It is my pleasure to start this post with a public service announcement for anyone new to landscaping his or her shrubs and flowerbeds. When you order bulk mulch from the landscape supply store, and they ask how many yards, remember that they’re talking cubic yards. Take my word for it; there’s a lot of mulch in a cubic yard.
Our neighbors up the block, a very sweet young couple, recently decided to put down mulch around their bushes and flowerbeds. They dutifully measured, and came up with 10 yards, figuring, “Well, with 10 yards, we can spread the mulch to a thickness of about 2” and it will look great!” Yes, that is true if you’re talking in two-dimensions!
According to my wife (I was out of town), when Robyn and Roger came home from work that evening, the neighborhood could almost hear Robyn’s screams over a three-block radius.
We initially walked past the mountain of mulch and observed Robyn and Roger, shovels in hand, with their lone, red wheelbarrow trying to figure out how to spread 10 yards of wood chips in a standard backyard. Mulch has another quality (or so it appears), the more you take from the pile, and the more it seems to grow.
We quietly watched them for a week, as they dutifully chipped away at the wood chips, barely making a dent in the pile. Finally, in desperation, they stuck a huge, hand-lettered sign in the (now) nearly eight cubic foot pile that said: “Free Mulch! Please Take! Please!”
For there is another truth when it comes to the topic of natural mulch. The mulch itself is not all that expensive, but the trucking costs are almost as expensive as the mulch.
On that late summer Saturday, we neighbors brought our own shovels and wheelbarrows, and we each had the pleasure of meeting Robyn and Roger. Most of us insisted on giving them a few dollars, but they wouldn’t hear of it.
“We just want to get rid of the stuff.”
Someone remarked that he had once made the same mistake, and he assured Roger and Robyn that about everyone makes mistakes when they first start to landscape. Another neighbor I had never met said, “Wow, that’s mucho mulcho!”
He was gently corrected by a woman with a turquoise wheelbarrow (fancy stuff) who said, “It’s really una gran cantidad de mantillo.” This immediately created a buzz around the woodchips. Someone asked: “You speak fluent Spanish, are you a Spanish teacher?” As it turns out she was!
In fact, as we returned again and again to the now diminishing pile, we learned that Robyn is hardly a mulch spreader by vocation, but an orthopedic surgeon. Robert is a furniture maker, which is appropriate since we live in the heart of “furniture country” North Carolina. We had a school superintendent, airline captain, graphic designer, director of economic development, attorney, real estate agent who insisted on offering advice on the best way to shovel, a retired firefighter, and one author and keynote speaker!
We commented on each other’s football team t-shirts we were wearing (New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Clemson), wheelbarrows, shovels and who lived where, and for how long. We talked about the neighborhood and landscaping and just a little bit about life itself.
In the end, we had ceased being strangers and became neighbors.
Remember The Mulch Pile
Several weeks later, whenever I drive past the place where there had been a 10 cubic yard pile of mulch, I cannot help but smile. I am told, that friendships were made that day, and there is even talk of a “Robyn and Robert Thank You BBQ.” If there is one, and I’m not on the road, I will definitely attend.
The mulch pile has a much deeper meaning than a bunch of aching joints and muscles. I have long been worried about the sad trend of people becoming isolated. It has, unfortunately, almost reached epidemic proportions. Across the nation, in all age groups, many of us have grown apart from one another.
Some blame social media for our isolation and even a growing lack of empathy, others blame the stress of our busy lives or divisive politics. I am sure there are many more theories. Whatever the reasons, when I hear of a person who became so isolated that he or she did damage to himself or herself, it makes me sad.
I am not suggesting we should all have 10 yards of mulch delivered to our driveway, but as I saw my neighbors, all different in every way, talking, working, laughing and sharing, I could not help but think that this is how we are supposed to live.
Every new friend is a new adventure…the start of more memories.