Packers fan rakes yard into green-and-gold art display
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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Sometimes it’s about the little things, even when they are 20-feet wide.
With 2020 turned upside-down by the pandemic and politics, Green Bay residents Charlie and Debi Nitka found a way to make people smile using just a rake.
Walk by their front yard and you’ll see the expertly crafted Green Bay Packers “G” carved out in a carpet of leaves. You can’t miss it.
“It’s funny, because we watch people walk by, and they kind of first glance at it, and then they do a double take and then they smile,” Charlie said. “That’s all we’re looking for, just to have a couple of smiles.”
Charlie’s the guy who picked up the rake, but you might say Mother Nature did the heavy lifting. With grass as the canvas and brilliant yellow locust leaves as the paint, he couldn’t ask for a more lush green-and-gold color scheme. But this isn’t his first time doing yard art. He’s been creating off and on since 2014, depending on how the leaves fall. A retired auditor (with the mind of an engineer, Debi said), Charlie has honed his leaf-wrangling skills over the years. That first “G” was sort of wobbly.
“A little lopsided and out of proportion, and then the next year I tried to make it better,” he said. “That was just eyeballing it,” he said. “I’ve got a process down. I can actually cheat and use a rope and a couple of spikes and I can lay it out pretty quick. It takes only 20 minutes.”
Debi participates strictly in an advisory role.
“That’s his creative work,” she said. “I just critique it and tell him what he has to fix.”
Charlie gives the design a quick manicure each morning to redirect any leaves that come down overnight and keep the edges crisp and uniform — but not too uniform.
“I can’t make it perfect, because that would probably be copyright infringement anyway,” Charlie said.
He finds himself eyeing other lawns that would be ideal for a “G,” but it hasn’t caught on yet on Green Bay’s east side.
“I have to admit I’ve spied a couple of yards in the neighborhood and kind of said, ‘Oh, that would be a good site for a G,’ but so far I’m the only one doing it,” he said. “I offered the neighbor to bring some excess leaves over and dump them in his pristine yard, but he declined my offer.”
The Nitkas are avid gardeners, so raking leaves is a way to enjoy the outdoors. “Dirt therapy,” as Debi called it, has been a gift during the coronavirus outbreak.
“The one thing you can do is you can be outside. It’s safe. It’s good,” she said. “Get up and get outside.”
How long the Nitkas’ “G” holds up depends on the conditions. The locust leaves are small, so it takes a lot to blow them away, but once they turn brown, the whole thing tends to lose its luster. Eventually, the lawn will need to be mowed.
“I’ll just vacuum it up and toss it unceremoniously out on the street to be picked up with all the other leaves,” Charlie said.