Compost Blog

Seeing Through Paper

FOUND IN: Education, The Farm on November 16, 2012


From the driveway he looked like a puffed up rooster. Me, having stopped beside his paper bags, was being viewed as an unacceptable intrusion. Peering from above, I quickly calculate the contents below. "Yours aren't good enough, " I whisper softly,  jumping behind the wheel, screeching away in search of others.


Unlike a year ago when plastic bags were outlawed, I could effortlessly  careen through strategic neighborhood locations summing up the contents in the comfort of my own 2002 Ford F150. Whether in clear or black plastic, ground up leaves are denser, giving way to less height and greater girth. Those were always the jackpot finds. Stay away from bags with uneven protrusions. These are full of sticks. Never touch fresh grass clippings. Who knows what they  sprayed on the lawn.


The game is different now.


You can't see through paper bags. Nor do they conform to the contents being loaded into them. Every brown leaf bag looks like the next, no matter what is behind the brown facade.Those without a conscious, load half the bag with trash, filling the other half with leaves, an unwanted surprise when the bag is unloaded into a garden bed or added to the compost pile. They do what paper does, break down quickly when rained on, a problem for leaf hoarders like me who are used to stockpiling and using when needed.


Like a special forces operative, I'm on the ground.  Gloved hands lift. Excessive weight is a sure sign the bag is full of dirt and gravel from the driveway. Light weight points to branch debris hidden below. Check.  Sample for content. No Southern magnolia, no pine straw, no dead squirrels. Oak and maple preferred. Check. Examine bags for color. Faded means old and left in the rain.  Is the bag intact? Rotted bottoms happen within weeks.  Check.


Grab, load and leave.