We collect trash, throw it in the yard, and call it permaculture

To help us put our food forest in place, we’re working with David Homa, to come and coach us a couple of days. 

In preparation for the first coaching day, David sent me a list of materials that we’d need: cardboard, used coffee grounds, horse manure, loam, woodchips.  All of these things, interestingly, can be obtained as waste products.   Here are some of the stories from our experience.

There is a huge production of waste cardboard in stores.   I learned of two inefficient ways to obtain this before Mark suggested a very quick, albeit sort of funny, way.  One inefficient way is to call up some big stores, like Costco, ask them if they will collect cardboard for you.  They say they will, so you make an appointment to come, rent a truck to get it, and drive on over there, only to find that they have forgotten all about you.   Big waste of time and money.  You can also find a bike store, and get it from their trash container, but then you are competing with the professional cardboard recyclers who come to get it.  Hard to get the timing right, plus the bike store might be far away.  Finally, you can go to your local supermarket – we go to Trader Joe’s – at the time when they are restocking.  You get a shopping cart, and hang out in the aisles where the staff is putting new products on the shelves.  The staff will be more than happy to pass the large packaging boxes along to you, especially if you’re a little helpful, by, like, flattening the boxes.  In this case, you look kind of like a homeless person collecting materials for the night’s refuge, but on the flip side, you can get a whole carload of cardboard in half an hour at a location that is likely five minutes from your house.

For coffee grounds, we learned to go with the place where you have a good connection.  First, I tried Starbucks, and the person I talked to was quite positive about putting the coffee grounds into a bucket I supplied for them.  However, this coffee shop is not on my usual rounds, and I forgot to pick the first batch up for a week.  When I finally did come, they said they had to throw it out because it had gotten so smelly.  Amazingly, they were willing to give it another go, and this time I made sure to come by at the appointed time for the coffee.   But, they had put the bucket away because they were too busy, besides — didn’t they do it last week – and it got really smelly?  So I came back the next day.  This time, they had forgotten, although they did remember doing it last week and it got so smelly (the smell really must have gotten to them, oh dear!).   In the end, after five trips, I did get a full bucket of wonderfully aromatic coffee grounds.  Hm.   Mark to the rescue (again!).  He said he’d drop the bucket off at the Olin cafeteria.  The Olin folks were happy to help Mark out, and Mark goes by there a couple of times a day, so this method results in minimal effort and a regular supply of coffee grounds.  Ah!

I also collected 12,000 pounds of loam from the dump, made from composted waste and add sand; and 3,000 pounds of horse manure (more on shoveling this stuff in the shoveling post); and had waste wood chips delivered by a tree-care company.  All of this stuff has been taken out of the trash stream, and it is going to go into our food-forest where it will improve soil, and make growing beds.    Which made Ruby comment, “So, what we do is: we collect trash, we throw it in the garden, and we call it permaculture!

Three piles of waste: wood chips, loam from waste leaves and sand; horse manure.

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