Several months ago, Ralf and I (if I remember correctly), wandering far from the usual paths, encountered a little pond, apparently where someone at some point dug sand for construction. We’ve been fortunate to have decent rain this summer, so on this very hot and muggy day the dogs loved the stop. From left to right: Leah, Kiya, Sofia, Jordan (front), Benji, and what looks like a black lump in some grass, Lorena.
Further along, from one day to the next — in the middle of nowhere — appeared a pickup truck load of construction trash. Yes, even with abundant trash collection containers everywhere, some troglodytes decided the best way to deal with their trash would be to drive into a large empty area and start a trash pile there.
Which reminds me of a story. In nearby Parque del Plata, when the trash containers first appeared a few years ago, my friend Carlos and his wife embarked on the project of cleaning up the trash-dump empty lot diagonally across from them. They filled the “dumpster” over and over, until finally the lot was clean. Then Carlos spots a middle-aged man carrying a bag of garbage to the container. No, right past the container, to the middle of the lot, where he drops it on the ground. Carlos screams at him to use the trash container.
“But this is the way I’ve always done it,” he says.
Welcome to Uruguay.
Carlos, who is Uruguayan, tells me they did eventually “toilet train” that troglodyte.
I spent enough years in the USA to be predisposed to a gung-ho, get-it-done attitude, and a respect for quality products and services, so a couple of things here stand out for me.
Tolerance of mediocrity: Chinese electric hand tools with a two-month warranty that cease operating after three, for example. Well, you might say, it’s poor country. And you’d be right. But you won’t find anyone here who disagrees that lo barato sale caro — false economy: cheap things end up being expensive. *Shrug* Es lo que hay. That’s what it is.
Lack of situational awareness: as with people at peak season who pause in the exit door of the supermarket to have a conversation, or bicyclists, motos, or pedestrians who cross streets without looking. And let’s not forget cars.
Here’s a photo that presents a lovely illustration of both.
The lady who apparently owns but doesn’t live at the end of Syd’s block had a hissy fit about the growing brush pile on her corner (but on the town right-of-way). She decided an appropriate response involved tearing the pile apart so that brush blocked both streets. Who did what next remains a mystery, but last week we returned from walking dogs to see two guys loading brush into a truck. Leaving Syd’s 5/6ths of the dog pack inside, we walked down to see if they’d be similarly taking away the 2+ year old brush pile next to Syd’s house. They indicated they would. Excellent!
They added that the current brush pile would require a second trip.
What you’re seeing in the photo is, left side, the remaining half of the brush pile. The blue and white stuff beyond is the non-brush trash that they carefully removed from the brush pile. The blue thing beyond that is (and was) an empty trash container that could have easily accommodated the trash they separated from the brush pile. But apparently for them when your job is to pick up brush, it doesn’t include leaving the street clean.
The rest of the story, as you might guess, is that they haven’t been back.
I’m guessing they will. Eventually. Meanwhile, es lo que hay.
I haven’t determined exactly how I’m going to incorporate fish waste into my close-to-totally-disorganized garden, but it will have to be dog-digging-proof. I have decided to make a substantial fence. But deciding is short of doing, and we happen to have a puppy who likes to dig — and meanwhile no fence.
Beyond remembered tales of American Indians dumping a fish head or carcass below each corn plant, my fish-in-the-garden story is this: shortly after arriving in Mexico in 2007, I attended an organic gardening class by a massively overweight American woman who happened to be very good at growing things. Actually, exceptionally good. She was also an outstanding cook and baker, and, unh huh, liked to eat. She had a plastic-lined pit in which she made compost tea from fish, and shared her secret source. There was, she said, at the end of a short two-block street that ended at the railroad tracks in Pátzcuaro, a place where they processed fish from the lake. You had to knock on an unmarked door, have containers, explain your request, and then, Hod willing and goods delivered, back out the two blocks, because there was no way to turn your car around.
Sorry, that’s above my pay grade.
She also explained how they cultivated contacts in the daily mercado for composting. They had to they dress down, relate to the locals, develop trusted relationships in order to get the valued vegetable waste. Wow. Heavy social investment.
Reference: there is no way a home gardener can get enough compost from home vegetable waste. You need organic materials from somewhere else.
Anyway, visiting a project of ours on Calle Independencia near the cemetery in Pátzcuaro, I discovered something amazing: garbage trucks appear there every afternoon. Guys with hand trucks and 55-gallon barrels go into the market and bring out the waste. I showed up day after day, with a plastic tub like the one I bought here, and soon they wanted to know before they went into the market: was there was anything in particular I favored? Onion greens? Carrot tops? It was deliciously ironic.
But it got better.
One day, a little truck pulled up. Fish waste. From the fish place. You know, the one where you had do a little ritual of obscure door-knocking and reverse-driving. I said to the garbage kid (remember, I’m an old fart, so everyone is a kid), fish is OK in the garden, eh? and he enthusiastically agreed and personally took my plastic tub to the truck and proudly filled it with fish heads and bones and guts, and placed it in the back of my several-years-old Toyota 4Runner.
Fortunately, I had a plastic-rubber floor liner. Because, in his enthusiasm, the kid had maximally-filled my plastic tub. And despite my caution, over the first tope — speed bump — I heard the flop of a fish carcass. On the next another. No matter. I could always hose that stuff off.
The problem arose — as today — when I realized that I had arrived home shortly before dinner time and actually had to do something with this treasure. In Mexico, it involved feverishly turning over my extensive compost pile, inserting fish waste, re-covering and weighting down plastic sheeting so our animals couldn’t get into it. It worked. And apparently fertilized magnificently, but by then we were the hell out of Mexico. Another story that I probably won’t tell here.
Meanwhile, here, a couple concrete blocks over the bucket this evening. Tomorrow? Stay tuned 😉
Thanks for reading this. Gardening is weird at times, no?
Beautiful weather the last few days, but I’m on dog-walking hiatus because he managed to slice open his foot on one of the multiple garbage dumps where we walk with Syd’s five dogs.
So this photo is from a few days ago.
According to Syd, someone spent a winter in this structure. It was intact when first I saw it.
Other trash sites include old furniture, TVs, and just about anything else you can imagine, including many things that could have been put in trash receptacles nearby.
Blue dots represent trash locations; Syd probably knows more. Light blue area is generally littered. And yes, there is a pile of broken TVs and other appliances just meters from the streets that have trash receptacles, and no, not all the trash predates the receptacles.
An Uruguayan friend in nearby Parque del Plata told me that he and his wife spent a considerable amount of time cleaning up the corner lot opposite them, where neighbors left their trash, when the trash containers arrived. (OBTW there wastrash pickup before the containers.) Shortly after, he watched a man in his 50s walk past the trash container to dump his trash in the open lot. When confronted, the guy said, this is the way I’ve done it all my life. He was eventually trained out of that habit. It took about a year.