Families jump for joy at autumn ‘leaf party’

Instead of grumbling as they rake, see why this family has so much fun with their leaf pile that they invite neighbors and friends over to play …

Esme Zehava flies through air before plopping in the fluffy leaf pile – this is her fifth jump of the afternoon.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
So many Portlanders love their trees – but hate the leaves that fall when the cold autumn winds blow. They grumble as they rake, blow, gather, and tote the brown, crusty remains of the summer’s lush green canopy to collection sites.

But, not the owners of the historic Young House in Southeast Portland!

“Welcome to our annual Leaf Jumping Party,” Angela Zehava greeted us on a bright-but-breezy November Sunday. “Our Copper Beech tree, planted in 1892 – the same year as the house is built – makes an enormous amount of leaves.”

Hostess Angela Zehava does a “test leap” into the pile of leaves.

She and others are raking the leaves into a six-foot high pile at the base of the tree. Kids giggled as they looked at the growing pile.

“About three years ago,” Zehava recounted, “it started as an impromptu event. Not only do invited friends jump into the pile of leaves – we’ve had passersby come and want to jump to the leaves, also.”

By “jump” – Zehava actually does mean “leap” into the leaf pile – as in from the crotch of the stately tree, about 10 feet above the ground. “Last year we had probably 50 people here jumping.”

Ely Alvaro is swimming in a pile of Copper Beech tree leaves.

After the leaves are piled and “fluffed” with rake handles, Richard Birke climbs into the tree and acts as the “tosser” – making sure the kids land in the center of the pile. Giggling, laughing, and screaming with joy – kids and adults fly through the air and plopp into the dark brown cushion below. So fluffy is the pile, smaller kids sink halfway down, and tunnel their way out of the stack.

Esme and Angela Zehava spend some quality leaf time together.

No leaf removal worries
We asked how long it takesthe family to cart off the leaves once the party is over.

“Beech leaves are only second to Oak for nutritional value in the compost pile,” Zehava noted. “Because a lot of folks around here grow their own food, they come to harvest leaves for their compost pile or mulch. I use quite a bit of them, too.”

In addition to learning about the way one Inner Southeast family shares their heaping leaf pile each autumn, readers now know that there is at least one Copper Beech tree in Sellwood – a type of tree which figured prominently in a famous Sherlock Holmes mystery story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Off … and away … Richard Birke takes his turn leaping into leaves.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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