I am cheap.
This is well known by children, who now know better than to ask me to buy them anything frivolous. Like potato chips. “Yeah, yeah, we know. Empty calories,” they quip, eyes rolling.
I love a bargain. The best is finding something that is being thrown away and finding a really useful purpose for it.
I am an avid gardener. Mulch is one of the most important materials for gardening in arid climates. It keeps things cool and moist and is better than grass because you don’t have to water or mow it. Mulch is expensive. A pickup truck full can cost hundreds of dollars. It can be windy out here and mulch has a tendency to blow away if it’s on a weed barrier or turn into compost (which is great) if it’s not. Therefore, it is something that needs to be replaced regularly.
I live in a neighborhood where there are lots of old trees that are dead and dying. The tree removal services are a regular sight around here. The workers have to shred the tree and haul the load back to their facility before they can continue working. This takes time, reducing the number of jobs they can complete in a day.
When there is a tree service operating near my house, I stop by and give them a map to my house, requesting that they dump the load in the street near my driveway. They are happy to have a close dumping location, and I receive several hundred dollars worth of mulch delivered for free. Everyone is happy.
Except my neighbors. God bless my neighbors. They are great. They never complain about my escapades, loud noises, or heavy equipment parked on the street for weeks at a time. I am sure they were not pleased when I received a load of mulch the size of a minivan. I didn’t intend to get that much, but I gave them the map and then left for the day. When I returned, there it was.
This may sound like a great thing, after all, what’s better than a little pile of something valuable you got for free? A BIG pile of something you got for free! Hmm. Yeah. It was great for the first week. I have a hill that is covered with trees, shrubs and mulch. I hauled it from the front yard into the back, one wheelbarrow at a time, up the hill, around the shrubs and under the low tree branches, over and over again. And over, and over, and over.
This pile of mulch was like the miracle of Hanukkah. I had enough mulch for one hill, but it stretched into eight. No matter how many loads I moved, it never seemed to get any smaller. I covered the hill, made 2 new small hills, around other trees in the yard and finally the entire front yard after another project that involved removing all the grass. It took about 2 months, and no one ever complained to the city.
You may want to consider talking to your neighbors about catching a mulch fairy before you have a giant load dumped in front of your house. After all, most cities have rules about leaving building materials in the street for more than a few days. You also may want to stick around to make sure they don’t dump more than you can realistically use in your lifetime.
I realized just how much I loved living in my neighborhood about 6 months later when I came home to find another huge pile of mulch on the street. It was next door, and it was there for two months.
I didn’t say a word.