Yard Work: Saving by Spending


12 hours after  I mowed, the leaves are back!

The worst part about autumn or fall is leaves. First, it’s a sign that summer is ending. Then there is the clearing of the leaves. Last year,  I spent way too much time clearing them, and I think I lost my mind in the process.

Now saying that, I do love the colors. I do love having four seasons. I love it getting cooler, and cold as the season ages. I love hiking this time of year, and outdoor sports in general more than any other time of year. Just after the hottest time of the year is best, because it’s still warm, but you are adjusted to the hottest part of the year, so what was hot, is now just warm.  80 in September is much cooler than 80 in June.

As a kid, the season determined the sport we played. Summer is baseball. Fall was football time. Winter was skiing, hockey, and of course, Snow Football. Spring brought us back to baseball. Living near NYC in that era especially, baseball was king.  Sure we did other things, and there were many games of different sports in the wrong season, but that’s what we did mostly.

Where we were, had us quite lucky.  There was a pond next to my development that was acres in area and no more than 4 feet deep at the deepest part, while being mostly 1-2 feet deep.  It froze early, and long, and it was easy to skate on it as one side bordered a road.  Now looking back, we skated on it around the ages from 10 and up.  I don’t recall ever seeing any parents there.  Me being the nerdy kid, and the one who had read a book on how thick safe ice should be was the one the other kids turned to.  I think the 80s were a different time.  No helmets, no protections. I think I sound old, maybe I am.

As a kid, we were always outside playing, and it was great. Anything that takes me away from that just plain stinks. I still was a gamer, and had my share of gaming systems of the era and pc gaming such as it was.  But, outside was the thing.  I miss it, but who doesn’t? I miss most of the times and places of my life.  That Beatles song My Life comes to mind.

My desire to be a DIY person, and the savings that go with it are balanced by my desire for recreation and memories with my son. The idea is to DIY, but not to spend all of my time DIY. I tried to share those personal stories to try to convey the strong feelings I have that led me to spending more money.  This is not a confession, and there is a point.  I suspect it’s about the trade off that we all make between retiring early, and living.  The amount of time I have spent clearing those leaves took me to my breaking point last year. Something had to give.

Over the years we have lived in our home, I have tried many ways to clear our leaves. I have tried mulching them into the grass, even with double cutting. That killed my grass. I tried mulching and collecting most it again with the lawn mower. That works but is very time consuming with my walk behind mower. If I had a big riding mower, it would be fine. I next tried the electric hand held blowers. It took forever, but it was effective. It also cleared the branches that fall from the red oak trees that are common near me. Side note, they are messy trees. The things are always dropping branches with their leaves, and occasionally those branches are rather large, even as I can see no signs of ill health in the tree.

I should take a step back here for a second. My home is on land that was farmed until about the early 20th century like so much of the NY area. There are stone walls all over New England put there by those early Dutch and English farmers.  The stones came from the soil, and themselves were put there by the glaciers that were all over this region during the last ice age.  The farms all went away during the late 19th and early to mid 20th century as the great Midwestern farms took over food production, although there are a few in the area that have survived.

The thing is that the trees all colonized the land as the farms moved away.  The result is a large number of tall, mature trees in many places in the are.  They are beautiful with great crowns.  Sadly, as you can see in the tree in the center of the picture below, they don’t always do well with the winter storms.  Last year we had 4 particularly strong ones that knocked out power to many in the region, and the third was more than that tree could take.


It dropped a large portion of the tree onto the woods and my lawn beneath it.  That was a lot of work with the ax and chain saw.  Of course, again, DIY saved a ton of money.

Those are tall trees, and they drop a lot of leaves.  I am buying a walk behind leaf blower for about $400 with tax and shipping.  I hate having to buy another tool, but I spent too much time blowing, and not enough time having fall fun.  That is worth the money to me.  My friends, fellow home owners in the area, either have walk behinds or pay someone to do it for them.

That brings me to another point in this.  Time is money.  Time spent doing leaves, is time away from a task that may yield me some money.  It’s time spent away from other DIY chores that I have stacked up around my home.  A portion of my yard is fenced in, and that fence needs a new weather coating.  I still haven’t put in the new outlet for the cable TV hookup.  The previous home owner allowed the cable TV folks to drill through carper which itself was over nice hard wood flooring.  I can not believe that.  There are many more items on my list, and well, each of them is cheaper to do myself than to pay someone to do it.  But, if I spend as much time as you might expect looking at those trees, I won’t have much time to do them.  Nor will I have time to hike, play with my son, and dare I say spend time with my wife.

Last fall took me to that point.  I hope this walk behind is as good as my friends say, and if it does work that well, expect a post, perhaps a short video proving it.  It’s due to be delivered soon, and the leaves are already falling.  Granted, this early in the fall, I usually just mulch them up with the lawn mower, but certainly I will test out the new device.


  1. I hated raking leaves as a kid. I much preferred passing a few times on the lawn mower and being done with them. I understand it does damage to the lawn but in the south where I live, the grass always comes back. Usually with a vengeance during the summer.

    I’m glad you found a solution that worked for you and made the ultimate realization that time is money. Wasting your time doesn’t feel right and sometimes you need to spend to invest in something that pays off in the long run. After all, critical thinking, opposable thumbs, fire and tools are what separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Use any advantage you can.


    1. The trees that border my grass shade almost all my grass. I think that is a factor. I suspect the soil might be a factor. I thought that since I mulch the grass when I cut it, the soil bacteria would be able to breakdown the leaves as well. I suspect that cold, volume of leaves and shadows all impact my soil’s ability to breakdown the leaves.

      That aside, the addage work smarter not harder applies.

      Liked by 1 person

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