Why buy potting soil when you can make it for free in your roof gutters? That’s what I’m thinking as I scutter across the roof on my butt, leaf blower in hand, to clear the leaves out of my eaves troughs. Sure, it’s March, and everybody else did this last November. But leaves were still falling back then, and who wants to do it twice? Then it rained, and it got too slippery. And after that, it got cold, and who wants to do it then?

I jam the blower into the overstuffed gutter and notice an ineffectual shudder of odd leaves. I examine the contents and discover that it’s half-filled with damp soil, with a layer of wet, rotting leaves and pine straw on top. I use the blower as a kind of shovel, blowing and shoveling with as much might as I can muster, given the odd dynamics of the long blower nozzle and he oddness of the angle. There’s also the balancing act between bearing down on the muddy mess without launching myself off the edge of the roof. Not to mention the fear of accidentally sitting down on a pointy sweetgum ball. Every now and then, the blower catches a good-sized clump of debris, hurling sticks in the air like I just smacked a piñata.

The sunny side of the house done, I clamber over the top of the roof and approach the dark side, the side in the shade. I lower myself down, dragging the blower’s endless extension cord behind me, watching it get caught on the edges of the asphalt shingles, hoping it doesn’t crease them in half. I jam the blower into the gutter and a second later I’m enveloped in a backwash of damp mist, like I’m standing on the bow of a fishing boat. There’s a layer of water under the rotting leaves, and the blowing air turns it into a shower of cold mud. Covered with dots of dirt, I look like one of the Little Rascals trying to play hooky.

Then, it’s all over. The gutters are clean and debris-free, and since they’re made out of some sort of white plastic, they seem none the worse for wear. My foot searches for the top of the ladder, and I make my way down, hauling the blower and extension cord behind me, ready to hit the shower. That’s when I notice the newly-dislodged layer of black, rotting leaves covering the driveway, the deck, the garbage cans, and the car. I fire up the blower again. This time, it’s personal.