It's a beautiful October day. You decide to clean up around your Omaha area acreage home. You spend a few hours raking up a few large piles of leaves and other debris. You strike a match and enjoy that familiar Fall smell (at least for those of us born before the 1980's.) Whether or not you feel any guilt about burning your leaves and sticks is up to you. But, there are a few alternatives you might want to consider before you toss that match onto the pile.

First, have you considered using a chipper to break down your sticks into wood chips and mulch for your garden and bedding for your plants? It may take a little more effort but they will have a chance to break down into their component parts and benefit next year's vegetation rather than just becoming a pile of soot.

And the leaves...why not just mow over them a few times? The beauty of country living is that the neighbors usually don't pay much attention to the neatness of your lawn. This will allow the dead leaves to be broken down into small particles that will, eventually, return trace minerals to the soil and make your lawn much healthier and drought resistant in the future. 

I enjoy the smell of a great campfire with the best of them so if you're like me and just really want to burn, at least do it safely. Here are a few tips to be certain that the only thing burning is the pile you just raked up:

  • Check to be sure burning is allowed in your area. You may have to file for a burn permit before you begin.
  • Never burn on a windy day. With that said, a great tool to help your fire burn hotter is a leaf blower. It will infuse oxygen-rich air into the pile to ensure complete combustion. Just be sure to use it on low speed and stay at a safe distance.
  • Before you strike the match, be sure to thoroughly wet down the area surrounding your pile and have a hose nearby while you burn, just in case.
  • Never use gasoline to start your fire. A hand-held propane torch will enable you to control the lighting process.
  • When you have finished burning, be sure to spread out your embers and douse them with water to be certain everything is extinguished and cooled down.

Burning can be a fast and easy solution to cleaning up around your acreage property. Just be sure that you keep a recycle barrel for all of the other items you may be tempted to toss into the fire. Remember, there are a few things we can't make more of that we all need to survive. Clean water and clean air a few things that will be a priceless legacy to pass on to our children.

Until next time...

Dick