It is preposterously warm for the time of year. The Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun' was thick with foraging bees today, and as I drove down the lane early this evening to go to my music society committee meeting a bat fluttered overhead.
I have been gathering leaves, now that I have two empty and weed free leaf bins to put them in. Weed free apart from the seeds, that is. I fear that the next batch of leaf mould, and probably the one after that, is going to be infested with a cargo of goose grass and possibly nettles. One year's seeding, seven years' weeding, is how the saying goes, but it can't be helped.
The Systems Administrator dug the leaf vacuum cleaner out of the garage and showed me how it worked. I thought it could blow the leaves into big piles which I could then scoop up, but instead it sucks. And chops the leaves up, the Systems Administrator informed me proudly. Blowing would have been good, because then I could have picked up the leaves without raking up lots of grass and weeds in the process, but I was willing to give vacuuming a go.
I didn't take to it. I don't like vacuuming the house, and vacuuming up leaves felt too much like outdoor housework. It was noisy, and I kept getting the electrical cable wrapped round things. The leaves, the grass, the weeds and everything else was wet with dew, causing the leaves to stick to the ground so I never got a clean sweep of an area. It was a fiddle emptying the collected leaves out of the machine's zip-up bag, and of course between trips to the leaf bin I had to lug the collected leaves about with me and by the time the bag was full it was quite heavy. It made my forearm ache trying to hold the nozzle of the machine at the right angle to the ground, and every so often I'd collect a stick across the mouth of the vacuum cleaner which stopped the leaves going in, and I'd have to switch off and wait a moment for the whole lot to fall away from the nozzle.
All this was ungrateful of me, when the SA had troubled to get the machine out for me, but I'm glad I was able to try it and even gladder not to have bought one before discovering that I didn't like it. After I'd sucked up some chestnut leaves from the meadow and worked out that at that rate of progress it was going to take me all day, and vacuumed the fallen leaves off the steps to the conservatory which was worth doing because they were getting slippery, and tried to vacuum up the birch leaves that were resting on the prostrate juniper but without much success, and had a go at the wild cherry leaves on the top lawn, I gave up with the machine. I was pretty sure that I could rake leaves off the lawn by hand faster than I was getting them by suction.
I switched to hand raking, but not for too long because it was starting to get dark and I had to go to the committee meeting. The art of hand raking is not to do it for too long at a stretch, so that you don't sprain anything, then it is good exercise and will give the muscles of your arms and trunk a healthy work-out. And meanwhile you can listen to the birds and distant traffic and think about life. Raking monastery gravel is after all a form of meditation, but you couldn't make that claim for using a leaf vacuum machine.