Mulchfest 2013

This weekend our parks department sponsored Mulchfest. Different parks in various neighborhoods across the city serve as drop off points for Christmas trees. They have a chipper on site and make short work of the trees.

We’ve done this for years. In fact, when Lindsay was small, she was so torn up over the loss of our Christmas tree, that we had to hide the fact that it was about to be shredded into a zillion pieces. She still didn’t want to stay for the chipping this year, but we didn’t have to watch her hug our tree with tears running down her face.

We try and pick up as many trees as our wonderful cart can carry. We were able to bring 3 additional trees to be mulched. I suggested making a second trip, but didn’t rally any interest with my family. Maybe next year…

The city makes mulch for their parks (or for pick up by the community), and there are fewer trees going to the landfill. I feel really good not to be one of the people who leaves their tree blowing around the street.

Happy Earth Day

My daughter’s school celebrated Earth Day  on Friday. It has become an annual event in which I bring my chickens. The kids love seeing our unusual chickens. Many have never seen a live chicken before, so it’s fun to hear their reactions. I bring a big tub of spinach for the kids to feed the chickens.

We had the worm compost table next to the chickens, so the kids had a blast picking out worms and bringing them over to feed the chickens. The chickens ate like queens!

This little guy was smitten with the chickens. Whenever his mother lost him in the crowd, she just came back to me and there he was. She finally gave up and just hung out with us.

A friend brought her beekeeping equipment and lots of photos to show the kids about bees. She had popsicle sticks to dip into the honey for tasting. The smart kids used the sticks to dig for worms and then feed them to the chickens.

Hope you are having as much fun on Earth Day!


Treecycle 2012

This past weekend we dropped our tree off at our local park to be chipped. It was encouraging to see how many trees were being dropped off by neighbors. The sanitation department had guys driving around in trucks picking up trees left on the sidewalks. We have a big cart that we use to haul our photo gear, which was perfect to cart our tree away. We were even able to add 2 more big trees and one Charlie Brown tree to the pile. My selfish goal was to take away the trees near our building so I wouldn’t have to see them. Did I mention how much abandoned trees bum me out?? I wish the city had a big enough budget to collect the trees. Maybe next year I will dedicate a day to carting trees.

Mulch Your Christmas Tree!

It’s that time of year again! The time where the streets are littered with old Christmas trees. I find this unutterably depressing. Something that caused so much joy and wonder is just tossed out with the garbage. But, I’m not asking you to mulch your tree to keep me from getting gloomy, there are plenty of more pressing ecological reasons why you should do it. Take some time to search your community to see what kind of programs there are for old Christmas trees.

In NYC we have mulchfest Jan. 7 & 8th. You can click on this link to see which parks near you are accepting trees. We have a cart that we use to bring our tree, and we try and pick up as many other trees we find on our way.

Many areas come up with creative uses for old trees such as New Orleans using them to restore coastlines and The Pacific Northwest Christmas tree association using them in lakes for aquatic habitat projects. You can read a NY Times article on the subject here. Rose over at OnThePondFarm feeds hers to her goats.


Don’t dump your Christmas tree out on the street! Give it new life by bringing it to one of many city parks this weekend to be chipped. Here’s the NYC site that shows which parks are participating in the different boros. Many sites offer free mulch as well.

If you don’t live in NYC, check with your local government or sanitation department to see if they have a similar program. And if you are lucky enough to have a good-sized yard, just chop the tree up yourself and leave in an unused area. The animals and plants will love you for it. Here’s a link to a woman who keeps goats, who’s neighbor drop their trees off for her goats to munch on.

Just remember, remove all lights, tinsel and other stuff that isn’t part of the tree. I always think this is a super-obvious thing to say, but a couple of days ago I saw a tree on the curb with all the lights still on it. What the heck? You had such a bad Christmas you can’t imagine ever stringing your lights again? Or just a gross example of our disposable society?

Take Jack Out Back

Now that Halloween is over it’s time to think about what to do with your carved pumpkins. According to the US Census the US grows 998 million pounds of pumpkins each year. The thought of all those pumpkins ending up in the garbage could be the most frightening part of Halloween.

Our pumpkins, which look like old men without dentures, are starting to mold. So I’m going to toss them in my compost bin. If you don’t have a compost bin, find an out-of-the way outdoor spot to leave your pumpkin for animals to munch on. They will be happy for the extra beta-carotene and the landfills will be grateful not to have 998 million pounds of organic matter dumped in them.

Slower-Paced Compost Pickups Increases Composting Rates

The article below is from

When we first switched from horses to horsepower at the turn of the 20th century, the move was hailed as one of modernity, cleanliness and efficiency. After a century during which we’ve discovered that the “auto mobile” brought with it a far more dangerous environmental assault than horse droppings, now more than 60 French  towns are once again returning to the old horse-drawn cart, at least for picking up compost for recycling.

Interestingly, in towns that employed horses to pick up the compost, the composting rates have increased measurably.

“By using the horse for garden waste collection, we have raised awareness. People are composting more,” says the mayor of one of the French towns that has succeeded in making the change.  It is actually cost effective, cutting costs by almost 60%. “Incineration used to cost us €107 a tonne, ridiculous for burning wet matter, now we only pay €37 to collect and compost the waste.”

