Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Leaf Barge

I live in a 15 year old suburban neighborhood in North Carolina. I've only been in the house for 6 years. More than likely, the neighborhood was carved out of prehistoric forest in the early 90's. About half of my backyard is "wooded" and most of the trees are much older than 15 years. Every autumn, an epic (and I'd add "futile", but never in my wife's presence) battle is waged against the leaves. I've got a few large oak trees, and a Bradford Pear, and a "Gum" tree, and a few that I have no clue what they are, but they all fall into one Genus I call "leaf droppers", somewhere between 50-60 in total.

The battleground.

The town we live in collects leaf piles on the curb in a giant leaf-vacuum-mulching machine once or twice a month. So the task is moving the leaves 100-200 feet to the common collection area. I've dreaded this time of year; I've often thought, as my wife and I devote several Saturdays, "there has to be a better way." We learned from neighbors one year that you can take a large tarp, blow/rake a pile of leaves onto it, and drag it to the street. This works, but is pretty labor intensive, and ruins the expensive tarp eventually, as is drags across the asphalt. (I'm all about the cheap). I got a garden-wagon, but it's too small to be really effective, it only holds about 20% of what you can load into the tarp.

I've said I was going to do it for years, this year, I finally built it, the leaf barge.

The Barge, v2.0

The barge is essentially a 4'x8' piece of plywood with swivel wheels and a rope handle. It rides about six inches off the ground with three five-inch diameter wheels. There is also a square base underneath that fits inside my garden wagon, so that the whole thing can ride on top of it (That was my version 1.0 idea, the swivels and rope handle are the 2.0 additions). At four feet wide, it just barely fits through the gate that leads from my backyard to the front. 

Um, steering mechanism?
The single front wheel. Since plywood is not very planar, I decided three
wheels would stay in constant contact with the ground. A four wheel
design would likely always have one wheel not in contact, and wobble.

I also have a wood-sealer that I'm going to apply since exposure to moisture and wet leaves will make the plywood warp. 

I noticed two design flaws right away. First, all three wheels are 360 degree swivels. This makes it hard to control. Instead of a large wagon, feels more like it is floating on ice, it freely moves sideways when pulling on an incline. That does come in handy when trying to position it in place for loading, so I may keep it that way. The second issue is that more leaves fall off the sides than I imagined, especially when moving over bumpy terrain. I think I'm going to fix some 2'x6' boards to the sides to make it a little more wagon-like. That would double it's capacity. 

The end result, some of this is my neighbor's too. And my wife did resort to
using the tarp at times too. 

Until next year...


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I welcome you're thoughts. Keep it classy, think of the children.