New alternative to burning

I have to admit — I was a burner. Each year, I would gather all my yard twigs and leftover dead leaves sometime in April. Then I’d wait for the City’s “free burn” period — and light my fire.

It’s not that I have pyromaniac instincts. It was simply a matter of practicalities. At one time, I had 20 incredibly large birch trees in my yard giving wonderful shade in the summertime. But in the fall, their leaves would drop, and I’d have golden birch leaves several feet deep covering the yard.

So I solved the autumn problem of having too many leaves. Three different friends now come by and pick up the leaves. All I have to do is bag them — all forty or so bags. My friends use them in their gardens, enriching their sandy soil.

Usually, it was the spring time when I needed to burn. Always, there would be brown leaves left over from the fall, some not raked and some falling long after winter had hit. In addition, most of the birches were dying from the top and dropping twigs and branches continuously.

Often my yard was a complete mess of twigs and leaves — more so, if a spring windstorm hit. In the past, I’ve hauled all the dead stuff into the garden along with the clippings from the fruit trees. Without a truck, I was not going to haul five or six loads of yard waste all the way to the landfill in my van — and pay through the nose.  Burning seemed the best option.

In the past two years, the situation in Castlegar has changed dramatically. The city now has designated days when it picks up everyone’s yard waste. It will even give citizens compostable bags to fill up with their dried flower stalks and mouldy leaves. On those days, all a homeowner needs to do is stack these bags at the curb for pick up.

But that’s not the change I’m delighted about. The improvement I’m happy about is the erection of the two cement composting stalls to the north of the Recreation Complex and behind the ball field. Now I don’t have to drive all the way to the Ootischenia dump and pay to get rid of my waste. And because I can haul a few twigs/branches at a time, I don’t have to save up the yard waste for the big burning.

On two weekends now, I have been raking and pruning and gathering — and then hauling to the Recreation Complex stalls. My method is to lay a large tarp in the back of my van, load up the yard refuse, drive to the Complex, and then unload.

Unloading is easy. All I do is pull the tarp out from the back of the van, and the twigs cascade onto the pile already in the bins. A light sweep and I’m out of there.

This is a City of Castlegar initiative to make it easy for people to get rid of this detritus. The city hauls this material away regularly, chips the twigs and begins to compost the grass and leaves. So it’s really a City of Castlegar composting initiative.

On Friday before this past Easter long weekend, the stalls were completely full and overflowing nearly to the ball park fence. On Saturday morning, the stalls had been emptied and readied for more waste drop off. By the end of the weekend, the storage stalls were full to overflowing again.

The fact is there has been a lot less burning this spring. So, it seems people are using this new city resource. I hope they’re as happy about it as I am.