With the spring comes the inevitable spring cleaning on an urban farm. My back gardens were a mess and the greenhouse… don’t even get me started. Without proper upkeep and care, the hard sun, the city pollution, and the rain, ice, and snow can be hard on equipment.
One of my primary tasks this season was to completely harvest my compost bins in the West alley behind Mezzacello. I used them my first and second years here, but rarely after that because well, out of sight out of mind. They were becoming an eyesore and a nuisance.
As I was taking them apart I was delighted to see that there was thick, black, rich abundant compost in all three bins. I was less than enthusiastic to find bags of clothes and drug paraphernalia stashed in there by random homeless people (I assume) as well. In one bin was a bag of items that were very high end fashion; a Chanel blouse, some Ralph Lauren hats, shorts, and shoes and even a Gucci purse. It felt stolen, and it was all very wet and moldy.
Once I had completely disassembled the bins and managed the trash I brought the palettes that composed the bins into the garden service yard. I stacked them all up, cut some of them down to make them more manageable and proceeded to set them ablaze. My plan was to harvest the ash for compost and to add that to my lasagna gardens. Dried, dedicated palettes went up into a roiling bonfire quite quickly and produced a lot of heat and a challenge!
This challenge was when I realized that I was burning stacked palettes between my brand new wood picket fence around my gardens and my brand new polypropylene greenhouse tarp staging area and the greenhouse itself. In addition to the flames, there were the embers. Oh no! The embers! I rushed to the hose next to the greenhouse and turned the nozzle. No water. I hadn’t turned it back on from the house! I rushed into the house down into the basement and turned the valve. Water bursts out everywhere; the valve had frozen and cracked over the winter! Damn you, 1868 house with no furnace, just fireplaces on the first floor! The basement froze! Duct Tape the valve. Run – yes run – back out to my HUGE spitting bonfire and turn on the spigot. The hose has multiple burst cracks from freezing and being left outside. Oh well. I am spraying the fence, spraying the tarp (I will have to buy a new one) and spraying the greenhouse. Water is spraying everywhere – literally – from all the leaks in the hose.
I got everything under control. The palettes collapsed. The embers glowed. This urban farmer was much chagrined and humbled. Tomorrow I install a new valve on the line in the basement, replace the hose, rake the ashes, and run a big magnet through the ash pile to collect the 1,456,341 nails and screws that I am sure are in there.
Was it worth it? Yes. I needed that trashed compost bin gone and I needed that ash. And I got to play Game of Thrones for a glorious 10 minutes before I realized my dragon tamer (me) was an underprepared idiot. But it was fun and it ended well. Lesson learned. Next time I’ll invite Melisandre.