Thursday, September 29, 2011

Smug no more

Eight years ago we bought our property, for a good price since it was the prior owner’s personal dump (as in landfill).

We spent a year cleaning. As we cleaned, we marveled that people could live in such surroundings and not clean up, but instead add to the mess.

Scanned photo of our worksite. 
I don't have many photos; should have taken some before/after shots.
We filled a huge construction dumpster with things that couldn’t be burned:  bathtubs, construction materials, metal barrels, light fixtures, insulation, tires, appliances, household garbage. We burned that much stuff again:  sofas, wood scraps, carpeting, cardboard, boxes of papers and water-stained books. We somehow convinced a neighbor to haul away a shabby camper that was populated by hot plates (hmm). We dismantled another and stuffed its components into the dumpster. We recycled a great number of beer bottles and cans. We carefully disposed of hypodermic needles when we ran across them. We still find bits of broken glass.

You get the picture.

After taking up residence in our new house, we gazed around quite smugly. “Look what a good deed we have done,” we told ourselves. We had returned this lovely piece of land to a more natural state. It was no longer a trashy eyesore.


Of course, we do not trash our property. We are very cognizant of throwing refuse in receptacles.  We love our land and want it to be naturally beautiful, not decorated by man’s detritus. Besides, it would be impossible to maintain our smugness if we turned around and re-trashed this property – right?

Imagine my dismay when my gaze started falling on trash strewn about our property – not trash from prior residents but from the current ones. Us! As I walked about, I noticed bits of weed eater string, twisties, Kleenexes,
fragments of
bottle tops,
pen lids, 4” plastic pots (ahem), etc.

This is sneaky trash. You know the kind. Trash spread unintentionally. Where does this stuff come from? Picture Pigpen walking around shedding dirt. I think that is how we humans shed trash.

We have a dog that chews stuff, and a child who plays outside with stuff, cars that transport stuff, pockets that overflow with stuff, and wind that carries stuff away. Occasionally a norther topples the trash bin and spills its stuff. (I ask you, what is a dog supposed to do in these circumstances?)

So now, we have embarked on the second round of clean-up. My daughter and I try to pick up little bits of trash whenever we are out wandering. Hopefully the volume of stuff we pick up will diminish over time.

The smugness is already gone. That’s good. It’s an unattractive trait.

Favorite spot in the garden today:

I know, I know, you’ve seen this already. But it is, hands down, the prettiest spot in my garden so you get to see it AGAIN. This spot gets good run-off from the roof, and the ½ inch we got over three days last weekend shows. Luckily, this is right by my front step:  Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides), Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri), and spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana).


  1. Great blog, again! Wonderful range of values in the Opuntia.

  2. How nice to see something so cheerful as you enter and leave the house. Yes, I have to admit to things being forgotten in the garden: tools, those little black pots, dog toys, more tools, and occasionally gloves (though usually if they're left out they then become dog toys!).

  3. The prickly pear ensemble has foliage variation completely perfected, very pleasing, glad it's by the door.

    In my own experience smugness is usually an irresistible temptation to the gods & results in some kind of rude awakening or divine retribution-- good job diffusing it!

  4. @Lona - Thanks! No one would know you are an artist . . .

    @HG - I must say, your leavings sound more honorable than mine.

    @linniew - You are exactly right about smugness. It was a rude awakening when I realized how much trash we were shedding . . .

  5. I guess trash happens in spite of our best efforts. I have to work very hard to keep the dogs from dragging things out into the yard. I love your wildflowers, and you did do a very good thing.~~Dee

  6. Wow, I'm glad I was to little to remember us moving in. Sounds like a horror.