Fall cleanup is no fun. You know the deal: raking leaves. On a pleasant day it’s okay though. So far during this fall pleasant days have not been around on leaf cleanup days. Instead it’s been unseasonably cold and windy. Not the ideal weather for doing yard work.

This year I added a new tool to my yard work tool kit. I bought an electric leaf blower. It’s the corded kind that you’ll need a long extension cord for but I was in no way getting a gas powered one. Those are messy with their gas and oil and eventually their little engines get hard to start. Gas ones are more powerful and easier to use but they’re also a little more expensive. The Toro leaf blower/vacuum that I bought cost me $75. Add another $25 for a gas one but it’s the mess and troublesome starting that really kept me away.

There are three areas in my yard that need leaf clean up. The big back yard, the driveway with its fences that really collect leaves, and the smaller front yard. I mulch my leaves with the John Deere riding mower. I rake them to the back yard and ride over them again and again until they turn to small pieces and dust which feeds the lawn. The mowing takes a while but is the easy part. It’s moving all those leaves that takes time.

The leaf blower I got is also a vacuum mulcher. I didn’t even know leaf blowers did that. A big plastic tube connects to the bottom of the blower that sucks the leaves up, runs them through the fan blades, and deposits them into a bag that’s connected to the air output. I decided to try and use that vacuum mulcher to clean up the leaves in the driveway rather than rake/blow them all the way to the back yard. The leaf blower box said that the mulcher made sixteen bags of leaves into one bag of leaves. I had no idea how many bags it would take me to suck up all those leaves but I knew it was going to be a lot.

The first thing I have to say about the mulcher is, “Holy crap it’s clumsy to use”. It has a big handle on top plus two knobs for holding onto but there is no graceful way to use it. You just have to hold it up a few inches above the leaves as it sucks them up the vertical column. The leaf bag is attached to the back of the thing and has a shoulder strap to help you hold it. The bag gets heavier and heavier as it fills up. Plus it’s attached by an electrical cord that seemed to always get unconnected as I was working. It was like constantly doing bicep curls and then taking a break as the cord fell off.

Now here is where the weather kicks in. When raking leaves I pretty much want them to be dry. Light and fluffy leaves are so much easier to move then wet ones. Since there has been a bit of rain lately I waited as long as I could for the leaves to dry but there were still some wet ones. Plus some frozen ones. With the extra cold temperatures it’s been around 24ºF at night going up to about 38ºF during the day. So, yes, the leaves down on the bottom of the piles were frozen. That makes them a bit harder to vacuum up. And my fingers were frozen too. At first I had on fingerless gloves but they weren’t working out so I moved to some really old-school arctic mittens. Those babies kept my hands warm.

It took about two and a half hours to clean up the driveway. I don’t know why I thought it would take less time than raking but it didn’t. I think I emptied the bag of mulched leaves a at least fifteen times. I dumped them in the back yard to be mulched up further later on. I quit for the day at that point and picked things up the next day. My arms had had enough.

The next day was a balmy 45ºF as I started to go for the leaf blower. In the back yard I wouldn’t need to move the leaves far as I just needed them off the fence so that the mover could get them. But there is quite a bit of fence. I started blowing and almost immediately had to go and add an attachment that narrowed the opening the air came out. That was to help move wet heavy leaves and I needed it.

The leaf blower wasn’t quite as clumsy as the vacuum but it was a lot clumsier than a rake. I found that I could really only hold the blower one way and it could only blow the leaves in one direction. If there was a fence, bushes, or a tree in that direction then I had to work the leaves around them somehow. With a rake you pull leaves away from obstacles but with a blower you blow the leaves at the obstacle if that’s your only direction. And the cord fell out even more than with the vacuum because I was covering more ground faster. It was not a graceful ballet.

Finally I got to the mower part and I couldn’t get the John Deere started. The battery had lost all its juice. The cold can make a battery loose its charge and if your battery goes dead on cold days then you need a new one. I really should have replaced this one last winter but I got along with a plug-in charger. Then the warm weather came and the battery worked fine. I tried to use the charger on it with no success and got more and more frustrated. Finally I made the twenty minute drive to Sears Auto and bought a new battery. They didn’t have any on the shelf but the guy found me one in the back. I was glad for that since I wasn’t in the mood for any more frustration.

I popped the new battery in the tractor and got it started. It didn’t start as smoothly as it should but only took half a minute and the new battery could easily handle that. Then I mowed and mowed and mowed. I’m not even sure how long I mulched those leaves for. Maybe it was half an hour. Maybe it was forty five minutes. Seems like forever though. And it got cold out. After I was going for about ten minutes I noticed the sun going away and the wind picking up. Gave me a chill. Not enough to make me go and get a warmer outfit, I had a hat, wool coat, and those fingerless gloves, but enough to make it take a while to warm up afterwards.

And one final note. Mulching leaves is a weird thing. At first there are so many of them that you have to be careful. They build up and get stuck in front of and under the mower. There can be so many that they stall the mower by stopping the blades. Then they get down to a more manageable level and I mow them over and over and it seems to be doing nothing. There are just so many leaves. But then they reach a point where they almost disappear. They get chopped up into such small pieces and spread out over such a wide area that they fall in-between the blades of grass. It’s like the end of a magic trick. Stupid leaves.

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