Gardening: Litter Collection

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I have been collecting litter for a while. My neighborhood is located between three bus stops (including the secondary city depot), a Walmart, a 7-11, several fast food joints, a couple strip malls, and an old seventies rundown shopping center (which is so run-down the Goodwill moved out to a better location). It’s a delightful mixed community in the residential area, but we get a LOT of blown trash.

My goal is to collect a bag a day, but when I started the post office job, I fell behind – like nine months behind. December of last year, and now January and February of this year I have started “Make-my-life-cleaner”, with the initial focus on catching up on the litter in my neighborhood and the emails.

In March, I finished catching up on the litter. The LITTER DUMP SAGA I posted on Facebook is as follows (with a few precursor posts):


Collected 12 bags of litter today in the neighborhood. Figure I got about 24 bags to go.


Collected 10 bags of litter today – caught up on a bag a day!

8/11/2020 – Started with the post office and no longer physically able to collect litter regularly. I will need to build back my strength. The flip side is the litter collection made me fit enough to make the post office package delivery job possible.


Bored staying at home? Have a pick-up-litter day anywhere. Take a walk on a nature trail, walk your neighborhood, visit a favorite restaurant/shopping center, clean up a park, walk the main street or public facilities.

Just a bag or two. Trust me, it never takes long.


Yep, got this reaction while picking up litter in the neighborhood.



Just did my part in making the neighborhood better by reporting three dumps of mattresses within two blocks of my house in no-man-lands between properties. Hopefully they will disappear in the next couple of weeks. Annoyed at the police who regularly patrol the area and should have reported them for removal, but that might not be part of their duties. Finger-crossed the squeaky wheel gets oiled.

Last time I complained a few years ago, it was taken care of within a day. But then that was abandoned saw blades from utility work next to a school bus stop and I could add “child endangerment” to the “public nuisance” complaint.

I collect litter regularly (average a bag a day in my neighborhood), but the mattresses are just too big to stuff into my trashcan.

COMMENT from friend A: Glad you reported it. I am angry people dumped it. They are just making it someone else’s problem. If they have transport to dump the mattresses in your neighborhood, they have transport to take them to the dump.

MY RESPONSE: I’m betting the first set (three together) was someone thinking they could donate used mattresses to the Kidney foundation across the street, not knowing it is against the law to sell used mattresses and they didn’t want to take them home. That is the group that really annoys me because it is right there on a busy road. And there has been two trash days since, but did anyone in the public sector send it upstream for fixing? I don’t know.

COMMENT from friend B: If you add the words “potentially impeding traffic,“ it will get cleaned up a lot faster.


The city sent me a copy of the “notice of violation” – the code is against the “accumulation of scrap on premises”. The city ordinance requires storage within a building to “minimize dangers”. The property owner of the undeveloped acres will be informed. I bet they are used to it because about every six months they chop down the vegetation encroaching on the road. Yes the three dump sites are owned by the same person, it’s a wooded area meandering through the neighborhood. They have 10 days before penalties.

It’s hard to find the balance between letting people live their lives and making sure you can also live yours. Considering how much trash I pick up that gets blown into that area, I don’t feel too bad getting government involved in the ask for clean up.



The two biggest dump sites are both still there. But today I went down the hill collecting litter, something I like to do on Monday while all the trash cans are out so I don’t have to haul it back up the hill, and the smallest site was clear. That is the only site not actually “owned” by anyone, it is a little corner that doesn’t meet the neat rectangles of home-ownership plots for city taxes. I guess the city owned that one and took away that particular mattress and two tires (the tires have been a staple there for at least four years, I shall miss them … in the “I could care less” emotion, it is possible to care less, but not easily).

The sites actually owned are still a mess – though I have collected the small litter, just to be fair so the absentee owner just has to haul away the big stuff, not spend time collecting the easy-to-transport trash. The officials have a little sign posted of “notice”.

So, if you own property you don’t visit often, be sure to have someone in the area willing to do a quick looksee every week – for dumpsters and for notices.

