Banking the house with leaves.

Step (1)(a): Rake the leaves and put them in garbage bags. Since I no longer sing in the choir at The Church of The Lawn, I don’t believe in raking leaves just to make the property “look good.” But raking leaves to save on fuel? That’s a good use of mu time. Sometimes your neighbors will even let you rake their lawns, and move the organic matter onto your property! No photo, though; I don’t do action shots. Social note: Give neighbors back vegetables in the summer.

Step (1)(b) Bank the house against the prevailing wind by piling up the bags. The coldest rooms in the house — which are over a crawlspace that starts at ground level and has an earthen floor — turned into the warmest rooms after I started banking that side of the house.

Step (2) Leave the bags in place and let the leaves rot. This year, the bags got stacked bottom up, so water doesn’t leak in through the twistied top and get the leaves wet, wrecking their R value. But come spring, I’m going to try something new: I’m going to turn the bags right-side up, rip a hole, then pour in water and some compost starter. Then, after the black bags soak up the sun for the summer and fall, I’ll see if they’ve gotten farther along toward being compost than they got last year.

Step (3)(a) Drag the bags from the house to the garden.

Step (3) (b) Open the bags and spread the leaves on the beds.

Return to (1)(a) where the cycle repeats.

Oh, the garbage bags: Bag integrity through winter, spring, summer and into fall is a requirement; so is heat absorption. So, alas, I use thick petroleum-based black bags, and not thin biodegradeable ones. I’ve tried recycling the bag scraps as “soil warmers” around the stems of young plants, but it turns out that transparent plastic is better for that. So right now, the bags are ending up in the landfill after only one season.

* * *

Banking the house this way illustrates at least two permaculture principles:

1. Stacking functions. The leaves perform at least two functions during the banking cycle: They insulate the house, and they enrich the soil.

2. Basic principle: “Let no organic matter leave the property!”

3. Basic principle: Use what comes to hand.

Plus, it’s wicked cheap, easy to do, and more than pays for itself.

>> Where’d I get the idea it was the 18th, anyhow? Always a bad sign when I live in the future, even if by only one day. I must be more anxious for February to end than I knew.

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