Mulch of a mulchness

Until just a few years ago, the only thing I’d ever bought by the yard was fabric. In fact, that was the only way I thought you could by stuff by the yard – the linear yard. And I have to say, I probably could have led a perfectly happy life never knowing there was another kind of yard you could buy things by.

Once you leave the city, once you own land, you start dealing in size. Land, even just a little of it, is larger than anything you could ever fit in an apartment, and land has to be covered in something. That something usually comes in yards.  Cubic yards.

We’ve bought soil, we’ve bough compost, and we’ve bought mulch, all by the cubic yard. The first time we did it, I asked Kevin how much a cubic yard was. He looked at me strangely, because he knows I’m pretty good at math. “It’s 27 cubic feet,” he said. “I know that. I’m pretty good at math.” I said, realizing I’d asked the wrong question. “But I can’t visualize how much that is.”

So Kevin and I did a visualization exercise, starting from a unit of volume we both have a pretty good handle on – the gallon. One cubic foot is equal to about 7.5 gallons, which is more than I would have thought. That means one yard is equal to 202 gallons. Understanding that one yard equals as much milk as you drink in four years leads you to the inevitable conclusion that visualizing mulch in milk units is a completely useless exercise.

You’d think you could get a good feel for what a yard is by buying one and putting it in your truck, but that doesn’t work so well, either. To buy a yard of mulch, you go to the mulch place and pull up to a truly gigantic pile of mulch. You back your truck up to it, and the guy with the front-end loader scoops a yard of mulch from the pile into your truck.

And that’s when a yard looks like a drop in the bucket because you’re comparing it to Mount Mulch. Once you get it home, though, it starts to look bigger. It is at its biggest as you shovel it out of the truck. That is when it is seemingly endless, and 202 gallons have nothing on it.

But it will never look that big again. Once you spread it out, the largeness of land comes home to you. You notice all the thin spots with incomplete coverage, and that yard of mulch seems woefully inadequate to a job of any size at all. It is downright small. Which is why, this past week, Kevin hitched the trailer to the truck and came home with not one, not two, but three yards of mulch.

Our friend Dave has been visiting, and everything changes around here when Dave visits. Heavy work gets done at an alarming rate. The shower gets used every single day. And, if we ask nicely, we get to eat biscuits and fried chicken. Dave is from the south, and he is an excellent cook.

Given that Dave was here, I wasn’t all that surprised when, the other day, I came home to find a truck and trailer, filled with what I was told was three yards of mulch. I was a little more surprised to learn that, while I was out, Kevin made the second-largest purchase of our life together.

I thought buying things by the yard gave me authentic rural cred. Only city slicker buy things in gallons. But it turns out that the yard is a gateway unit. Buy yards for a while and, soon, they stop being enough. That’s when you start buying things by the ton.

The same day he bought three yards of mulch, Kevin also bought eight tons of driveway base and twenty-four tons of crushed bluestone. Of all the things we own, thirty-two tons is, by weight, smaller only than our house. And that not by much.

If Dave doesn’t leave soon, we’ll be buying things by the shipping container.

9 people are having a conversation about “Mulch of a mulchness

  1. Stephen Andrew says:

    God I hate mulching. Why is it that your garden never feels big enough until you start mulching? All of the sudden it seems it goes on forever. And I buy by the bag. Haha a trailer of mulch makes my head spin. Haha Kevin loves a project.
    Well…congratulations? On the biggest purchase!

  2. My fraternal Grandmother was a Butcher by profession and I grew up on a farm so I’m well acquainted with first hand food.

    I married a sailor and lived aboard a sailboat for most of that time – but still found ways to grow things for us to eat (apparently there is more dirt in my blood than seawater, though I dearly miss sailing).

    Now I’m an old lady on my own, in a condo with a sunny patio full of containers and a 3’x4′ SFG that is 6 inches deep.

    You have just inadvertently provided the info I’ve needed for my neighbors who want to create their own SFG’s! Thanks to you, I can now tell them that “one cubic foot is equal to about 7.5 gallons”

    Love your blog … you share so freely and deeply that I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had the passing thought of dropping by should I ever be in your area.

  3. Haha! Thank you for this story, it makes me feel so much better about ours! We started with the metres (Australian metric here), then moved to ever increasing metres, until we were working on truck sizes and quantities. Our best so far was about 1000 cubic metres of turkey poo. That created a miniture Ayers Rock on our property which took some time to disappear (it has disappeared though faster than you would think). Now we also have a property in my husbands island home, and we fill shipping containers as well. Once you go up it’s damn hard to come back down again…be warned!

  4. and then if you live in the Frozen North you learn about cords. As in, how many cords of wood do you need to heat your house through one of our long long winters.And how long it takes to stack a cord and then carry it into the house piece by piece.

  5. SA & Magpie — Yeah, I’m in your camp on mulching. Or I was, until the driveway base was delivered …

    Paula — Amen. And you said it before you even tasted his fried chicken!

    Jeanne — We’ve had quite a few visitors who got to know us that way. If you’re ever out here, just let us know! We love to put faces to the people we’ve grown to know online.

    Cath — Shipping containers for real! Luckily, that’s still a joke for me. But you never know what the future holds …

    Sharyn — Oh, do I know cords! I’ve cut them, split them, stacked them, and hauled them. We are sisters in firewood.

  6. The most that husband and I ever moved was 5 tons of base rock and a half ton of sand in one day. It was eight or nine trips for the base rock in our little half ton toyota. Get a load, bring it home, shovel like crazy, and then off for another load while husband used the whacker to pack it in place.
    We slept well that night.

  7. Three yards, pshaw! In this one instance, I surpass you, Tamar! We have 7-8 yards dumped in our driveway annually, and in fact just finished up Mulch Madness 2013. You may call it a sickness, but I love to mulch! My husband Mulch Boy (ahem) and I built all our beds and gardens from scratch using ignorance and optimism, and they look like genius works of landscaping this time of year, thanks to MULCH! I like to say when you switch from bags of mulch to buying by the yard, you can consider yourself to have gone pro.

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