Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Leaning Tower of Pizza Crusts

What could cast a shadow like this on the front sidewalk, on the other side of the year from Halloween?

A Wishing (The Earth) Well, of course--encouraging passersby to drop a leaf in and make a wish. It's placed prominently in the front yard not because I think it's so beautiful, but because it's time for solutions to be made as visible as the problems they're meant to solve. Princeton spends an estimated $800,000 per year picking up piles of leaves and brush, some of which lingered on the street for two months this spring, like scabs on wounds that refuse to heal. People imitate what their neighbors do, so the highly visible leaf piles proliferate, with no regard for the town's complicated pickup schedule, making a nearly year-round street mess and increasing municipal expenses. It's nice to think all the collected leaves and brush are nicely composted at the Ecological Center out Princeton Pike, but the operation is energy-intensive and loses money. The less material that has to go there, the better.

Meanwhile, a big part of the solution--piling leaves not on the street but in a corner of the backyard to complete nature's cycling of nutrients back into the soil--is hidden from view and therefore not imitated by neighbors. Besides, it's fun to do something a little different with the front yard to break up the suburban monotony. It will be interesting to see if the nasturtiums, planted in a mix of soil and leaves on top of the leaf pile, find sustenance in last fall's rotting leaves and grow to make a flattering curtain of green and orange over the sides of the corral.

This leaf corral design includes a central cylinder for kitchen scraps, capped with a stray hubcap that washed up on the shores of Harrison Street one day. The leaves and foodscraps decompose aerobically, so there's no odor, and no need to turn the pile. Recently the foodscrap cylinder began to lean a bit. "Some settling of contents will occur." Hard to know whether to push the cylinder back upright or promote it as a tourist attraction: the Leaning Tower of Pizza Crusts.

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