For those who are like “why doesn’t someone fix this?”, well, already one of the squeaky wheels I presented have been fixed. If you only talk about these things – or post about them – things don’t get fixed. You got to actually get involved. I know it is work, but I think I will smile every time I go by the place that had the abandoned tires for unknown number of years. Because, that is where I made the world a little better.

Wayfaring road signs falling down (the ones with road names on them), report them, stop signs faded, report them, … your tax dollars at work, make them work!

Also note, in some cases, know you don’t need to wait for someone else to fix things, you can fix them on your own. Be aware of property rights and community property (like the Stop Sign and Wayfaring) and figure what you legally can fix and what you need help from a bigger picture.

Take care of yourself first, your kin and clan next, then community.



Still waiting on the property owner to clear things, but it has only been a week from the complaint.

In the meantime, I have accomplished a long-term litter clean-up project. That windstorm in late December which damaged my roof also threw a lot of trash around the area.

Normally I average a bag of trash a day on litter pickup in my neighborhood. This has been going on for years (at least four), but then four dumpsters and two major shopping centers bring a lot of trash with them. When I took the post office job, I slowed down. Couldn’t physically do both; only these past few months have I physically brought myself up to doing litter collection and post office within a day of each other. I got over nine months behind on the “one a day” while building my strength, which doesn’t make catch-up easy.

You think that other people would take up the slack, but it is so constant, even someone picking up a little once isn’t enough.

Today I collected 18 bags along the South axis of my intersection up to one block away … finally completing the cleanup along that axis after a month and a half of work. I’m also now less than two months behind on the “one bag a day”.

Whoot whoot getting that mess done. I’m close to done along another axis. Fingers crossed I can get West done before the end of the week. I didn’t do all of one at a time, just whichever I thought I could attack in the time I got in the morning before going to day-job taxes. South and West were the two axiis slammed by the windstorm.

35 days of catch-up and three axiis to go. I think I got this.



Still nothing on the property owner moving things front. We got a long weekend (President’s Day is Monday) – Tuesday will be time’s up on the Notice. Tuesday will also be the neighborhood’s trash day, so fingers crossed the eyesore will be removed next week.

The trash pile is different from the neat stack I put it in for quick pickup because of the winds with yesterday rains. For those of you who think, oh, how bad is trash REALLY? Well, the Southern axis previously fully cleared as of three days ago (Saga 4 posting) — I collected seven new bags of trash today along that axis. At a “bag a day,” that axis alone had a week’s worth after one itty-bitty rain and wind day.

And today I managed to finish the Western axis, even with the additional hassle of the wind. Two axiis are complete, two to go. Can I get one done next week? I got a lot to do, so it would be a challenge.

Final report for this part of the Litter Saga. I have completely caught up on the “one-a-day” goal. COVID I-don’t-want-to-do-anything and postal work combined to make me fall nine months behind. I am now actually ahead. With two axiis yet to finish clearing. Maintenance, as shown by yesterday’s wind, is at least a bag-a-day, so I’m going to get way ahead if I finish clearing things.

The Eastern axis will be the final big project. There was a house taken down along it, and the old renters had a lot of trash in their backyard. While the demolitions removed the house, they didn’t clear out the trash. I will work on the Northern axis first – it has some “upscale” businesses – a funeral home and a bank – so they send out someone every so often to clean things on those properties. The rest of it needs work (fast food, a bar, and a cell phone provider make up the balance of the businesses, mixed in with several residential properties), but North shouldn’t take long to get in order.



They picked up the mattresses! Like right now!!! while I was collecting the new trash that gathered around them.

On Tuesday, I gathered the litter around the auction house – it is on the Western axis that I finished clearing last week – to see just how much is produced when it is open on Friday/Saturday. The answer is five grocery bags. So, yeah, there is that. Just that location produces a week’s worth of litter.

It is a part-time auction house in a run-down shopping center that hasn’t had a facelift lift since it was built in the 60’s … only patches. We are talking cut rate maintenance and rents and disinterested ownership, plus the second bus depot for the city. If I want trash not to blow into my yard from that location (and it is the prevailing winds, so that is where a good percentage of the trash in my yard comes from) then I just need to pick it up every Monday/Tuesday before it disperses.

