I read April's message and all the responses with much interest. I
have quite the opposite situation though am equally frustrated. I
live in LA, CA where there are small pockets of permaculture activity.
I am involved in community gardening, with my current emphasis on
compost. In LA there are 16 demonstration sites for composting which
were originally run by a volunteer corps through the state. They are
now run by a private company. Long story short....I am responsible
for clean up, pile building, demonstration at 2 of the 16 sites. My
problem, the community simply does not understand what "Demonstration
Site" means. I find bags and bags of grass clippings out front every
week, despite a posted sign and county code warning of the illegality
of dumping. When I catch someone I am told they were instructed by
some unnamed authority to bring grass. I have many years of
experience and from my perspective, grass is a complete pain and waste
to compost. Better to leave it on the lawn as mulch or mulch with it
somewhere else...though my personal opinion is to erradicate lawns in
our not so much of a desert anymore. So, as a show to the community,
I have been taking in the grass and mulching.
We acutally welcome as much paper and grass clippings as people can bring, of
course we don't welcome rubbish or large branches - It is working extremely well
All our beds are NO SOIL, NO DIG gardens, I simply lay cardboard and paper, then
loads of uncomposted grass clippings and move on, when the bed is ready I sow direct into
the decaying matter as long as it isn't too hot - then I just cool it with regular watering, Or
I wait a bit more and put in seedlings!! Easy - we get loads of tomatoes, lettuce, even small trees
like pigeon pea and native hibiscus.
This saved me much back
breaking labor pulling out the overgrown weeds. I am getting interest
from the community on this action alone. I also counsel on how to
leave the grass on the lawn and tell them they are welcome to bring a
small amount of household (compostable) waste if they are willing to
stay for a 10-15 min demo. A fair trade in anyone's book. To get to
1) I find the community split basically in half: Those who think they
are doing me a favor by dumping their grass on me and those who
complain about the people dumping illegally. As soon as I suggest
they come in to learn, the face goes blank, the time register comes up
empty and I spend more time teaching people how to write down liscense
plate numbers to call the police (to enforce illegal dumping). Am I
frustrated, yes, very much. I'm wondering if enthusiasm will just
build or if this is it....
2) I learned from my supervisor yesterday ( a person who knows
traditional landscape design and nothing about actually working the
land...ok I'm getting my digs and setting the stage), that the policy
of the organization I work for is to "keep the demo sites clean". She
spent a whole day raking up the grass that I used for mulch. To which
I said she was not very smart because that was back breaking work.
And now, who's going to pull up those weeds? SO, this seems
contradictory. We in LA have to reduce the amount of waste going into
the municipal stream. We have deadlines for waste reduction on the
books and if we do not pull together as a community, we get fined. I
find that the company I work for has a charter to reduce waste but their
official policy on the grass is to let the city pick it up to put in
the waste stream. Am I frustrated, once again yes. I instantly
demanded a raise and refused to "apologize for my indescretion against
the policy of my company" (I choose to see this as standing for a
principal as opposed to being irrational...). Deep down if standing
on pricipal is my goal, I know what I have to do. I am 100%
disillusioned right now and I don't like the feeling. I have tons of
enthusiasm and I do live by example, anyone is welcome into my garden
any time. I know I cannot let the completely irrational policy of my
company ie) mulching not allowed due to the alleged untidiness, affect
me but it really does. I find that the person heading the task force
for this effort is no less than the governor of the state.
My advise is loose the supervisor - get out!! without burning bridges - life is
too short to live in the shadow of poor leaders.
I mean more than to just vent. I would really like suggestions. One
friend told me I need to start my own thing if I want to make a
difference. I'd love suggestions here to. Also, any one in S. Cal
(let's say San Diego to Santa Barbara, I'm willing to travel) have
examples of permaculture in either a community or home setting that I
could visit as I would greatly appreciate the opportunity.
I had plans for the compost sites I operate to introduce
permaculture techs. but it seems from my current perspective that this
won't happen...at least not easily and I'm not sure it's worth the
PS we don't compost - scraps go to hens or to worms or as mulch - compost
needs care and so we don't bother, also compost in Australia breeds
fruit fly - which is incredibly depressing to fight.
Take a major step Jennifer - get into what you want to do.
Take care, Jennifer