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.

Other Cool Blogs: Escape (Liana Brooks) (X is for X-scape)

Photo by Eriks Cistovs on Unsplash

Do you have a Bug-Out Bag for when disaster strikes? Or a “stay-in-place” for three days – the things in the backpack are the same either way usually.

My area is hurricane season (June to November with the focus August to October). Further North could be a snow or ice event. Out West fires. Recently for Hawaii, volcanoes. Also on the list are man-made issues with nuclear plants and riots. Recently in North Carolina, some eejit decided to disable the electric grid for Moore County by shooting it up right before a cold snap in early December, leaving forty-five thousand people without power for nearly a week in border-line freezing temperatures. Christmas shopping was shelved for survival spending – the entire county businesses had a devastating hit right before their biggest money making of the year, and all those people expecting overtime instead scrambled to find a shelter not filled to capacity.

Anyway, Liana Brooks put together a basic checklist for a 72-Hour Kit (basically the three days it takes relief organizations to mobilize). Whether shelter-in-place or getting the heck-out-of-Dodge, X-scape is the key (okay, not the perfect X for A-to-Z, but still important).

72-Hour Checklist” by Liana Brooks (9/11/2018) – (spelled out URL: – Last viewed 12/13/2022 – note that the site is HTTP, not HTTPS (secure).)

Other helpful sites and lists: (Bug Out Bag Builder . com)

WRITING EXERCISE: Okay, not really writing this time, but still essential. Make your WUSH kit (Wake Up, Stuff’s Happening) for by your bed. As a writer, I really like the suggestion by the Bug Out Bag Builder to keep your USB backup drive there. Yes, I will still be freaked out about losing my computer to a fire, but I won’t have lost everything.

This is the minimal kit – just grab and go to escape a fire or other house disaster. Store it by your night stand or under the bed, so you can wake and get outside in seconds. This go-bag is small; it should sling over the shoulder like a purse to keep the arms free to grab the children and pets.

May you never need it and may you have it if you do need it.

A) Wallet and Cell Phone – either store them in the bag at night or set things up so they are easily sweep into the bag in an emergency. Store an extra phone charger for your phone in the bag.

B) Keys – one for the house and one for the car. These are the extra keys and should live in the bag. Don’t waste time looking for keys – these should be there.

C) USB backup drive – As a writer/creative, you should be backing up your computer at least monthly. Store the backup in the WUSH bag. Digital copies of the following should be in a fire: Driver’s License, Passport, Marriage License and Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, Deed for House and Car, Insurance Polices for House and Car, Health insurance info, Credit cards (front and back – so you can call the issuer if they get destroyed).

Bonus storage for family photos, phone numbers (in case the phone is lost), and other things you don’t want to live without.

(Set a calendar alert on your phone or computer to remind you to backup the computer once a month.)

Store the backup drive in a ziplock bag in case of wet.

D) Physical copies of: Passport (if you don’t carry it daily), Marriage License and Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, Deed for House and Car, Insurance Polices for House and Car, Health Insurance info, Physical print off of copies of both sides credit cards and driver’s license (so you don’t have to find a computer for the USB backup), blank checks (if you have them), printoff of phone numbers and addresses of family, friends, and neighbors emergency contacts.

Plus some extra cash. A mix of small and large bills, enough to get a single meal and pay for overnight stay in a hotel.

E) Medications and prescription glasses – Remember to rotate the prescription medications. Keep three days in the WUSH bag, the full bug-out kit should have another four days for a total of seven days between them. For the glasses, when you get a new pair, the old pair goes in the bag. They won’t be the best, but at least the old glasses are better than nothing.

F) Flashlight – because 50% of the time, disaster will strike during night hours.

G) Food – Just one or two snack bars, especially if you have kids. Not much though, so you don’t attract ants to your bedroom.

H) Small first aid kit – a couple Band-Aids, nail clippers, and some tweezers will do. One mensuration pad (doubles as a big bandage). Don’t go nuts, this is a small kit.

Now that you have the WUSH, set aside time to put together a full go-bag as well. Remember to rotate stock in both regularly – maybe set a calendar reminder like that USB backup.

O is for Other: On the Other Side

Meme created by Erin Penn

During the SAGA Professional Writer’s Conference in 2023, Gail Z. Martin quoted a motivational speaker, saying the words changed her life. I webcrawled until I found the original speaker then made a meme with the appropriate attribution. It was the first of the memes I envisioned during the conference, down to what the picture should look like.

That is always the problem with meme creation, finding the right picture. I was ecstatic when I found the fissure against the fire background. Exactly what I wanted.

Now onto why acknowledging fear is good writing advice. “You can’t write a novel.” because it will impact your social standing, or your ability to make a living, or is too hard and there is a chance of failure. Each of these arguments are based in fear. Because, really, you can write a novel.

It might not be a good novel, but if you want to write a novel, stringing together enough words is the only requirement. Making something good enough to sell is a different issue, but if you WANT to write a novel, there is no deadline, no judge, just time spent doing what you WANT to do.

Anything you WANT to do is possible. Want a new job, then job hunt. Want a vacation – maybe Cancun isn’t in the budget, but a beach vacation is within reach.

Now, you might not WANT to do the work. Writing a novel is lot of work, but don’t let anyone say you can’t when you are capable of writing.

Also remember writing is a learning process. No one masters a job in one year. A person goes through years of training in normal school, then months of specialized training, then “probation” on the job. And still it is three-to-five years before you are really, really good at it. The first novel will suck – it may be possible to polish it to good – but the first draft of the first novel is going to be bad as the first picture you ever drew. You know, the one with your mom’s arms growing out of her neck.

Still, first that first draft of that first novel.

If that is what you WANT.

Meme created by Erin Penn

Other Cool Blogs: Medium – Murray Blehart

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

How much is too much?

Murry Blehart asked this question back in December in his blog “Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Stories in the Queue?” (Medium, 12/13/2022). (The link written out is:

He gives a comforting answer of find your own path and be aware of your joys and limitations (his blog on medium is about mindfulness).

Do I have too many jobs? At present count, now that the political job four-year term is over (and related supporting political job), I’m down to ONLY seven gigs. 

Do I have too many stories? (Looking over the blog, with flash ideas in the hundreds.)

Do I have too many projects? (Looking around the room at the to-be-done piles.)

Yes, and yet, no.

The jobs are needed to pay the bills and that loss of income from the political jobs – small though it is – hurts and I’m trying to figure out a way to make it up. But the keeping track of them and switching between them sucks up executive decision-making energy better used for creative vitality. I have fun with them, but I could have fun with other things too.

The stories just keep coming and I have no more control over them than the weeds in the yard – write them or pull them, the project is not a project but a process. (Project in business-speak has an completion-date, Process is on-going tasks like cleaning the home, making meals, or a manufacturing line. Individual tasks within a process many be completed, but the task will be there again tomorrow because most things in life is about flow. Life is a river, not a port.)

Projects? Well, I also try to keep the new shinnies down but…

Find more Catana Comics at: (and many other web locations and in book stores)

WRITING EXERCISE: Take a moment and think mindfully. Are your “stories-in-queue” (or pictures to be drawn, or embroidery to be done, or tasks) bringing your joy or burdens? Is it too much? If too much, think what to trim to bring it under control. If not, celebrate the Joy and take a moment on your queue.