Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Respect the Bird

Respect it!
Don't forget to compost that carcass and all the vegetable scraps that gave so that you might celebrate.
Be save.
Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, November 20, 2009

Electronic Pruning--Part 2

On 8/27/09, I posted an entry about pruning an apple tree. In it, I took pictures of an apple tree I had inherited when I moved into my house oh-so long ago. I wanted some expert advice on how to prune it properly, but didn't want the professional (in this case Corva Rose with Divine Earth) to drive all the way out to my property for just one tree. I also like to do that kind of work so any effort made by Corva would not result in any paying work. That has happened to me many a time, and it just isn't any fun.

Back in September, the tree was fully leaved out and bearing lots of small apples. Now the tree is essentially bare of leaves. I have taken the pictures from the same spots and sent them on to Corva. While I await her response, here is the tree from various angles.

Looking East...



And finally South...

Obviously, the photos should be as clear and descriptive as possible. I'll see what else Corva needs and let you know.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Leaf Mulch

Some of you may know that for years I have run a little landscaping business (yes, I am for hire). Mostly now I just do cleanups and small installations, but I have been known to do major jobs. Obviously, my work is steeped in recycling and compost use. This Monday one of my long time customers asked me: "Can you take these leaves away and bring me some mulch?" I was speechless (but only for a moment).

I explained that the falling leaves were in fact nature's way of providing a mulch.That the leaves contained nutrients and trace minerals that the trees had absorbed all summer from the soil. That if left to blanket the soil around the tree's drip line, they would insulate the soil and roots, then slowly decompose. That that decomposition would then return the nutrients and minerals back to the root zone of the plant for re-use.

She was a little shocked that one didn't need to buy a mulch to effectively protect the soil and roots around a tree. Appearance was an issue so we agreed to leave the leaves in place and cover them with a thinner layer of Pecan Shells. Problem solved, for now.

But I was intrigued by the notion that in order to garden well, one had to spend money. Or more broadly, that landscaping is some process designed and schemed by some entity out there that knows better than nature does. I run into this frequently at Soilutions when people want to: put wood ashes on their NM lawn, blend compost with Peat Moss, use weed barrier, direct rainwater off the property and use sprinklers, grow blueberries in Albuquerque, or put a "dry river bed" from no-where-near a downspout to no-where-near a plant.

I run into this all the time in my own business, as well. I feel that people should take care of there own waste. Basically, if you make a mess, clean it up. In landscape terms, that means, to me , that if you have a lawn, YOU mow it, YOU be responsible for knowing how to care for it, etc. If you have a tree, YOU deal with the leaves when they fall. It's my version of what's "wrong with the world", like over-population, living beyond one's credit means or whatever the catch phrase of the day is. I think a personal responsibility to our immediate environment would engender more sensible landscapes, produce less waste, and create a more diverse and thus more personable urban environment. Obviously though, there are plenty of reasons to hire help for some of your landscape needs.

But if we all take a stab at managing our own property, just think of the possibilities. I find my mind stimulated when trying to create a look I want with the (recycled) materials I have on hand. I see more of my daily path when I am scouting a junk pile for that last piece to finish a job. I save money and resources by shaping the project to the materials. I let my plants reseed themselves, where they want to grow. When it rains, I go outside for a look. People like my client, who started this tirade, would have time to ponder the little thing s that occur in our garden and hopefully realize that they occur for a reason.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cold Frame Update

Check it out.

Last night it got down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit at the compost site (14 degrees F at my house)

(You can see the blue line on the left indicating the low temperature for the night)

So I thought it would be good to see how our little plants handled the drop in temperature.

(Except for a little tinge of frost on the topmost leafs of the radishes, no damage.)

By the way, I have been noshing on radishes for several weeks.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Winter Innovation

We all slow down when Winter starts to set in. For me, it coincides with the time change. Without much sunlight to work with, but with the same amount of time, I find myself lying in bed a little longer to listen to my wife breathe gently, sitting a little longer over my second cup of coffee in front of the fire, or taking a little longer way to work.

When the crew shows up to work, a little later each week, we chat more about family and kids rather than the work day ahead. The slowness of it all was a welcome relief from the hectic asses-and-elbows mentality of early Spring. But this year is different; it is different for all of us. At Soilutions, we sit in the office and wonder, sometimes aloud, whether this is the year that breaks us. Did we do enough when times were better? True, each winter is tight but we have always had a nest egg from the Spring that, if budgeted properly, would get us through until the phones ring again in late March. We are grateful to the regulars, but they too are worried.

This year is different.

But what I am trying to get to, what the title of this entry alludes to, is that we haven't given up. We have always been a small, diverse group, too smart to take it sitting down. Several years ago we forged an unheard-of agreement with a local government to divert greenwaste from the landfills. We started the Pecan Shell Mulch craze 10 years ago; they used to pay to haul this stuff to the landfill. We were instrumental in getting the construction lumber recycling industry up and running in NM. Then we invented a program that collects foodwaste from local restaurants and hotels. This year we partnered loosely with a company that make wattles, or mulch socks, and services the NMDOT to help mitigate soil erosion on the side of our roads. In short, we have invented, time and again, necessary markets for organics diversion and re-use in NM.

In this dire economic crisis, we feel that we have come through once again. For the first time we are offering a mulch marketed as much for its price as its usefulness. We call it Blower Mulch because it was made originally for use by the large commercial blower trucks that spread thousands of cubic years at a time on hillsides and roadside. It is made of recycled construction lumber, namely dimensional lumber (2x4, 2x6, etc), pallets, crates, and plywood. It is not approved for use on certified organic gardens like our flagship material Premium Compost and other products. We process Blower Mulch much the same way we process many of our products: grind it to 2" and then screen it to 1/2"-1". It's a nice blond material, from a completely renewable resource, economical, and quite useful.

So where's the innovation? Well, granted it isn't on the same scale as starting the only Foodwaste Collection Service in the state, but it is innovative in several ways. Blower Mulch allows LEED construction companies to "close the loop" by using this mulch on it's finished landscapes. It represents a variation on our standard ideology of processing products as little as possible. It forces our customers to look at a product with an open mind; you are not going to find this mulch in the box stores. We have always had the most expensive product on the market; now we beat all private producers' prices for a comparable product.

So come on down and take a free sample home with you.

Finish mulching that 1/2 acre you're tired of weeding but couldn't afford to deal with properly. It's selling for $11/yd3 for the time being until we can all get back on our collective feet again.

Hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

We are Grinding

From this....

to this.

We are grinding now and for the next couple of weeks. I encourage you to come down and witness the event. There are not many opportunities to experience something of this magnitude. For us at Soilutions, grinding IS an event. It takes all of our staff and most of our equipment, working long dusty hours.

It drains the bank account. For all the customers who are disgruntled at paying us to dispose properly of their waste ("You guys are making money from both ends!"), I really want you to come down and see for yourself what goes into processing the raw materials you bring us. If you think about what goes on and that none of it is cheap, you will begin to realize that our tipping fee is more than fair. Just with the fluctuations in diesel fuel alone, we often get burned. What I mean by that is we are expected to charge a set rate to receive greenwaste; but the expense to process that greenwaste is very dependent on the cost of diesel. If we charge $5/yd in February to receive material but grind it in March when diesel has jumped 25%, then we are losing money.

Then consider why and how the municipalities can charge less to bury it when their employees are better paid and better insured; their equipment is new and they give away an inferior product.

Einstein said once "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."

Enough said for now.