I finished the Northern axis yesterday, leaving only the Eastern axis with the empty lot full of hidden trash. That empty lot is really annoying to get to – If I could cut between the fence in the NE corner of my yard, I would be there in one house. But because of fencing, I have to go down the East axis, turn North and then walk nearly the entire other side of the block. It is about as far as I can get from my house and still be on the same block of residential properties, yet diagonally, we are neighbors – which means when the wind blows from the not prevailing way, all that trash starts migrating to me. It needs to go.

One more axis!



Well, I spoke too soon. They took away the BIG pile of six mattresses, but the furthest pile, the singleton plus recliner and TV stand are still there. I’ll ding the city again after I move the recliner and stand closer to the mattress. The trash guys the city sends only gets the stuff closest to the street. The half-burned, nearly stripped mattress of the big pile is still there even after I specifically mentioned it to one of the guys while I was collecting trash. That is a project for another day.

Today is Monday so I am taking advantage of all the trash cans at the curb. There was a pile of a broken down table and chair at an apartment building for two weeks, and one nearby trashcan was empty so I just loaded it up.

Also working on the Tear-Down Lot – got the two blankets dragged to the curb and then found a half-filled trashcan to get rid of them, but a hamper – one of those huge rolling things – is now on the TDL, filled with half-destroyed fiberglass insulation. Guess someone is fixing a house and abandoned the materials there instead of paying for a dumpster (sigh).

Related, my grabber – so I don’t have to bend down all the time – has broken. Handle snapped today. This is my second one since moving here. The first one lasted about a year. This one lasted four or five … way past the manufacturing specifications for numbers of times used and the amount picked up. The “suckers” on the end have been gone since the Before Times.

I have two grabbers for around the house use. Off to figure out which one is more sturdy and longer (less bending – more reachie).



I did it – all cleaned up!!!

Monday, I hauled 32 grocery bags from the torn-down house lot. Tuesday, I did a pass on the first three axiis – the auction house had 13 bags this week, the southern axis gathered three matching the northern axis three. I swung by the TDL and got another six – the final along the wall shared with the bank where people drop things while at the ATM … so much litter.

Today, I finished the Eastern axis with another eleven bags. The mattress is still there waiting. I decided not to report it again because the neighbor next to it was putting together a pile of their own “large household goods” and said the city will be coming by next Monday for his stuff. But believe me, come Tuesday, if the mattress is still there, another report will be sent in.

The hamper is the only eyesore left at the TDL – the neighbor there is moving pieces into his trash as his container has room. I will help find homes in the partially filled trash cans as time permits on Mondays.

Right now my can is completely full, but closeable. No more litter collection this week for me. I’m now two and a half months ahead on the bag-a-day.

Left to do is the follow-up on the Abandoned Mattress and the Fiberglass Filled Hamper, and then maintenance in the neighborhood going forward. I could expand, but, really, I just want to take a fifteen-minute walk per day. The litter gives me an added incentive to get some daylight movement in each day.

Today’s new city report was on a developing pot hole. Be interesting to see the follow-up on that. It is a big dip, now cracking the pavement after the winter freeze-melt cycle (yes, we do get a bit in the south, not much, but enough) combined with the fact the road isn’t build for the dumpster trucks that run up and down it.

Next on the get my world cleaned up is back to the emails (down to 4K from 12K) and taking down branches for the spring.



Today being a Monday, I decided to pick up all the litter while the trash containers are out.

30 bags later, maintenance for the week is done for the neighborhood. Only three bags from the auction house this week, but that is because I refused to get close to the overflowing, overstacked, and piles-either-side dumpster. They get a week to fix that.

The Auction house dumpsters

Still waiting on the last mattress to be taken away. Fingers crossed today is the day, otherwise tomorrow is a complaint. Someone moved the recliner closer to the mattress, so hopefully both will be taken away.

The new grabber, replaced on 2/27/2023, has already broken. Nine days. Starting my last grabber. I don’t have high hopes of it lasting long since it had a “break” in the middle so it can be folded in half for mailing and storage. That weakpoint is going to give way at some point. I’ll need to pick up a replacement soon. I like to have one on hand at all times.

