With autumn comes the ever famous colorful leaves, all of those earth tones of red, yellow, orange and ultimately brown crisping in the wind and cascading down to earth in one swift puff of winter coming. Autumn, largely due to those soothing and familiar hues, is quite commonly people’s favorite month (or maybe it’s the doughnuts). It just feels right, the sweltering sun stopped in its tracks, the Arctic gust held at bay a little bit longer.
While many of us have come to mourn the falling of the leaves, seeing those tree branches bare against the increasingly chillier sky, it doesn’t have to be that way. Hey! There are billions of beautiful leaves (and vegetables) at our disposal. Doesn’t that seem like a great time to start getting creative, to embrace the here and now, and make the most of the situation? It’s time for some fun and productive projects for those leaves to wisp away the winter woes.
1. Compost Bin Bulk
Whatever we may think of dearly departed leaves, they can actually help us to provide more life in the spring. While many of us have taken to tossing our kitchen waste into compost bins, the fact of the matter is that for every bit of vegetable ends or fruit skins, there needs to be much more brown (or carbon) matter. Autumn leaves are awesome for this. They’ll compost over winter, when nobody is gardening, and come springtime your compost will be rich with nutrients.
2. The Goldsworthy Project
For those who’ve not heard of Andy Goldsworthy, it’s time for a treat. He’s an amazing British artist who is awesomely in tune with nature. He uses things he finds in the natural environment to create beautiful in situ art installations — out of sticks, leaves, pebbles, berries, whatever — and photographs them for longevity. Some of his works are simply stunning. The great thing is that it’s a fun art project for us to take on, especially with kids, and autumn provides a great array of colors.
3. Leaf-Animal Drawings
As a matter of fact, autumn leaves are great for all sorts of art projects, even ones that aren’t necessarily so critically acclaimed. Why not use this opportunity for fun with animals as well? Gather up a load of different leaves, of different shapes and colors and sizes, as well as twigs and nuts and so on, then use them to piece together some cool animals. These can be laminated or glued into place for further appreciation.
4. A Blanket of Mulch
Another garden-y thing to do with all the leaves is either to leave them on the yard to provide nutrients there or, better yet, rake them up to put them in the garden beds. The leaves will protect the soil from hard freezes, as well as provide food for the plants next year. The leaves will break down in place and make for some great soil when things thaw out. A good layer of mulch is one of the best things that can be done for a vegetable patch.
5. Beautiful Tiles for Anywhere
This can be made with large leaves to create stepping stones or just small leaves for tiles that can be stylish soap dishes or change holders. Find a leaf that looks really cool. Put the leaf in the bottom of a mold in whatever shape, a circle or square or triangle or ameba. Use artist clay (or concrete for stepping stones) and press it into the mold. The leaf will leave its shape behind and create a cool something to look at. Nature is a great way to decorate.
6. Biodegradable Confetti
Confetti might be a lot of fun for kids, but for the adults who are left to clean it up … it usually elicits more of a cringe response than excitement. It’s so messy, gets everywhere and often is made from plastic and other harmful materials. So, if it has to happen, why not get out those clever paper hole punches, the ones in different shapes and such, and make colorful and cool all-natural leaf confetti. It’ll work great on a Thanksgiving table or at any type of late autumn/early winter bash, or even eco-friendly birthday parties.
7. Keep Them Up in the Air
It seems such a shame to watch all those beautiful leaves disappear, but with the right mindset, we can keep them around for a little longer. Go out and find the prettiest specimens possible, along with some nice looking twigs or branches, and create a beautiful mobile to hang in the kitchen or somewhere free of those horrible gusts of wind. For the next month or two, the autumn leaf mobile will brighten up otherwise drab scenery.
In other words, don’t ignore what’s happening out there in the backyard, at the park, along the sidewalks. The leaves have changed colors. They have drifted down into comfortable, multi-colored piles, perfect for a bit of play. It’s time to make the most of another great thing nature and plants provide us with!
Lead image source: Tony Webster/Flickr