Monday, August 03, 2015

Leaf Corrals as Symbols

Since most people take cues from their neighbors on how to maintain their yards, the most visible approach ends up being imitated. When it comes to dealing with leaves in the yard, the most visible and therefore the most widely imitated approach is the dumping of leaves in the street. In this way, the least attractive and least sensible approach becomes the most common.

Some homeowners pile their leaves in a back corner of the property, where they can decompose and feed the roots of trees. This approach saves the town money, returns nutrients to the yard, and keeps the street clean, but it doesn't get imitated because neighbors can't see it.

How, then, do we make the more sustainable, sensible approach more visible? Cleaning out some flower beds this spring, I decided to set an example and put the leaves in a leaf corral in the front yard, tucked behind some shrubs. It's neater than piling the leaves in the street, and even oak leaves quickly settle down in the green wire corral, making room for more cuttings through the summer.

The green wire is essentially invisible. 

Our aesthetics when it comes to yards seems completely arbitrary and malleable. If windmills and silos are seen as picturesque features of a rural landscape, then a leaf corral could come to be seen similarly in a front yard, a symbol of commitment to clean streets and a lack of dependency on expensive town services. If the homeowner prefers, it can be decorated/obscured with picket fencing or shrubs. 

The main thing is to create a visible alternative approach to leaving piles of leaves and yardwaste in the street, where their visual and environmental effect turns negative.

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