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Autumn Leaves: Getting Ready for Winter

Occasional Paper on Property Management Program, Diocese of Olympia
The Rev. Dr. Dennis S. Tierney, Property Manager

Image Credit: Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon / Getty Images

Some of us are old enough to remember this classic ballad, “Autumn Leaves.” Written in 1945 for a French film, by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prevert, the words were translated into English by Johnny Mercer and many versions were offered by artists like Nat King Cole, Doris Day, and Frank Sinatra in the 1950’s. You can ask your favorite device to play it for you.

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold
Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon, I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

This is the time of the year in the Pacific Northwest when these words come true with a vengeance. While many of our trees are not deciduous (from the Latin word meaning to fall off), many are, and they lose their leaves at this time of the year. The technical term for that annual loss of leaves is abscission. And if your church property has any deciduous trees on the property, you know what abscission means. The leaves fall on and into gutters, on to roofs, on to sidewalks, and wherever you would not want plant material. When the rains come, then the leaves become slippery, mushy, and begin to clog gutters and downspouts, always at the worst possible moment. These falling leaves can be quite romantic and picturesque unless they are causing problems as noted above.

But we also have many trees here that are evergreen. In fact, Washington is the Evergreen State because of the Douglas firs and other trees that do not lose their needles in the fall. However, our evergreen trees are notorious for losing whole branches when the wind blows because the trees sway in the wind and can knock branches off the other trees as they rock back and forth. Those branches can weigh hundreds of pounds and can fall on buildings and people with immense force. In major storms, these branches can be like missiles, flung from great heights right into the roofs of buildings. Ask me how I know that.

Image Credit: Ross Hoddinott

So, wise property managers pay attention to falling leaves and the coming of fall storms that can bring down weakened branches. This is the time of year to walk the property and look for possible weakened branches that may fall onto buildings or obstruct sidewalks or roadways. This is the time of the year to ready your gutters and downspouts to prevent back-ups and clogs where possible. Spending some time or money to remove piles of leaves can prevent slips and falls but also prevents plant diseases from getting into your flower beds and bushes. While it can be beautiful to have piles of red and gold leaves decorating your property, that all comes with other risks that should be discussed.

Fall is also a time to check your irrigation systems, if you have them, for leaks and to shut them off, when the rains come, and empty the lines of water. This prevents them from freezing in the winter and causing more leaks. Wrapping outdoor faucets with insulation can also prevent them from breaking and causing major water leaks.

Checking windows to ensure that they close properly and have not started leaking through is also important. Evaluating the windowsills to ensure that they are not rotting can avoid expensive repairs later on.
Checking your HVAC system is critical now. Changing filters, especially in light of COVID, is important. Ensuring that your furnaces are ready for the demands of winter, including thermostats and other control devices should be done now.

Image Credit: Bagala Window Works

While global warming seemingly has reduced the number of freezing days, getting ready for snow and ice should be done now. All congregations should have a plan for dealing with icy or snow-covered sidewalks and parking areas.

A visual check of your roof is important now. Loose or missing shingles can cause considerable damage in a big rain and windstorm. Moss accumulation reduces the life of your roof materials substantially and needs to be removed.

Ensuring the downspouts work and move all rain away from the foundations of your buildings is critical. This is the time to check that all the water moves away from the buildings and not into the buildings.


Image Credit: Irena Federova

So, as we sit by the window, with our favorite beverage, and reminisce about the joys of summer, when autumn leaves begin to fall, it is time for wise property people to get busy because, as they said in “Game of Thrones,” winter is coming.


Autumn Leaves: Getting Ready for Winter, Occasional Paper on Property Management

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