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If Granny had a Leaf Blower....

Grass Clippings - Stihl Leaf BlowerThis time of year I think of my Granny a lot writes Loretta Gillespie, Columists for the Moulton Advertiser of Alabama USA.  I can just see her raking leaves as hard as she could go. She didn’t just rake them for the sake of getting them off the lawn, no, she was raking them into her flower beds and her garden.

There were two gigantic oaks flanking her front yard on East Street. The story goes that those oaks were brought as tiny little sprouts from the Bankhead Forest, back before it was the Bankhead Forest, by my grandparents.

Those trees are still standing, though my grandmother and mom are gone now. And when their leaves fall each autumn, some of them are covering flower beds that once held Sweet Williams, four o’clocks, flowering almonds, buttercups, lily of the valley, iris, tulips and mums.

Granny was diligent about mulching; although I’m not sure she called it that. She was composting before it was in vogue, saving and burying her egg shells, coffee grounds, potato and other vegetable scraps, and crumpled newspapers by the score.

Those flower beds received more fodder than you can imagine, for more years than I care to count. Let’s just say that I’m sure they’ve been there for almost century now or pretty close to it. And when you think about how many leaves have turned into loamy soil, not to mention the above composted scraps, you can understand it when I say that her soil was like loose coffee grounds, the best I’ve ever seen outside a bag.

People always used to tell me, “I saw your grandmother today, out working in her yard,” and it was true, almost every day from the time she retired (early because of a blood clot) from a dress shop she owned with my mother, she could be found in the yard or in her substantial garden.

Sometimes I wonder if the leaves ever hit the ground before she was charging them with a rake, redirecting them into the flower beds that surrounded the house, or ran alongside the driveway. All I know is, if Granny’d had a leaf blower like we do today, she would have probably blown leaves from one side of town to the other, keeping the neighbors lawns spic n’ span and the streets free of leaves and debris, all the while, filling those flower beds with the very thing that, in time, would make that soil turn into black gold.

I don’t think she ever had to fertilize anything except her vegetables, and I’m not so sure about that. She grew okra, peas, beans, grapes, apples, the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever eaten, potatoes and dill, and probably a lot of stuff I’ve forgotten. What I haven’t forgotten are the hollyhocks. She grew the prettiest, tallest, sturdiest hollyhocks I’ve ever seen. I can’t remember if she staked them, but there were dozens and dozens of them, in all colors of the rainbow, waving their heads and turning them to reach for the sun as it moved through the sky. The blooms were like fancy crepe paper, thin, wrinkled and beautiful.

I’ve tried for years to grow them in my garden, but even with pampering, they hardly made a show at all, much less the kind of parade they put on for Granny. It was almost assuredly her soil, again, that made them so healthy and productive.

It was the same with everything she grew – roses, lilies, iris and nandinas.

But when you think of how rich those leaves kept the ground, year after year, magically decaying into the most fertile soil, better than anything you can buy, it’s no wonder that plants grew there sort of like Jack and the Beanstalk, everything just seemed to come to life for her.

And she would sooner have set her hair on fire than to have burned leaves! That would have been the epitome of waste to her – to burn something so useful!

I’m sure that if she could see how these days people bag and leave leaves at the curb for the garbage man, she would have a hissy fit.

 I wonder if most of us have the time or the willingness to make garden beds like that nowadays, when we can just run down to Wal-Mart and grab a bag of Miracle Grow or pre-packaged mulch for our flowerbeds. It’s just the easy way out, that, and blowing leaves with a loud blower that does the job in minutes that used to take Granny all day long.

Like I said, if Granny’d had a leaf blower she would have been like the Wonder Woman of leaf collecting or, maybe the Edward Sissorhands of Black and Decker blowers. I can just see her now…making her way down East Street, dressed in a ‘housedress’ and sensible shoes, determined to capture every single falling leaf.

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