[gardeners] Mulch

Byron (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Thu, 1 Nov 2001 17:01:44 -0500

Some of you folks might remember a news story about a couple that met on a
mulch forum.  Later to get married.  With one of the most unusal items  to
be mulched was a refund check from the IRS.

Jon  also took on a challenge of composting several thousand lbs of "Past
due" oysters.  Managed to do it in such away that no one complained..

Jon and Katie also took on another
major project that I would like to pass on to you.


I thought about posting this compost saga on the wacko and gloating threads
but somehow the solemnity of purpose of the project didn't seem appropriate.
After the events of Sept. 11 most of us were grappling with a shattered
sense of the world and humanity. In Seattle, 75,000 people brought
approximately one million flowers to a spontaneous memorial flower vigil at
the Seattle Center's International Peace Fountain over a four day period. A
number of Interbay gardeners, including my wife and I, who brought flowers
to the vigil had the same idea: compost...the ultimate metaphor of renewal,
something we all needed.

We proposed to the Seattle Center that the flowers be brought to the
Interbay P-Patch Community Garden for composting after the close of the
vigil. The Center was receptive and very helpful in putting out an appeal to
the public to help pick up the flowers and seperate out the plastic, wire,
rubber bands, all the poems, teddy bears, etc after the Mayor closed the
vigil on Sept. 18. The media was also helpful in pulling in volunteers for
the effort. The Seattle Center even proposed using the finished compost for
a special memorial garden.

After the Mayor's closing remarks P-Patch gardeners from Interbay and all
over the city (in their green P-Patch t-Shirts they looked like the Green
Army) joined firemen, police officers, school children and public volunteers
in sorting, seperating and collecting the flowers into large 30 yard dump
boxes. In an amazing seemless effort, this huge task was finished...one
million flowers separated from their rubber bands, ribbons, plastic and
messages...in two hours.

An estimated 80 cubic yards of flowers were then transported to the Interbay
P-Patch. This was on a Tuesday afternoon...the flowers...and what a pile!...
would have to sit until Saturday morning's Compost Social when we could get
a large compost crew together...and locate some "browns". We were completely
out of browns when the flowers were delivered. Our media angels put out an
appeal to the public for leaves, straw and rotten sawdust. In bags, pick-ups
and trucks..."browns" came out of nowhere. Even the circus passing through
town sent pine bedding from their elephants and camels.

On Saturday Sept 28 about 90 people showed up at 9:00 AM with pitchforks and
wheelbarrows. We chopped one million flowers by hand and mixed with "browns"
and moistened pitchfork by pitchfork full, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow full.
One volunteer commmented, "I feel like an ant with a wheelbarrow". I said,
"Look around. You ARE an ant with a wheelbarrow."

Something about this project of composting the immense volume of memorial
flowers so they could be returned to the soil for a memorial garden
resonated profoundly with the community and each of us that participated. We
came together during a time of feeling helpless and emotionally drained to
work our butts off making huge piles of compost by hand one pitchfork full
at a time...something we know how to do, something we understand the meaning
of, something we know makes a difference.

We finished the entire job by 2:00 PM evening taking time for lunch.
Volunteers enjoyed eight large pots of delicious soups, also made and
brought by volunteers. A local Italian bakery delivered crusty bread.
"Companionship" means "sharing bread".

A song writer came to sing a song he wrote for the occasion and a poet came
with a poem. Several musicians showed up.

The three large piles of compost heated up to 160-170 the next day on
account of a mix a little heavy on "green". Fortunately the Seattle Parks
Dept volunteered to bring in a good sized front end loader to turn the piles
as needed.

The piles have turned a rich mahogany color and have an earthy tabacco
aroma...renewal in progress. The resulting humus will be the miracle and
magic new plant life will
flourish in. This compost project gave our garden and many in the community
a way to hang on to and contribute to a future during a time of anguished
confusion and hopelessness. We understand it's promise. Everytime I come
into the garden and see these compost piles, I envision the 75,000 hearts
and hands that layed the flowers in solemn gesture at the Fountain. I was
honored and proud to have been a part of this amazing project. Thank you for
the opportunity to share it with you.

Jon Rowley
Interbay P-Patch Community Garden