my anti-Black Friday action

leaves

Long-time readers (both of you) know how I resist our crass consumer culture that culminates in Black Friday. I go out to my little cabin at Roundrock, on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, and defiantly not buy stuff! I’ve been doing this every Black Friday for at least the last ten years, and this year I kept up my tradition of defiance.

It was just the four of us: me, Libby, Flike, and Queequeg. We had no real agenda, and the weather would dictate our actions more than our intentions would, but this time of the year I always need to rake the leaves that have collected against the back of the cabin. I do this for three reasons. One, they are a fire hazard for the wooden cabin. Two, they provide cover for gnawing and burrowing critters, which I don’t want to foster that close to the cabin. And, three, they can retain water after a rain, creating a microclimate of damp against the wooden siding, allowing mold to grow. (It’s hard to tell from the photo above, but the bottom two “logs” of the siding are discolored from mold. Flike is there for scale and because he brought me a stick to throw, which is his pastime at the cabin. Note the stick in the foreground.)

So after poking around the place, filling the bird feeder, and setting some unsalted peanuts on the old log for the wood rat who lives within it, I took the rake to the back of the cabin and began my work. It’s not a big job, not like raking my yard back in faraway suburbia, but I still moan about it, telling Libby that I have an 80-acre yard to keep up now. (In some ways that’s true. I don’t have to maintain the road in suburbia. Nor do I have to keep any fence lines clear. Or walk my perimeter at least once a year just to see what’s up. I don’t have to cut fire wood in suburbia. I don’t have dam spillways that wash out annually. And I don’t have police patrolling my road at the cabin at least once a day to keep things safe. So there’s a lot a fellow has to worry about at his little cabin in the woods.)

I generally alternate which direction I’ll rake the leaves each time — and this time of the year, I must rake them each time I visit — but this time I raked them both directions. I did that because of a tarp on the ground on the east side of the cabin that I wanted to move to the west side of the cabin. Makes perfect sense, right?

The tarp was version 1.0 of the cabin. Before we had the cabin built, we hung a tarp between the trees overlooking the lake so we could retreat from the sun or the rain and sit in comfy chairs to have our lunch or just relax. We went through three tarps in this way. After the cabin was raised, the last tarp was folded and stashed under a bed in the cabin. (Yes, we have two beds, with mattresses and sheets, in the cabin!). In subsequent years, green things would grow in the gravel around the cabin, and I knew that if I didn’t keep ahead of it, the open gravel would soon give way to grasses and then scrub and then small trees, and the little bit of control I had hoped to wrest from the forest would be lost.

And so the tarp got a second life. I laid it over patches of the gravel where the green things were sprouting most vigorously and left it there for a month or two (in the growing season) to kill them. Then the tarp would get moved to a new area to do the same thing. My efforts would last for about a year, and the tarp has returned to areas where it had once been before. It’s a benign sort of malice, all the more beneficial since the cabin is uphill from the lake, and I don’t really want to use any herbicides within its watershed, at least not that close.

So the tarp was doing its service on the east side of the cabin, and I wanted to move it to the west side of the cabin. Thus I raked half of the leaves to the west first to get them beyond the place where the tarp would go. Once that was done, I moved the tarp to the west, which meant the east side of the cabin was now clear for raking leaves across. And so I did that with the remainder of the leaves.

And the result you see below. (This is looking east.)

no-leaves

Neat and clean and probably already filled with oak leaves by now. But I strive nonetheless.

Below you see the new location for the tarp. This is the west side of the cabin. You can see a large pile of leaves beyond it; those are the leaves I raked from (half of) the back of the cabin. And below that you can see the (diminished) lake. The boards resting on the tarp were salvaged from a blind that some hunter had raised in a tree on my land (prior to my tenure). It was abandoned soon after I acquired the property (though I would not have objected had he or she wanted to continue using it) and fell to the ground after a spring storm. I collected as much of the wood as was worth having, burning some of the rest, and saved it for some future use. I never imagined that holding a tarp in place would be the lumber’s future use, but it certainly does a good job.

tarp

The area I’ve covered had a nice stand of feathery grass growing. (I wish I could do as well on my lawn in faraway suburbia.) In the winter this would turn brown and serve as perfect tinder for any ground fire that approached the cabin. So it had to go. Winter is not, of course, the growing season for grasses, and the tarp will probably stay there until the spring because it will take that long for it to have its effect. In past efforts, when I would remove the tarp I would sometimes see the nests of little forest critters under it. I imagine the tarp suits them just as it suited us before the cabin: it provides shelter from the elements and collects solar heat during the winter months. I won’t be surprised if I find a nest or two under it when I remove it next spring.

With the chores completed, we turned our feet to the west for a hike, crossing the familiar rises and falls of the land. There is an open, grassy area not too far from the cabin that I’m trying to expand. With each visit, should my feet happen to carry me there, I will cut down a cedar or two, cut back overhanging branches here and there, or cut away some scrubby growth to give the native grasses more sunlight to thrive and expand. I don’t know why I do this other than to feel that I have some “control” in my forest. Still, everyone needs a hobby.

We hiked more after that, but the sun never made its expected appearance and we were both cold. (The dogs reported no complaints.) So sooner than we normally would, we packed the Prolechariot (my name for my red truck) and drove the two hours back to suburban Kansas City. As you might have guessed, the sun emerged from the clouds about half way home, and the day soon turned warm enuf for me to rake leaves in my back yard at home.

But aside from a tank full of gas ($1.74 per gallon — Thanks, Obama!) I didn’t purchase a damned thing!

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5 Comments on “my anti-Black Friday action”


  1. Pretty. Is Flike a border collie?

  2. Paul Lamb Says:

    Flike is mostly Border Collie. The vet says he has some Springer Spaniel in his heritage as well.


  3. It sounds like a REALLY nice time. I slept most of the day 😦

  4. pete29anderson Says:

    We limited our consumption to three hot chocolates at Peet’s, and a tank of gas. My mom bought lunch. (I won’t count anything bought online, since our credit card isn’t charged until the product is shipped.)

  5. Dean Gugler Says:

    Enjoy your cheap gas. I bought at $2.74 U.S. a gallon here in Ontario and it is a lot more expensive in Europe. When our grandchildren reach our age, they may wonder what we were complaining about.


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