which is something I’ve never understood. If the leaves are dumped in landfills and buried, they will decompose. The problem is putting leaves in plastic bags I’ve been told.

Really I rather enjoy picking up or mulching leaves thanks to my riding lawn mower. Yes, I mulch early in the season and bag as the leaf cover increases. It seems to me that due to the spring moisture, we have a bumper crop of leaves this year. Without a modern mower raking the leaves by hand would be a lengthy and backbreaking task. When I was younger and had a smaller lawn I liked the exercise. AARP points out that a person weighing 135 pounds can burn 240 calories by raking for one hour. That wouldn’t apply to me, since I haven’t weighed 135 pounds since I was 14 years old. Other than unloading the leaves, I doubt that operating a riding lawn mower burns a lot of calories.

The simple leaf rake has an interesting history. The name rake comes from the old English word, “raka” which means “to gather.” Undoubtedly the human hand was the first rake, and the first “improvement” was the use of a forked branch. The earliest pegged rake was developed in China in 1100 BC.

The fanned rake was popular in many parts of world but not in the United States when it was first introduced around the turn of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the fan rake began to gain acceptance.

In fact the idea of a neatly raked lawn didn’t become popular until after World War II, when suburbs began to spring up. For most of the first half of the 20th century lawns were generally neglected. After the Depression, when people accumulated more money, the pristine lawn become a status symbol.

There is a great deal of controversy about raking leaves. There are those experts that point out that lawns “need to breath.” A thick covering of leaves prevents water and sunlight from reaching the grass. Others argue that a covering of leaves prevents damage to lawns. Still a third argument is that mulching is a better solution since the chopped up leaves help fertilize the grass. No, I’m really not an expert and I don’t have an opinion. In our case, mulching is easier when the leaves first fall, however with as many trees as we have it becomes almost impossible.

Raking leaves the old fashioned way brings many nostalgic memories. Folks have fond memories of leaping into a huge pile of leaves, but that was something that never appealed to me. It just meant that I had to rake them up again.

I thought that it was interesting that raking leaves ranked in popularity with football. I enjoy both, but when it comes down to what I would rather do, football is a runaway winner.


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