Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Handle-less Rake Finds Its Mate

Oftentimes, in pre-COVID scavengings of stuff put out on the curb, I would find tops without bottoms, and bottoms without tops. This would happen with tables that lacked legs, or legs that lacked a table. And it would happen with rakes where either the handle or the rake itself was broken. Patient matchmaker that I am, I would keep the good portion and wait for a match to come along.

Such a long awaited marriage took place today, with modest fanfare, when a perfectly fine rake that had been waiting in the carport for the right handle to come along finally got its mate. A red rake had cracked across the middle, making it unusable.

The marriage had been delayed, due to the broken rake's unexpectedly tight grip on the handle. Various tools were brought to bear, with a chisel finally proving effective.

That's part of the challenge of repurposing and repair. In terms of time spent and money saved, the matchmaking may not make obvious sense. One could argue that it's better for the economy to go to the local hardware store and buy a new rake, which helps in a small way to sustain those all along the chain of extraction, processing, manufacture, distribution, and selling that makes a new rake available. But if everyone repairs and reuses, then people need less income to buy new stuff, including everyone who builds or sells rakes. Standard of living would be maintained even as the energy-intensive economy seemed to shrink.

That's a theory. What's more surely real is the patience, persistence, creativity, resourcefulness and physical coordination that go into reuse and repair--all good things to exercise.

Monday, April 20, 2020

For Recycling: Necessity Is the Best Educator

The pandemic has demonstrated how quickly people can change their ways and adapt to new circumstances when they have to.

Another example is how quickly homeowners have adjusted to new restrictions on what can be recycled curbside. The rules were always in place, while earnest environmentalists and town staff labored unsuccessfully for years to convince homeowners to voluntarily comply.

The underlying message of all those calls for voluntary compliance was, alas, that compliance is voluntary, and therefore unimportant and unnecessary. That's the message people picked up on.

Only when collection crews began leaving contaminated bins of recyclables uncollected at the curb did homeowners wake up. They experienced what I would call "catharsis interruptis." Most bins went uncollected the first week, due to contamination with plastic bags, motor oil containers, etc. On the second collection, maybe a third of the bins remained unemptied.

By the third pickup, nearly all homeowners had gotten the message and adjusted their recycling habits to fit requirements, except for a stray pizza box (the greasy cardboard isn't recyclable) and some unflattened boxes.

In other words, necessity achieved in a month what education initiatives failed to achieve in twenty years. People may seem stuck in their ways, but that's deceptive. Impose necessity and we suddenly become very adaptable and quick to change.

Does Runoff Actually Reach the Fuel Station Raingarden?

The job of a raingarden is to receive, slow down and filter runoff before it enters a watershed. The runoff also serves to sustain whatever's planted in the raingarden.

Oftentimes, however, raingardens are installed without checking if the water that hits surrounding pavement is actually flowing into the raingarden. That runoff becomes particularly important for sustaining the vegetation since Princeton removed the roof that was built over the fuel station, due to neighbor complaints about its appearance. Where does the water that used to hit the roof now flow?

Checking that requires some counterintuitive behavior, i.e. visiting the site during a rainstorm when logically one would stay indoors. Understanding the water flow takes timing, patience, and careful observation.

A recent visit suggests that though the sidewalk runoff may flow to the raingarden, runoff from the pavement flows towards the new fire station,

down this slope,

and into the fire station parking lot, largely bypassing the raingarden.

It puddles a couple inches deep,

then flows towards 206. Note the darker pavement on the left, which suggests that the parking lot is partially porous pavement, partially not.

The water then flows out of the parking lot and down a long grassy swale next to the road,

to another raingarden of sorts, before heading in a pipe under 206 and into Pettoranello Gardens, becoming part of Mountain Brook.

Note the two holes in the wall here, which had nothing flowing out of them even though there was still some rain. Hopefully the fire station's drainage system was checked to make sure water is flowing where it should.

Raingardens are wonderful planting opportunities, given the many species that appreciate the sunlight and periodic pulses of water that a raingarden provides. But if the raingarden isn't actually getting the runoff, the plantings may not survive, and the runoff won't be cleaned.

Redbuds bloom in a similar raingarden at Westminster Choir College that I adopted. Once the proper drainage is in place, the next question is who will maintain the plantings, given that nearly all maintenance crews are of the mow, blow, and go variety.