Sunday, November 29, 2009


by George Cooper

"Come, little leaves," said the wind one day,
"Come over the meadows with me, and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold;
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold."

Soon as the leaves heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering, one and all;
Over the brown fields they danced and flew,
Singing the soft little songs they knew.

"Cricket, good-bye, we've been friends so long;
Little brook, sing us your farewell song-
Say you're sorry to see us go;
Ah! you are sorry, right well we know.

"Dear little lambs, in your fleecy fold,
Mother will keep you from harm and cold;
Fondly we've watched you in vale and glade;
Say, will you dream of our loving shade?"

Dancing and whirling the little leaves went;
Winter had called them and they were content-
Soon fast asleep in their earthy beds,
The snow laid a soft mantle over their heads.

AHHHHH leaves, one of my favorite discussions. Not only do they provide beauty and shade and then more beauty at the end of their short lives, but they also sustain life from then on until they return to the earth as soil. How do they sustain life even through their death you ask?

The answer is simple. Once the leaves fall from the tree I run around the woods with my handy dandy rake in hand scooping them up like there will be no more . I then stuff them in feed sacks and haul them in old sheets or tarps to where they need to go and either be stored until needed or used immediately. None of our leaves are burnt in a heap or thrown to the curb side for garbage pick up. Like everything else around a homestead they have perfectly viable, cheap, alternative uses that make them an integral part of the place. Without our wonderful leaves we would have to spend money that we don't have and even if we did have it why waste it on something that nature provides? Our only task is actually going out and collecting them up and placing them where we need or want them to be and then they the work or the animals help them to do the work .

leaf uses

garden beds- We have so many garden beds around the property we simply are unable to produce the amendments needed for all of them each year. Last year we added about 12 new beds in total after downsizing in the number of animals on the land. To help combat this and help in making better soil we began covering all of the beds in thick layers of chopped leaves. After we pull any weeds and what is left from the plantings we till or work the ground up and then put a 6-8 inch layer on top. Once they have been rained on a bit we then cover the beds with black plastic or a tarp. This is done to kill off weed seed for the coming year and to keep the ground and leaves warm under there which brings in lots of worms to do their thing and further
help the soil.

We also use leaves to make our lasagna beds. For those that dont know what a lasagna bed is, it is a no til method of building garden beds. As the name implies it is built in layers much like lasagna is made. Leaves are a major component of the process and without using them there is no way we could build decent gardening beds using this method.

During the spring and summer months we also use leaves in the garden beds as a weed barrier and as a mulch for the plants to keep moisture in. This makes for a neat and tidy appearance to the garden beds at no cost other than your time and some energy.

compost pile-To add to the amount of compost we can make over the course of a year, we use loads of leaves. We layer them in with manure, scraps from the house , garden and grass trimming and can produce much more compost over the course of a year because of it. Similarly we have a couple worm bins and we use the leaves in there rather than papers. It works out great for us since we don't have much paper waste that is suitable for use in the worm bins.

Critters- This is where the frugality and money saving bits come into play and why I keep a rake in my hand for so much of fall and winter. For all of the animals bedding needs we use a system called deep bedding. The whole concept of deep bedding is that you don't clean out the old bedding but just keep adding more bedding on top.

For an example I will use the chicken coop. I clean it once a year in the spring. From this point forward I simply add more bedding through the summer. When fall comes I "stir" the coop floor around with a fork and let the chickens scavenge a bit for treats. I then add as many leaves as I can to bring the level of leaves to 3-4 foot deep. Don't worry it packs down over time and we haven't lost a chicken in the leaves yet. The chickens then kick through it,keep it scratched up and it decomposes. As it decomposes, it creates heat. The heat relieves me of any duties of heating the coop through the winter. I continue this through til spring.

By spring , the pack of leaves is pretty well broken down and in a usable state. We spread it on the garden beds , till or work it in and leave it for a few weeks. This prevents any damage to crops while eliminating the needs for a larger compost heap. If one so chooses you could then move this to the compost pile and finish it off and use either later in the year or for the next seasons starter batch for compost.

I use this method for all the animals including the bunnies that are housed out doors. This is the natural bedding for bunnies. This is what they would be living in if they were free roaming rabbits. They also like to nibble at the grasses inevitably rake in and they love to hide and play in them.

The goats love their bedding too. The biggest issue with bedding their shelter this way is they eat the bedding nearly as quick as you can throw it in there. My goats prefer dried leaves over just about anything, so we pack some away for the girls to nibble on through the winter. By using this method of bedding we are able to easily save $300.00 a year if not more.Money we can find a better use for on other things.

As a reminder, if you decide to use this method, please be sure that the leaves you bag up to store away are nice and dry. You do not want molds, mildews and fungi growing in your bedding or leafy treats.

As an end note, I was reading some articles the other day on the subject of deep bedding and I came across this gem of a quote. It was pertaining to using a "pigerator" or a system where pigs are used to dig up deep pack beds on large farming operations but is very fitting to using the leaves and animals in symbiotic relationships no matter what size operation you have.

"Animals don’t need an oil change,spare parts,or fuel. They don’t require minimum wage and my goodness what a retirement program! When you’re done with them, you eat them. It works with any size operation because you don’t have to recapitalize an infrastructure that rots, rusts, and depreciates."
for info on the pigerator and source of quote

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