Saturday, April 25, 2009

I am, officially, a Crazy Woman.


Last weekend, I noticed that someone had cut the waist high grass in one of the vacant lots near my home. More to the point, I noticed that they had bagged up their cuttings and then abandoned said bags along the fence line of the vacant lot.

"Hmmmmm," I thought, "compost."

Read any advice on urban composting, and you'll be urged to befriend landscapers in order to get a source of grass and leaves. Maybe I'm a bit obtuse, but I haven't been able to figure out the mechanics of sidling up to random landscapers. I work in a very urban environment. There are no lawns in the warehouse district of West Oakland, hence, no landscapers. I think I need to start hanging out at Landscaper Pickup Bars, wherever those might be.

I mentioned my desire to swipe some of these grass clippings for my garden to Robb, and he immediately started composing headlines for the local news. Oakland Woman Arrested for Foliage Theft: Details at Eleven.

I wasn't deterred. I planned to pick up one of these huge leaf bags on my way to work last Saturday, but the angry looking woman standing at bus stop directly in front of the pile of bags made me delay my plans. Instead, I grabbed a bag Monday morning. The only problem was that I wasn't headed to the shop (where the garden is). We were scheduled to work onstage at the theater all day.

And it was a hot day on Monday.

By the end of the day, we were all exhausted, and my car smelled like rotting hay and fennel.

I did not drive to the shop and feed my compost pile. I drove home, and went to bed.

The next morning, we worked at the theater, and eventually ended up at the shop. My car smelled even funkier than it had the day before. More than one person asked me if I had a dead body in the back of my car. By the time the bag got dumped on the compost pile, its contents were steaming. Decomposition had already begun.

Not surprisingly, the clippings from your average urban vacant lot bear little resemblance to what you get your typical suburban lawn. No tidy short grass for me. My bag was full of long, fibrous stems, that had completely matted together. I tried chopping these into smaller pieces, but stopped after I had succeeded in giving myself a really gory blister. I interspersed my new compost booty with sawdust from the shop, and everything seems to be cooking away nicely.

My compost pile is happy. When it "cooks down" I'll be adding much-needed nutrients to my garden's soil. The native wildflowers will be thrive, and that will provide food for butterflies and bees.

And Robb and all of the painters will know, without any doubt, that I'm a weed-stealing lunatic.


Anonymous said...

The mad woman of Oakland strikes again! After this posting, you will probably get offers clipping from numerous area gardeners!

Grumpy Grinch -- who loves our compost and garden

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've been there. Just thank your lucky stars it wasnt a big bag full of used tampons.

I'm not going to go any further.

I did go to the Barnum and Baily circus when in Baltimore a looong time ago on "get free elephant poop" day. The local news crews were there interviewing people, mainly along the lines of trying to make us look stupid. When I was asked by the reporter (fox news sucks, by the way) what my neighbors would think of having a 20 by 20 foot next door lot of baked asphalt, struggling plants and (gasp) honest to goodness elephant pooop, I honestly told the tv reporter that elephant poop was the last thing that would bother my neighbors, as they were all drunks and junkies. Needless to say, I never made the news.

It's like she had never been to Baltimore before, honestly.

Poop was the last thing to worry about, since by trying to garden you can easily skewer your self on those aids-infested needles, broken glass, and splintery bits of old wood covered with lead paint and tetnus-causing metal nails. Once I found a box turtle living back there, though. And lots of turtle-eating rats, apparently.



Anonymous said...

One further note for you, Lisa.

Get thee to a coffee shop, woman, and haul away all the used coffee grounds you want for free. They give it away several times a day, and will love you for it.
Just make sure you have some heavy duty garbage bags with you, in case their break open. then your car will smell like dead body and caffine.


Martha said...

I guess we're related. The mad grass woman and the crazy leaf/straw lady...

ArtGekko said...

Ooooooh. Thank you, Annalisa, for that awesome idea. I will have to inquire at two local coffee shops. I don't drink coffee, so it never occurred to me to scavenge it. :)

greg said...

If you ever want to make the trip up, since we moved in December we have gotten rid of about 40- 72 gallon bags of pine needles, leaves and other lawn type detritus. And we have a lot more to go, we have to keep it away from the house as it's considered combustible material. We are still working on getting a compost heap going...

Anonymous said...

What is that green insect that looks like a bee on your blog? Do you actually have green bees?

Composter from way back in the 70s.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

That beautiful bee was photographed in my urban garden. How it found the flowers, surrounded as they are by a sea of warehouses and asphalt, is a bit of a mystery to me.


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