Monday, July 13, 2009

A fork in the road that led to the town dump;-)

I have a dear friend Lisa, who was also one of my college roommates. We both went to law school and she went on to become a successful trademark attorney and a partner in a major law firm, earning over $700,000 a year (and yes, that is five zeros). She now drives a Porsche convertible, has a personal shopper, and lives about a mile from the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, California, in a lovely, new home.

I chose a different road, teaching law part-time and living quite frugally. We chat often, and the conversation usually starts with, "So what are you up to?"

A typical Lisa answer, "I'm flying up to Silicon Valley to take a deposition."

A typical Eileen answer, "I'm off to the town dump to see what treasures I can find."

To this day, she remains slightly taken aback by my forays, but for a penny pinching gardener, it is it is like finding the lost city of gold with nary an Inca nor Mayan civilization destroyed in the process.

It isn't truly a "dump"; it is more giant compost pile for the town. And what people dig out and toss from their gardens is nothing short of amazing. Here is a glimpse at what seven trips brought in. This is from a few years ago, when I first started keeping a garden journal and recording my hauls.

July 10 (T.D) I actually coded this T.D. for "town dump" in my garden journal because I was a bit embarrassed to let some random person that might someday scour my journal to know I "shopped" there. But as I'm now committed to helping others by being open through this blog, I will share my best spot for garden loot;-)

Silver King Artemesia (small)
Lupine seeds (lots)

July 13

HUGE clump of iris (divided into five clumps around the yard)
2 spirea bushes
allium seeds
columbine seeds
1 fuchsia plant, very dry.

July 15

10 ferns
3 stalks of white phlox (may not root)
2 lily of the valley

July 17

4 BIG clumps of day lily (fine leaves so hopefully not the common orange ones)
1 big clump hardy geranium
1 big clump spider wart

July 18

July 19

Some yarrow

August 13

27 Huge iris rhizomes
17 small iris
2 small bags of ferns and lily of the valley
1 small hosta (white flower)

I now have over an acre of gardens (the first picture in this post is the view from my bedroom balcony) with over 30 large individual gardens, filled to the brim. It is fun now to look back at my garden journal and see how many of these plants subsequently multiplied and were further divided.

If your town has something like this (most do for grass clippings and then people bring in lots of other stuff from their yards) it is well worth checking out.

Will you be embarrassed? Yes. I've tried going all different times in the hopes of having the place to myself, from early in the morning to almost dark, when I needed my headlights on and worried about grabbing something slimy.

My best system is to bring a few things from my own yard as "cover". I make a big show of unloading whatever branches or weeds I've collected while quickly scanning the place. Then, I loiter and sometimes, the other cars leave and I feel like it's Christmas as I load up my mini-van with plant castoffs.

But sometimes, I've just had to blush and deal with it. I had some strange looks, and by the time my son is old enough to be in organized sports in this town, I'm not sure how he'll feel to have his mom known as stalking the town dump, but for now, I wear nondescript clothes, drive my nondescript beige mini-van and treasure hunt at will;-).

Happy garden treasure seeking. I truly believe this beats taking depositions any day, but I would trade my mini-van for a Porsche convertible in the blink of an eye, small trunk and all;-).

Knowledge + Action = Financial Independence

Now You!

Only garden fanatics need attempt this assignment. Find out where people in your town can bring leaves and grass clippings. A quick call to your township will determine this. Now load up a few branches or weeds into your trunk as decoys. Large black sunglasses will give you an extra boost of courage as will a baseball cap. [An aside: A frugal gardener would NEVER compost grass clippings as these serve as free food to your future lawn.] Now go and just poke around. It may take a few trips to get your first big haul, but once you do, you'll be hooked. Happy Gardening!!

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