It’s been 6 weeks since Hurricane Gustav hit Baton Rouge and Louisiana. It’s been 4 weeks since Hurricane Ike hit southeast Texas. We did not get electricity back for 10 days. I hope those who survived Ike fair better about getting their power back.
I’m still working on cleaning up my own yard. I have a lot of small sticks and leaves in the back half of my back yard. We were fortunate that no trees fell in our yard and that nothing went through our roof. Our yard, on the other hand, was completely covered in limbs, very large to really small.
Why Hurry to Clean Up Debris?
Major storms put a lot of debris on the ground. Much of that ground is people’s yards and it needs to be cleaned up so the grass can be cut again. Though a yard is covered in limbs and leaves, the grass under all the debris still grows. If the debris is not cleaned up in a reasonable period of time it will start to kill the grass.
Mosquitoes use the debris as a hiding place from dew and mosquito control measures. The spray doesn’t reach them if they’re under the leaves on the branches on the ground. We now have 17 varieties of mosquitoes in the Baton Rouge area, all of which are pests, and a few which carry West Nile virus.
Snakes escape rising water in ditches by coming up into yards. They will hide under the debris, too, so to keep them from setting up housekeeping you want to get the debris cleaned up quickly. Make lots of noise while working and you will likely scare them off while you’re cleaning up. But you may pick up a limb and find a snake, so be aware that snakes are around.
Because of these issues, the debris needs to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. There is an opportunity for commercial lawn care professionals, and those of us who work part-time, to earn extra money cleaning up debris or helping others clean up debris from their yards.
Check your regular clients first if you can because you won’t be able to mow until the debris is cleaned up. It’s in the best interest of your lawn care business to get their yards cleaned up so you can resume mowing. You can show up and clean up debris and then mow for your regular fee.
Another way to make sure your income isn’t affected by storms is to service as many lawns as you can just before the storm hits. That way you have a week to 10 days to clean up debris and get back to your regular mowing schedule. Hopefully, you and your customers will be ready for your regular mowing schedule 10 days after the storm.
Much of what falls can be loaded onto a wagon or wheelbarrow and hauled out to the front of the house for pick-up. All you need are a rake, a pair of work gloves, a cart of some sort, a small tree saw, cold water to drink, and a lot of mosquito repellent to earn some extra cash. Your teenager can also make some extra money cleaning up debris.
You start cleaning with the largest limbs. Haul them out first. You may have to cut them into a few pieces so you can haul or drag them out. After you get the big stuff out, you can start picking up the smaller limbs and sticks. Then you rake the leaves and bag or pile them for pick-up.
If you have a gas-powered leaf blower, you can use it to help pile the leaves and small sticks very quickly. If you have a commercial lawn mower with bagging or mulching capability, the twig and leaf clean-up is a matter of running the mower over the entire lawn. This is another reason to save for a commercial lawn mower and buy one as soon as you can afford it. It makes tasks like leaf and twig clean-up a breeze and cuts the time down to about 30 minutes from several hours to several days. It’s also easy on your back. Raking is not.
It’s not difficult, but it can be hard on your back because you will be bending over a lot. Use good techniques to protect your back while working. Lift with your legs, bend your knees when bending over, don’t twist with a load, and stand up straight while dragging debris or hauling a wheelbarrow or wagon. Rake both left-handed and right-handed to use your back muscles evenly and give one side a rest while using the other side. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, especially if you don’t have a place to cool off after working outside all day. If you have no air-conditioning (power) at home, you may want to pace yourself and limit your outside hours to the morning and early afternoon.
It is reasonable to earn $20 – $30 to help someone else (not one of your regular clients) clean up a yard that would take them days or weeks to clean up by themselves. That’s not much for the amount of work you’re doing, especially if you’re doing it by hand. But you’re also working in the aftermath of a major storm and if you’re able to work, you should be generous with your neighbors and give them a good chunk of your time. If a particular job takes more than a day, you may earn $20/day to help out.
If you have elderly neighbors who can’t clean up their own yards, I greatly hope you will help your neighbors for little or no money. If it were your elderly parents or grandparents living someplace family can’t get to, you would want their neighbors to help them.
Tree Removal or Debris Clean-up?
There are often fallen trees after tropical storms and hurricanes, and that is a different type of clean-up. In Louisiana, to market yourself as a tree removal service, you must be licensed by the state, and you have to be bonded and insured to get a license. Tree removal requires big chain saws, big equipment and lots of know-how. I’m not suggesting you take on tree removal unless you are licensed to do so.