New England is known for being the land of four seasons, but what isn’t often mentioned, is the degree to which those seasons overlap. People will be fertilizing their lawns, repairing and preparing their pools and preparing flower beds in April and May while still living under the threat of frost and possibly snow. This past year’s garden was still producing tomatoes, peppers and beans well after the calendar said it was autumn. And now, the most serious seasonal overlap is upon us. Cleaning up after fall while preparing for winter.
It’s really the same thing.
If it wasn’t for the potential early arrival of winter, we wouldn’t hurry through fall clean-up. Leaves could lay in the gutter, if they weren’t going to block the downspouts and cause ice dams. Leaves could stay wherever they happened to land, if there wasn’t the possibility that they would add fiber to a wintry mix and make it something you have to chop through rather than shovel. Yes, I speak from experience.
The first time you realize that you have to rake all the leaves before it snows, occurs when your first child is old enough to want a snowman. When you roll up those balls of heavy wet snow and they’re covered in a hobo-snowman coat of leaves and pine needles, you get the message.
My early days in this climate were in a rental house with a short driveway which we shoveled. Being ready to shovel meant that you had one job to prepare for winter, make sure the shovel was accessible. Trudging to the shed, kicking the snow away from the doors to retrieve the shovel is something you only do once. That would have been 1983. A similar-sized house with a detached garage sitting in the back yard, required the addition of a snow blower. A machine. A machine that requires gasoline, oil, shear-pins, air in the tires, protected storage, an overhead light, and enough room to pull the starter chord without hitting your elbow on anything.
In other words, a bigger shed.
During spring, summer and fall, the shed is in LUFO mode (last-used-first-out). Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, rakes, shovels and whatnot are all left near the door of the shed, ‘cuz tired & sweaty, only to have to be moved out of the way on the next visit. It works. We moan and groan about it, but we’re the ones who did it, so… But, in winter, the snow blower is king of the shed. There’s no option to move stuff out of the way because you have to move the snow that’s piled up in front of the shed first. The snow blower sits alone, pointed toward the outward-opening doors.
This was the final weekend of winter prep. The schedule is dictated by the town. Tomorrow is the last day that they will pick-up bags of leaves at the curb, and Saturday was the last day the leaf dump was open. Whatever you didn’t pick up this weekend, you have to live with until April.
We were almost done anyway. Thanksgiving weekend, I sucked-up and mulched most of the “good” leaves for my wife to till into her garden. Oak (acidic) leaves got bagged to the curb. This weekend, after bagging the last of the oak leaves, I set out the snow stakes. These reflective little poles tell me where the pavement ends and the grass begins. They also tell me where the base of the firewood racks are and where the stone path in the yard curves. This year, they also are holding up what looks like a Caution Tape boxing ring.
That would be my wife’s garden. We’re trying the caution tape as a visual deterrent to keep Maddie out of the garden. We’ve tried wooden stakes and rope, but Maddie loves to jump the rope and when she misses, the wooden stakes break under the pull of the dog-entangled rope. These stakes are higher and unbreakable. The black and yellow color of the Caution Tape may be meaningless to my wife, but it wasn’t lost on me – Go Steelers!
The poles are flexible, so they required flying buttresses (other poles) for strategic reinforcement. It worked. Initially. See, I have a video to prove it. Maddie walked and ran around the garden, but stayed out.
What’s the appeal of the garden? The mulched leaves and some of the plant material that are tilled in, are basically worm food. The organic material will decompose, some on its own and some after being consumed by worms. The mix already smells like something Maddie wants to roll in, but when it becomes a big pool of worm poop, Maddie’s all “I gotta roll in that!”
I was looking forward to showing the video to my wife and proclaiming how I outsmarted the dog. Then, my wife came outside. She threw Maddie her favorite ball and Maddie stepped between the rows of Caution Tape and laid in the garden. She gets a look on her face that makes us think she’s saying “but my ball was in here.”