We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project

Mulch Ado About Mulching, or: Making Molehills out of Mountains

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There is an argument, in Permie circles, about whether it is ‘permissible’ to use powered machinery to get the job done.

Highest and best would, no doubt, be 100% petroleum free…but, my back would beg to differ here. See, I’ve got eight 15 cubic yard loads of mulch to spread, and while it’s great exercise and all, this is a pretty daunting task. Yoga has taught me great patience, that is so—and yet, this part of the job is preventing progress on everything else, or so it seems.

Enter (Timebank) friend, who offers a gas-powered mulcher. Oh, “heck ya!”, she thinks: this noisy creature will make short work of those piles, maybe even two tasks at once, moving AND grinding into useful dirt! Well, not so much—not without a few clever modifications, anyway—I’m all about removing steps, particularly those which require repetitive bending or loading and unloading. I do have extensive experience in the field of “back-breaking”—thus, the daily yoga practice.

So, gas-powered: not ideal, however (here’s where she’ll justify her heart out), the amount of gas required to munch up all of those mountains will be far less than the amount it takes to drive to the other end of the county and back, once. I know some people who do that every day, to go to jobs they despise! (Not that I am condoning it—I am not.) I think that the formula should be something to the effect of: “If the time and effort (including bed rest required post-back-breaking) required to complete a task without the use of machinery is greater than the sum total of time, gas (including the gas it takes to bring the machine to the job), and other inputs: Use the Machine. This, by the way, is an example of “true cost accounting”—if you are unfamiliar with the term, it is something we use in permaculture, and which the corporate machine avoids like the plague it is—plague, that is, to their business model. Try calculating in the cost of countless lives wasted in filthy factories, of working conditions so bad that in this country we wouldn’t (knowingly) subject them to our animals. Ah, but we do—this is the true cost of shopping, for instance, at Wal-Mart. It may save you gas, because it’s so conveniently located at every major intersection, it may seem to save you money, if you are the disciplined sort of individual who can walk past the endless end-caps of enticement—but the true cost is factored on everything which has gone into every single item in the store, as well as the people who work and shop there.

Another one of my favorites to run through the “true cost” calculator is garbage pickup. In my neighborhood, no less than five days a week you can get stuck behind a monstrous gas-guzzling, soul-crunching beast picking up mounds of household discards. What do you suppose the true cost of this practice might be? Factor in the inconvenience of the time and space they consume on our roads and in our neighborhoods, the noise pollution and visual insult of having these nasty trucks near our homes and children on a daily basis. Factor the gas they use, not only on the pickup runs, but all the way to the county landfill, where these trucks are lined up by the dozens to dump the waste—most of which is in the form of excess packaging no one could be bothered to attempt to recycle. Now factor in the humans—those who were forced into this line of work, of picking up other people’s garbage, because there was nothing else available and at least it’s a paycheck. Now what is the true cost of your sheer laziness—those who can’t be bothered to separate the recyclable plastic, glass, aluminum, and paper items—that many don’t even know which these are? I’ve considered starting my own recycle/compost pickup—to encourage those who don’t to start—everything begins with awareness, after all. Imagine a world where the piles of garbage in a landfill were actually piles of compost, turning into beautiful, viable dirt.

Maybe that’s just me—dreaming of soil, dirty girl that I am—but this is how it is done, turning mountains of garbage into molehills—through awareness.

01-26-13 7:02AM

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