09 November 2007

What To Do With Leaves

Maybe ten years or so ago, our landlord planted a row of four paulownias behind the house. He planted these gigantic weeds to replace the shade that was lost when a pair of tulip poplars fell. The reason he chose to substitute the poplars for paulownias is quite simple; he wanted big trees fast. The paulownia can grow up to thirty feet in just three years. Unfortunately thirty feet isn't quite tall enough to shade the third floor where Meg and I live so he could have planted moss for as much as shade is concerned.

If you can't tell by my tone, I really don't think to much of the paulownia. While the leaves on every tree in our yard are changing colors, the paulownias are slowly changing from green to shit. Pretty soon we'll get a real hard frost and then every leaf will croak and fall. Actually when they fall it is quite fascinating. Since the leaves are so large and dense, when they fall, they fall fast and loud. The sound isn't deafening, but you certainly know something serious is going down in your back yard.

Last year was our first paulownia experience. After the great fall, Meg and I went outside to check it out and I remember thinking, "Wow, that's a shit load of leaves." There was never any question what we were going to do with them. No organic gardener in their right mind would not see this pile of leaves as anything other than sweet sweet compost. However, there's a small catch.

These leaves are f@&*ing huge. I wonder if I could use a few of them to patch the leaky roof?

Anything we've either heard or read about composting says that the fastest way to get good compost is to do a great deal of the breaking down of the materials before you add it to the pile. Mike McGrath suggests running your leaves through a shredder to chop them up real small. That sounds great, but Meg and I aren't too keen on the idea of using gas or electric power in our garden unless it is absolutely necessary. Sorry Mike.

Last year we put the leaves in a big pile and covered it with grass clippings. Every so often we would turn the leaves to encourage the braking down process, but ultimately it took all summer to get good compost. This year we plan to to shred the leaves, but instead of using gas or electric, we plan on using...

Chicken power! We figure that if we fill their pen with a foot thick layer of leaves, they'll have it shredded far better than any machine in less than a day. John Henry would be so proud. When this experiement takes place, we'll be sure to take some photos and post. Hot damn I can't wait!


Anonymous said...

Excellent idea. I'm looking forward to hearing how it works. How many chickens do you have?

Meg said...

We have three very industrious chickens. We're interested in seeing how it works out too, and we'll definitely post the results.

carletongardener said...

I am enjoying reading about your chickens. They sound like fun. Are they a lot of work?

Meg said...

No, they aren't much work at all. We feed them once a day (about 2 cups of food for the three of them), and change their water every day or two. And, of course, you've got to go get the eggs every morning.

That's basically it--they were about three months old when we got them, and they had already been vaccinated against, I don't know, bird flu or something, so we haven't had to do any chicken medical stuff.