For the spring cleaning outside the house, I’ve picked up sticks and trimmed the branches on the front trees. This week will be the back trees and trying to convince my jungle to stop annexing my neighbor’s yard through vines and runners sent out from the bushes and the wisteria.

THE MATTRESS PILE THAT JUST WON’T GO AWAY – Mattress, two tires, a recliner, an organ, and several other things.


The mattress pile was still there after 5:00 pm. Complaint time!

Since I was in the website anyway, I did it ALL: the mattress pile, the overflowing dumpsters at the auction house, the area behind the kidney store donation where they are leaving sofas and mattresses beside their dumpster for weeks without them being taken away, the abandoned rug that the cut-rate shopping center still hasn’t removed after three weeks for the parking lot in an area not associated with their tenant-stores, and the trash behind the area where the old Goodwill store use to be before they decided the shopping center was too cut-rate even for them. The city complaint department will be busy tomorrow.

Yes, I live in the “bad” section of town, but that doesn’t mean we need to look trashy. Most of it is just the cut-rate shopping center not doing their job keeping their tenants in line. All the residents in the area thank me when seeing me out there cleaning up. They want to live better.

The Rug
The Kidney Store not cleaning up around their dumpsters
The old Goodwill trash


The Mattress Pile That Just Won’t Go Away … has gone away!!!! The city even dug out the broken organ and the wrapped fencing. A beautiful greenway is visible from the street. Now, the ongoing task will be collect three bags of trash per week and slowly turn this green space into “untouched” nature again. I picked up six grocery bags of bottles today in that area. I’m not going to devote too much energy, because this beautiful greenway area is just waiting for a developer to drop a half dozen homes on it. Since it has a creek running through it, I’m betting the waterway requirements is the holdup. It would be a lovely area to develop into a hiking trail and park, but there is no way with the housing boom we got in this neighborhood since they recently build a stadium two miles away. Another five years, max, before that land gets sold to a builder.

Another mattress showed up over the weekend where the big pile had been, but the city grabbed it today. If I hadn’t been picking up litter due to the windstorm, I wouldn’t have even noticed another dump. This would be another reason the land will be sold; the owner has got to hate all the dumping on his land.

The Fiberglass Filled Hamper behind the church got my focused attention this week. I dragged two large fiberglass tunnels up the hill to my personal can, which nearly filled it, leaving room for just a couple bags of home-generated trash this week. And a house about half a block away from the hamper had an empty can today (Monday-trash-day), so I transferred several loads over there. And then another couple houses had half-full containers, so all the small boxes got thrown out too. All that is left is the dilapidated, half-rotten hamper. Hopefully the guy who lives next to the church will take care of that since I’m not really set up to break the thing down into small enough bits to fit into a trash can so it can be taken away.

In other news, the overflowing dumpster was cleared, the area behind the old goodwill had a going over (the recliner is missing and the trash is much less), the mattress and sofas by the kidney store are gone plus the kidney store now has two dumpsters … only thing remaining from the 3/6 website “I want to report…” moment is the abandoned rug. I don’t know the city leaned on the shopping center or the individual stores, but my complaint seems to have worked. Remember, the squeaky wheel does get oiled. Use city services to your advantage to make you life better. Just fifteen minutes of my time fixed several eyesores and made my neighborhood a much more pleasant place to live.

But also, doing grunt work for those things I can do on my own helps. Between yesterday and today, I collected 31 grocery bags of trash, and I didn’t actually complete any of the axiis this week. The windstorm paper trash left a wide mark, but is nearly under control now.

Ongoing goals: Get the Rug gone, get the Hamper gone, Tear Down lot has some last bits of rusted metal buried in a leaf pile that needs a couple trips of attention, work on the Greenway-Waiting-On-A-Developer (if only because of the surface water stream – Gastonia gets all of its water from surface water, just like Charlotte – controlling storm water and surface water for trash is a major safety issue), and, of course, ongoing maintenance.

