Hatteberg's People - Leaf House: Scott Vogt And Dwight Roth

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Leaves, I've got 'em. You've got 'em. All God's children got leaves. But what do we do with them, other than complain about raking them? A couple of folks in Hesston have thought about that. This is a simple story, but leaves affect all of us.

They are natures signal. Their red, gold and brown hues clinging for one last shot at life, the wind their nemesis. It is the season of change. The leaves from the oaks, maples and cottonwoods all have one thing in common - they are destined to fall to become natures fodder, to be sacrificed so that next season can bring new life.

So what do we do? We rake, not always celebrating the joy in the changing season. Or we mulch. The roar of the mower overpowering the Kansas wind, drowning out nature's song. But there is another way.

"Here again, it is something people enjoyed at the Arboretum, it is something unique," Scott Vogt said.

It is a leaf house, simple but with a purpose. At the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, part of Hesston College, Scott Vogt is the Arboretum grounds manager. He has built several leaf houses. The roof, the walls, the floor, all made of leaves.

"I wanted to teach about sustainability, about proper use of leaves and how they are valuable," Vogt said.

It's actually a creative compost pile. The leaves added eventually decay and instead of being hauled to the landfill, provide sustainability to your garden and yard.

Dwight Roth is a Hesston professor. He built one a few years ago in his backyard. It was his getaway - his quiet place. It looked similar to one that the Dyck Arboretum built in 2006.

"It was about 12 feet high and 30 feet in diameter. The leaf walls were about two feet thick. It is, was, wonderful just to sit and lie in that leaf pile. It was like bringing Henry David Thoreau into our computerized world in which we live. Basically, I could relax out there. It was Thoreau who inspired that."

So, as those beautiful leaves give it their last fall burst of color, you might think of building a leaf house. It makes compost and you can be in your very own getaway - surrounded by walls of leaves in your own backyard. Or you can just be a kid.

The Dyck Arboretum in Hesston is open seven days a week, sunrise to sunset. Also, Professor Roth told me that it could be 10 degrees outside, but inside his leaf house of a few years ago he was perfectly comfortable, surrounded by leaves, enjoying the solace.

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