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The leaves are changing colors, there’s a cool nip in the morning air, and the kids are back in school (YAY!). No doubt about it, fall is here. If you’re like me, this bums you out – except for the kids in school part. But of course, there’s nothing you can do about it. Except deal with it. How? Glad you asked.

The biggest thing to deal with in the fall is all the leaves that blanket your yard. If your town has a leaf collection program, that’s terrific. Even so, you probably have to bag them. The best way to bag leaves is to use a tarp. Just put the tarp on the ground and rake leaves onto it. Rake as much as you think will fit into one bag, then roll the tarp up into a tube and put one end into the bag, fairly far down toward the bottom of the bag. Stand the rolled leaves up and shake them into the bag. Pull out the tarp. Tada! Bag as you go. If you rake your whole yard into piles and then go around to the piles and try to bag them, by the time you get back to them, the wind will have blown the leaves all around.

If you have a mulching lawn mower, you can simply “mow” your leaves. If you don’t want to bag them, you can just mulch up the leaves and let them fertilize your lawn. Of course, mulching leaves is harder on the blade than regular grass, but, since you’re supposed to replace the blade in the spring anyway… no harm no foul. Otherwise, a bagging attachment will allow you to bag the leaves into very compact (but pretty heavy) bags.

If your town doesn’t pick up the leaves, and you don’t want to haul them to the dump because you want to recycle because you care about the planet, I have another idea. But you have to be really patient – which I’m not. Bag the leaves in black plastic garbage bags and leave them in an unobtrusive spot in your yard. For a long time. Eventually, and I’m talking about two years here, they will turn into leaf mold which is a rich soil that’s excellent for digging into your flower beds and around the base of trees. Better than regular compost, it’s amazing stuff. Two years from now.

Now, if you don’t get rid of all of your leaves, what are some other things you can do?

How about:

  • Spice up a BBQ supper. Apple and Maple leaves make a flavorful addition to an outdoor cooking fire. I don’t recommend burning leaves as a matter of course. It’s bad for the environment to add all that acrid smoke to the atmosphere. However, a few leaves on the barbecue add a special flavor to grilled meat or chicken – even veggies.
  • Create a fall wreath. Hot-glue colorful leaves to a grapevine wreath base which you can pick up at any craft store. Add a few seed pods, pine cones or acorns for an especially lovely decoration.
  • Make a bouquet. Small branches with colorful leaves still attached make a striking display in a vase or old pitcher. I like to grab a bunch of wild grasses, turned golden by the waning summer sun and stand them up in a galvanized steel bucket or other tall container. If you don’t have this in your yard, believe me it’s growing by the side of the road.
  • Table them. Take some of the prettiest leaves you find and dry them. There are all kinds of fancy kits available, but a phone book works really well. If you’re in a hurry, try placing leaves between two sheets of paper and ironing them on low heat. Dried leaves in no time. Then, once they’re dry, lay the leaves colorful side up on a plain table top. Cover the whole thing with a sheet of glass and use your table as usual. Ha!
  • Create a fragrant potpourri. Take leaves you have just dried, and put them in a pretty bowl. Add whatever you find attractive-pine cones, acorns, berries etc. and mix it all up. Mix in a few drops of your favorite scented oil and voila!

Finally, leaves aren’t the only natural things that are plentiful in the fall. You’ll probably see piles and piles of apples in the local market. After you’ve eaten them, cooked with them, baked with them and gotten sick of them, here’s a couple of other uses:

  • Make candleholders out of them. Core an apple but not all the way through. Set a tall taper candle inside. Cinnamon scented candles are a good choice.
  • Go bowling. That is, display them in a bowl. With all the pretty colors that apples come in, a bowl of yellow delicious, macouns, and granny smiths makes a gorgeous centerpiece.

And of course, don’t forget to throw the cores of your apples in the compost bin. Although, by the time you’re done raking all those leaves, the last thing you’ll want to do is go outside. Unless it’s to wave goodbye to your kids as they get on the school bus. Woo hoo!

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 196 - December 2017
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