I’m thinking the maintenance might include clearing some of the storm drain entrances along a road which is constantly flooding. Dirt and grass has built up on the grates. Again storm water feeds the surface water which feeds our homes.

Geeking Science: Gardening the Black

Photo by Neslihan Gunaydin on Unsplash

Going into the dark, the vastness of space, is a challenge. Earth is our womb, our soil and roots, our air, our home, our food, the water of our blood. When we leave home, we will need to take our basic needs with us – air, water, the ability to grow food, the tools to make shelter – or figure out a way to do so out there in the dark.

Scientists are working on that as we speak. And one of the biggest helpers we might take with us is the all-time best grow-in-the-shadows food: mushrooms. To build soil and build houses.

Our food system depends on our top soil, and we will need a lot of it in space. One of the major producers of soil is fungus. Scientists are thinking they can jump start soil production with some carefully chosen and trained mushrooms.

And also build houses. I know, right? Fungus houses!

This fascinating subject is laid out in “Fungi Could Make Soil from Asteroids and Homes on Mars” by Madeleine Gregory. (April 8, 2022, on – – last viewed 10/14/2022)

Another part of the investigation is actually attempting to grow plants in lunar soil brought back by the Apollo missions. The too long-didn’t watch the whole 5 minutes of the video breakdown is (1) they did add nutrient rich water to grow the plants in the soil (what the other scientists mentioned above are trying to by-pass with the fungi because carting nutrients and water into space is EXPENSIVE) and (2) the plants still didn’t grow as well on the space soil as they did in similar soil found on Earth – and the scientists are excited about this because it means there is a difference between their simulation and the actual soil, now they just need to figure out what that is. As I mentioned before in Geeking Science posts, scientists love it when they have more questions than answers. (University of Florida scientists grow plants in soil from the moon – May 13, 2022 – youtube)

Geeking Science: Tree Talk

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

Scientists have discover trees gossip, after a fashion.

Through a fungal network, they share information about insect attacks, can request nutrients, and even nurture their young. So much happening right under our feet!

Within a multi-layer, diverse-culture forest, mother trees can make sure her seedlings get the food they need even under the shade of her branches. But here is a twist on that sharing nutrient network, trees do it with other trees outside their family line and even species. Initially, this might seem counter intutive to the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” concept of every creature and lifeform is out for themselves. When ecology professor Suzanne Simard ran a test, she discovered Birch and Fir trees talk to each other.

When the fir was shaded by the birch in summer, the birch sent more carbon to it. When the birch was leafless in the winter, the fir sent more carbon to it. (Burrows, 2018)

By working together, the two trees had a steady supply of “food” year round.

Cooperation for the win.

This interaction within the forest gives some concerns to clear-cutting and replacing with mono-culture tree species. Even removing the “largest” trees might not be the best option for a healthy forest, as the mother trees are teaching other trees how to share resources. This massive interaction is something loggers need to study to maximize production of good wood products.

<Simard> says, “<Trees> live longest and reproduce most often in a healthy stable forest. That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.” (Grant, 2018)

As a writer interested in science fiction, all this geeks me out. The interconnectedness of forests brings so much to the conceptual plate of Terraforming. Making oxygen and water won’t bring a planet paradise into existence. We must understand soil, trees sharing water and nutrients, fungi taking 30% of the sugar to provide a communication network and replaying the sugar with nutrients they gather to the tree roots. All these interactions will need to be brought into play on New-Earth, both fictional and in real life.


BBC News. “How trees secretly talk to each other” YouTube. June 29, 2018. – last viewed 12/18/2022.

Burrows, Sue. “Trees Talk to Each Other in a Language We Can Learn, Ecologist Claims”. February 28, 2018. – last viewed 12/18/2022 (Note 4/26/2024: website cancelled).

Grant, Richard. “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?”. Smithsonian Magazine. March 2018. – Last viewed 12/18/2022.

McClenaghan, Beverly. “STEM in Context – Talking Trees: How Do Trees Communicate?” Let’s Talk Science. July 23, 2019. – last viewed 12/18/2022 (Note from 9/20/2023 – looks like it is now behind a paywall).