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.