Perhaps the increased composting is related to the slower pace of the horse-drawn cart. The sound of the clip clop of the horses hooves is a reminder that “there is no away anymore“. It also is a soothing reminder of a slower pace of life, in which the patience and consideration needed to make recycling compost second nature doesn’t seem so out-of-kilter with today’s frenetic pace.

It doesn’t work everywhere. Some French towns tried the new clean technology, and abandoned it after a few months, due to picking the wrong equipment, the wrong kind of horse (cart-horses are needed to pull carts), untrained workers: inexperienced with horses, or just too many hills. But others have had several years of success now, and outside of France too.

“Compared with €5,000–7,000 annual running costs for a diesel truck, an ass costs €1,000–1,500 and can live 25-30 years,” says the mayor of a 14th-century Sicilian town, who has been using donkeys for three years.

“A truck costs around €25,000, lasts around five years and can’t reproduce.”

What to do with your old Christmas Tree


After my sister-in-law told us that her 3 year-old son wanted to sleep under his Christmas tree, my husband and I remembered our daughter’s love of our Christmas tree when she was about the same age. When our tree was dry and brittle, we started to break the news to Lindsay that we were going to take it down. She was really upset and kept hugging the tree, which of course just added to the already alarming loss of needles. Every year we take our tree to a local park, where they have a chipping program called Mulchfest. We brought our tree there, much to Lindsay’s skepticism to “be with it’s friends”. She bid it a tearful farewell and fortunately didn’t notice the crew feeding trees into the huge chipper.


I always find it a little sad to see Christmas trees tossed out with the trash. The fact that they were once a treasured part of the holiday and are now tossed out on the street with the garbage bags always startles me. Plus it’s hard to wrap my head around all that organic matter going to a landfill with old batteries, diapers, etc. So, let’s try and come up with some great uses for old Christmas trees to prevent them from going into landfills. TREECYCLE!

  • Find out if your community has a tree collection or chipping program. Here in NYC we have mulchfest this coming Sat. 1/9 from 10am-2pm. You can look at this site to find a park in your area that will take your tree. And while you are dragging your tree down the street, why not stop and grab one or two others that are just lying on the sidewalk waiting for trash pick up? A lot of these programs allow you to bring some wood chips home with you for your garden.
  • If you don’t have a mulching/chipping program in your community, do it yourself. Prune branches off your tree and lay them down in your garden beds. Pine branches can look nice arranged around a tree on a city sidewalk. You can add them to your compost pile, although pine needles can take a while to break down.
  • You can prune branches and make small bundles. These are great to help start fires in your fireplace.
  • If you have the land, drag your tree out into a woodsy area to be used as a wildlife refuge for birds and small animals.
  • If you have a pond, weigh your tree down and put it in the water. It becomes a nice home for fish.
  • If you live near a beach, see if your community uses old Christmas trees in an effort to restore dunes like Bradley Beach in New Jersey.
  • You can save the needles and make potpourri or sachets.

If you have a great use for an old Christmas tree, please post!

Portland Composts

Why is Portland light years ahead of New York City when it comes to just about every green initiative? With the population density that we have here it would make so much sense to have recycling cans on the street corners for all those darn water bottles, and to collect compost along with garbage. Not only don’t we have that, but now we don’t even have leaf pick up for all the fall leaves. But I digress…

This video was part of a Huffington Post article about Bijou restaurant in Portland and how they started composting all of their kitchen waste. Turns out Portland has a program called Portland Composts that connects businesses who want to compost, with haulers who specifically deal with compostables.

I live right by a huge restaurant row here in Brooklyn. With the restaurants came rodents, then hawks dining on the rodents and now raccoons dining on everything in sight, including attempts at eating my chickens. I’ve seen the amount of food that gets tossed by the restaurants and fantasize about opening a composting facility and stopping off at each restaurant to pick up the compost w/ a horse and cart. I doubt that fantasy will ever amount to anything, but it is nice to imagine.

Adding Compost


The other day I did some work in my garden to prepare for the winter. I cut back and pruned a few bushes and cut down many of my tomato plants. I didn’t cut down my grape tomato plants because they are still producing. Fall is in full swing here in Brooklyn, so I took out my trusty Toro leaf vac/shredder and sucked up a bunch of leaves. The act of shredding the leaves makes them take up much less space than traditionally raked leaves. One bag of shredded leaves could be as much as 5-8 bags of un-shredded leaves.

I dug shovelfuls of beautiful compost that’s been cooking all summer and spread them out on my flower and vegetable beds. The soil looks so dark and rich, which is in contrast to the dry, lifeless, glass-filled soil that mostly exists in my yard. I still have straw and hay from fall scavenging, so I decided to add all of the shredded leaves to my compost bin. This is the one time of year when I have an abundance of “browns” in my compost bin. They will break down quickly though with the help of the amazing chicken poo. I swear that stuff is like steroids for the compost bin. I showed a friend my compost bin and she just kept saying, “Yeah, but where’s all the stuff?” She couldn’t believe she wasn’t looking at a bin filled with egg shells and broccoli stems.


I am not a compost maniac. I think that everything will break down on its own without a lot of fuss that many people suggest (shredding everything before adding to the bin, frequent watering, no cooked food, etc.) and my bumper crop of compost was evidence of my success. You can read my previous post about having an easy and successful compost bin.

My plants will be happy to have the added nutrients from the compost. I know my chickens were happy digging through the compost for bugs and worms!