The leaves are falling, and the race has begun: Get them off the ground before the snow's here for good.
And if you don't? The leaves will win.
While a thin layer of chopped-up leaves on the grass is OK, a thick layer of leaves will mat into a big mess over the winter and harm the grass beneath it.
That means more work in the spring.
Fall leaf-removal tricks, tactics and techniques vary. Some people prefer to use a mulch mower and leave the pieces on the ground (unless the layer of leaves is too thick to do so).
Others add them to their compost pile; gather and spread them on their flower beds for winter protection, or turn them into leaf mold -- which can then be used as a soil amendment.
Some use a gas or electric blower or blower/vacuum available at home-improvement stores or online. And some still rake, or use a rolling leaf sweeper.
Or they take the hands-off approach: "I hire someone," said Kevin W. Leous, chairman of the Town of Tonawanda Commission for Conservation of the Environment.
"I'm just so busy I don't have the time to do it. We live on a corner, and we have two red maples that completely drop everything," he said.
Note: No matter how you choose to pick up your leaves, it is essential to review guidelines and restrictions for fall leaf and brush pickup in your village, town, etc. Buffalo residents, for example, are asked not to put their leaves in the street.
Community noise ordinances for power tools also come into play here.
Not that city resident Elaine S. Friedhaber has to think about that. She clears leaves the old-fashioned way.
"I'm a raker. I don't like the noise of the leaf blowers," said Friedhaber, a longtime gardener and community volunteer who also prefers a push lawnmower to a power one.
She and her husband, Bruce, try to rake systematically -- planning raking sessions a day or so before garbage pickup day, so the leaves are packed in clear bags and ready to go.
"We try to get them out every week when they start falling. We have the big, old trees in the back that just drop a ton of leaves -- 40 to 50 bags a season," she said.
But Friedhaber has turned even raking into a multitasking event.
When a good raking day is in sight, she dashes to the butcher for chicken breasts, seasons them any number of ways (Greek, Italian, Cajun) and grills as she rakes -- keeping close watch. Come winter, the grill is stored away, but plenty of individually wrapped chicken breasts are stashed in the freezer for dinners.
As for raking, "we need a good five or six sessions of major raking -- with additional odd bags here and there," she said.
While Friedhaber is one who enjoys the process -- the exercise, the smell of fall leaves and chicken on the grill -- others simply dread the task.
Which is why each fall brings new tools and gadgets designed to make the task easier.
Among the many options:
*The EZ Leaf Hauler works like a giant dustpan. Described by its makers as a "modified tarp that uses tent construction technology to form sides and a back," the EZ Hauler is made from polyethylene with nylon handles. It comes in two sizes, both under $30.
The idea here is that because it has sides, it has more cubic area than standard tarps or sheets so it can accommodate more leaves. To learn more or find out how to order online, visit www.ezleafhauler.com.
*The Roll & Fold Bag, spotted at Lowe's, lies flat on the ground to make bagging leaves easier. You just rake them right in then turn the bag upright. It has two wheels for easier transport and also folds for compact storage. Its fabric feels durable, and the bag has three exterior pockets for gloves, etc. Priced about $35.
*The new Leaf Hog High Performance Blower/Vac/Mulcher boasts 240 mph peak blowing speed and a new Leaf Blaster turbo nozzle designed to take on stubborn leaves and debris with "pulsating air waves."
Instead of a zipper, the new Leaf Hog features the EZ Sealer that slides off when it's time to empty the bag. That means there is no zipper to jam. It sells at Amazon.com for $79.99. Another Leaf Hog model with standard zippered bag sells at Lowe's for $69.98.
If the chore is still one you dread, look at raking this way: Once the leaves are off the trees, and all the leaves are picked up and removed, you're done.
Relax a moment. Then you can start thinking about shoveling.