fall leaves

Using Fall Leaves Effectively


The hour before sunset is my favorite time to be out on the property.

Fall days are death- if you are a leaf. For the rest of us, they are a glorious final celebration before the doomy gloom of winter smothers every memory of happier times. If you doubt my hatred of winter, just know I’ve spent the past two out of three winters fleeing to the tropics under the flimsy excuse of ” gaining farm experience.” Farming was a great idea, but mostly I just thought winter in Hawaii sounded better than in Michigan. I don’t do well with cold, and I do even less well without natural light. But seeing as West Virginia doesn’t have the climate of a Pacific Island, winter is going to happen here regardless of my personal preferences. Until that happens, I’ll continue to skip around barefoot and lay down in the grass to read books. And Ian and I will continue to use as much of the fleeting daylight that we can to continue with our property projects. This week, we tried to figure out what to do with the thick blanketing of dead leaves around our home’s perimeter.

The first project was pulling out the o’ chipper we found stashed in a shed to shred up as many leaves as we could collect. This was a two person job, so while I scurried around with a big rake and bigger tarp, Ian fed the piles into the roaring machine. I guess it worked, because our massive pile of leaves shrank to one tenth its original volume, easily fitting in our makeshift leaf composter. The idea is that greater surface area will allow the leaves to decompose faster, allowing for quicker compost. I’ll report back in a few weeks on the results.

Claiming that he’s not as fat as he looks in this picture*, Ian dumps leaves into the chipper to be shredded and consequently composted faster.
    *he wants everyone to know that he’s lost fifteen pounds**                                                                         **yes, he really did tell me to say that 


The second project was another composting method, but instead of a chipper we wanted to try out a different farm tool- the chickens. Lazy things haven’t laid any eggs yet, so we needed to find a different way to get some use out of them. Chickens enjoy nothing better than to scuffle around their yard, scratching and turning over everything in their path in an endless pursuit of bugs. It look a matter of hours for six little hens to turn their pen into a barren clay wasteland. So we thought we’d give them our leaves to play with instead.  Their shredding instincts would be put to good use and we wouldn’t have to run the chipper as much. The bonus addition of their poop into the mix could make for a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for the garden come spring.

Starting to throw some leaves into the massive pen.


Wendell is a great admirer of the chickens. We find his fervor a little frightening for their well-being.


Pepper looks in longingly at the birds just out of reach


This chicken gave shade right back to the mammals.


Not one to draw attention to herself, Peek likes to watch the happenings from a safe distance

So we filled the coop with close to a foot of leaf litter and allowed the chickens to play around in it. They seemed a little startled by the dramatic change to their outdoor arrangements, but being chickens, it took them all of two seconds to adapt. Do they like playing in the leaves?  Watch the video below ad see for yourself!

Let’s all just agree that chickens are the best. Cool. Glad we agree.

Share this postPin on Pinterest4Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook4Share on Google+0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUpon0

9 thoughts on “Using Fall Leaves Effectively

  1. I realized at the end of this (and other) post(s), my cheeks were sore from smiling, my heart was beating faster and then at the video I was laughing out loud. That leg swoop-push screams sassy and dumb…and interesting combo. Thanks for the happy morning read.

  2. Pepper looks like she has been around the block a few times — and in a dangerous neighborhood. Ian looks great. I noticed his fit physique in the shot of him with his dog on the country lane. Now I see why chickens are making a comeback. So many of my young adult [human] friends are chicken fans.

    1. Yes, Pepper is a terrifying cat. Sister Kathy’s dog (a pit bull) can barely be convinced to come on our property because she is so scared of Pepper!

  3. Those leaves will quickly turn into compost with the chickens working hard. We actually bag ours and put them in the run throughout winter to keep the ground dry and gives them something to do! Then we throw the compost in the garden one spring. Trash to treasure for sure!!

  4. Lydia, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog and am grateful to you for sharing your experiences with us about Big Laurel. You are a very good writer and make me feel like I am right along with you through those trials. You and Ian seem like a God Send to Sisters Gretchen & Kathy.

    It has almost been ten years since I visited there for my sister Gretchen’s 70th birthday and I believe 9 of our siblings were there with our families on that occasion.

    Life on the Mountain is definitely not for sissies and I admire the tasks you have undertaken. Best to you both as winter approaches.

    1. Thank you Kristina! I really appreciate the compliments on my writing and I’m so glad that this is a way for me to help others get involved with our experiences out here. If it has been ten years since you visited, I think it’s about time for you to schedule another visit! 🙂

  5. Just a quick thought about your lazy layers…sometimes if you overfeed them they won’t lay eggs. I would feed my girls a layer formula from the feed store and give kitchen scraps as available.

Comments are closed.