The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Netting Leaves

Leaves collecting on the fordIn one of my all-time favorite books --- Taran Wanderer --- our hero stumbles upon a family which provides for its members by stringing up a big net across a river and then collecting whatever the river provides every day.  The image really struck my fancy when I first read the book in middle school, and now as the leaves begin to catch in clotted masses along the edges of the ford I'm inspired to try my hand at the same thing.
Capturing leaves in a seine
Last night, I captured enough leaves by hand to fill five 5-gallon buckets, then spread them across the tops of my empty garden beds.  Last year, I covered a few beds in this manner and they produced the richest soil which resulted in beautiful onions.  I only covered a few beds, though, because I had to carry the wet leaves by hand a quarter of a mile from the ford to the house.  This year I resolved to collect more.  So after I scooped up the leaves which were already stuck to the ford, I strung up an old seine we had in the barn and left it overnight to steep in creek water.

Carting the leaves home
When I went back to check on my net this afternoon, it was bulging with its heavy load of leaves.  A tiny watersnake was resting in one of the net's folds, but I wasn't fast enough to catch it on film.  Once the snake safely slipped away into the center hole of an old cinderblock, I gathered the seine closed and lifted it into the golf cart, then zipped home to spread the leaves on my garden.  A few crawdads crawled out of the mulch and I fed them to our ever-appreciative chickens.

I really wanted to include a quote from Taran Wanderer here, but unfortunately I read the first part of the series to Mark's cousin when she was in grade school and she liked it so much that she stole the whole compilation from me.  So you'll just have to go look up the book for yourself....  And, if you'd rather read facts about using leaves as mulch, check out You Bet Your Garden's page on the subject.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I was wondering if you had any advice for using decomposing leaves from my creek bed in my big old compost pile. I've got a ton of heavily decomposed organic material in my creek which I plan to pull out. is this stuff good for compost? It's the dark brown, black sort, with decomposed leaves and muck.


Comment by James Tue Feb 19 16:08:11 2013
I've had great luck using leaves as mulch around perennials like raspberries and fruit trees. Especially if it's already partially decomposed, that should build soil fast!
Comment by anna Tue Feb 19 17:59:19 2013

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