I don't remember exactly when we decided to switch our bark mulch paths over to pine needles. But for a number of years now, I've raked the needles from the lawn under various neighbors' white pines. I've been pretty lucky in being able to do that without getting too many leaves or pine cones mixed in. This year a friend actually dropped off bags of needles that she raked up for me from her trees!
For two weekends Mark and I went across town to gather pine needles from the front garden of friends. They always have lots of needles with very little debris mixed in with them. I try to use their clean needles as the last layer and on the path where the needles make the best impression on visitors. This year I finally got smart and marked every bag of material that we've stockpiled next to the house for use next spring.
I marked the bags filled with tiny locust leaves that I use as mulch (above) and I marked the bags of pine needles from our friends Rita and Kevin. Finally I won't have to keep opening bags in the spring trying to figure out which one has the pure needles and the not quite as nice rakings and the locust leaves. Proof that this old dog finally learned a new trick!