I’ve probably bagged a thousand acorns in the past two weeks. The acorns sink to the bottoms of my leaf piles, so to get them in the bags and bins, I scoop them with my hands onto the rake, using it like a shovel, and last week, I noticed rabbit pooh in the mix, and at first, I was like, gross, rabbit pooh, but I didn’t change my momentum or even go put gloves on. I kinda like rabbit pooh, as far as pooh goes. It got me thinking about the ridiculous act of putting all this great organic matter into plastic bags just to drag them to the side of the road for the city compost truck to pick up when I could make my own compost pile. I would just need to make rectangle corners with four metal stakes then wrap twelve feet of chicken wire, four feet high around them and dump all the leaves and acorns in it, or maybe I’d need a compost twice that big or three times.
When I was a girl in the 70s in Northern Michigan, my mom and sister and brother and I would rake our leaves into a big pile at the end of the driveway and burn them. The acorns would POP, and our hearts would JUMP, but then all would be calm again as we stood with our rakes and watched the fluttering ashes settle atop the smoldering heap. My mom always told us to be on the look out for any smoke signals in the distance in reply to the ones we were sending.
In the fall of seventh grade, my first year in Junior High, I added to the leaf pile 549 acorns that I had won at school a year earlier for guessing that there were 550 acorns in the jar. I thought such a perfect guess would result in a better prize than the actual jar of acorns, but I nonetheless proudly carried my acorns home and kept the jar in my closet for a whole year before I noticed roots growing, and I didn’t want oak trees growing in my closet, nor did I really want a jar of acorns, so I dumped all but one keepsake acorn in the leaf pile. Because they had already sprouted, they didn’t crackle or pop as much as I would have liked, but the whole event still felt ceremonious.
I’d love to burn my acorns and leaves here in North Carolina too, so I went to the Fire Department Web page and looked for a city ordinance on burning, and as I expected, it’s not lawful to burn leaves in the City of Charlotte. You may not realize because of my various wild animal encounters, that I live in a humongous city with over 700 thousand people and more than a million 700,000 in the local metropolitan area and double that if you count the surrounding counties. But guess what! It IS lawful to have a “recreational fire” in the City of Charlotte.
Cue the song, Gypsy, by Fleetwood Mac because visualizing a bonfire in my backyard–sitting around it with my loved ones, playing music, drinking hot toddys, and showing my son how to roast marshmallows on a stick–makes me feel like I’m “back to the gypsy/that I was.” I will post a sign showing the recreational fire code and also invite my neighbors to join us to avoid any problems, and what problems could they have with a small camp fire in my back yard? I suspect many, but I would be within my rights, and what a delight, really. Want to come over?
My fire pit will need to be at least 25 feet from any structures, and this will not be a problem given we have more than a quarter acre in the back of the house and the shed is way off to the side. In fact, if I walk 30 feet from the shed or the house toward the middle of the yard, I’m right between our two enormous oak trees, and they are also about 40 feet apart, so this is my new motivation for raking: clearing a circle for my fire pit. I’m going to burn me some acorns!