Monday, June 25, 2012

Juara Raking Team

Here at the JTP there is one piece of yard equipment everyone gets to know real well: the rake. After living in the Sonoran Desert for the last four-plus years I sorta forgot it existed. I mean, ain't many leaves to be getting rid of unless you live in manicured suburbia or atop one of the desert's sky islands. I don't think anyone will admit they regularly rake up those dinky mesquite tree leaves that fall to the ground.

I know what you're thinking. Is he really going to write an entire blog on raking leaves? Maybe I am, but I promise it'll be much more interesting that just your average, everyday yarn about raking. Or maybe it won't.

Alli don't mess around when it comes to raking! Sassy strokes.
When everything is open (no doors, flung windows) and you're sandwiched between the beach and jungle it's too damn easy for everything to get dirty, dusty and sandy very quickly. So of course when Alli and I first showed up here we had to jump right in when it came to getting the morning chores done. Wiping down tables and counters? Yeah that's okay. Changing the foot bucket water? Too quick. Sweeping the big house deck? Whatever, never been an enthusiastic broom fan. But getting my rake on while listening to UGK, Baby Huey or Funkadelic? You had me from the first morning JTP (or maybe the second, jet-lag is lame).
Uncle Rake Wants You!
The chain of events is simple and goes like this: most of our facility is located under trees, leaves fall from them and clutter the ground we're on. These leaves get everywhere, all over JTP's grounds, from the visitation area to around our chalets and gardens. A large amount of leaves awaits us every morning. Because of this we get our rake on, on the regular. Some people say cigarettes and coffee go hand-in-hand, but that's a basket of hogwash. Caffeine and raking are the duo, especially when sweet milk tops it up to a glorious trio. Side note: Malaysia loves the phrase "top up." It's like fill up or get more of something. Example: I have to "top up" minutes every two weeks on my cell phone here.
Putting leaves into piles around our fire pit and garden table area. I love piles, just ask Alli! She misses all the newspapers piles I had in the U.S. so much.
If we don't rake on a daily basis not only will the ground disappear under leaf litter, but our place will look rag-tag and half-assed. Since we are open to the public and are pretty much the only conservation organization on Tioman, it's vital we look good. Representing the face of sea turtles and trying to embody the novel idea of environmental stewardship doesn't work too well if your place of work resembles an unkempt dump.

That girl know how to sift! I'm going out on a limb here, but I think Alli fancies raking to Beyonce.

But the reasons to embrace raking just keep on coming. All the leaves are sifted to get rid of sand, collected in a wheelbarrow and thrown on top of our bursting-at-the-seams compost pile. We wait a little bit, stir that sucker every week or so, and after everything has taken its time to break down (including weeds, crusty old food and more) you can ram a shovel in the pile and bring out a nice heaping scoop of grade-A quality dirt. Alli loves this dirt. She plants new things in it, such as pumpkin, along with the standard-bearers here: okra and cucumbers. 
Our giant soft compost pile with the chicken coop in the background.

The cycle keeps on going. Leaves fall, we rake, we wait and then the dirt comes. The process is stupendous for us since soil quality here is not too, well, quality. We also have three compost boxes in effect now so that's speeds up the process of getting soil too. I must now take a moment to thank my parents who made me rake our yard in Maryland growing up all the time. I don't think I appreciated it back then as much as I do now. We've been joking about getting some volunteer shirts made here at the JTP that say: "I came for the turtles, but stayed for the raking." Now I should heed my own advice. Raking starts in about five hours. Time to go.


  1. I'm going a little comment crazy because I just read all of the blog posts I hadn't yet seen, but this is just fantastic. Please make those shirts. PLEASE.

    1. Crystal! It's okey dokey - I a like that you've gone quite the comment crazy. Bring it on! Hopefully when I see you in the future that shirt will be in my repertoire.