For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it is THAT time of year again! I am in NC and just now thinking that I better not wait too much longer. We have had a mild Fall but I know that with the first serious frost, the leaves that for the past month or so have been casually drifting down, will plummet to the ground! In some cases, like that of my 60' pecan tree-the ENTIRE tree shed its leaves overnight last year!
Today I drove over an hour to an area that has one of my favorite leaves-the Sugar Maple!
The most common technique I use suits my working methods and mantra of "Keep it SImple!" It is most effective with broad leafed leaves such as oak, maple, smokebush....anything not long and skinny! I hate to press leaves-too much work BUT some of my favorite leaves such as sumac fall of the stem when dry (and the stem prints beautifully!) so I relent and store flattened between paper towels.
When not collecting on your own property, the timing has to be just right. Last year I arrived on a weekday and the lawn maintenance people had already cleared the area of any leaves, so this year, I chose a Sunday to scavenge !
I used paper bags and tote bags. Plastic trash bags work but it you are on your own, they are a pain to fill! Do not overfill (they will settle and crush and be unusable), so do not pack and do not seal the top. You want air to circulate. From here on out, I store outside under a covered shelter until I am ready to use. How long can they be stored like this? I have stored and re-used leaves as long as 3 years later!
These dry, "ready for the burn pile" leaves are transformed with water (below)
To use your stored leaves, re-hydrate them in water (warm or cold) for a minimum of 30 minutes before use. Cover completely-use a light weight if necessary to keep leaves submerged.
30 minutes later you will have moist, flexible leaves that you can use without them crumbling.
Only put in leaves you think you will use. Return them to the pot of water if you don't use them all that session. I have kept my rehydrating pot for a week or more and it rapidly becomes a "dirty pot" all by itself. But you really don't want to leech out all the tannins from the leaves !
These stunning red oaks are on my own property so it's time to go rake up a few bags full!
Want to see a video of this? It's on my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMu85wdhtN4
UPDATES: Make sure you check out the 2024 WORKSHOP calendar right here on my website! There are so many new venues coming up where I will be teaching including John C Campbell Folk School in March and Arrowmont in September of 2024!
Till next time-Theresa