Some people plan ahead for summer break by accumulating TripTiks from the AAA, or for Thanksgiving by building a book of recipes, or for Christmas by hiding gifts in the back of their closet. I plan ahead for brushy trash collection by stacking every fallen branch, shrub trimming, or cut-down shrub from my yard in a pile by the back fence. When the spring or fall Brushy Trash Day arrives, all I have to do is haul the branches from my backyard up to the sidewalk for collection.
I always have the biggest brushy trash pile in the neighborhood. And I'm always extremely proud of my pile, savoring the view of it in the front yard for those couple of days before collection. To me, a large brushy trash pile speaks of industry and thriftiness, or good use of the city's solid waste program, of which I am an adoring fan. Living in an old, drafty, leaky house, I am less enamored of the sums that I pay each month for electric and water, but I have been impressed with the thoroughness of the solid-waste program since moving from an apartment to a house. As a gardener I am especially appreciative of the weekly yard waste collection and, of course, the semiannual brushy trash collection.
Which may just make me a nerd, or reveal that I am a maniac with loppers and a Fat Max saw. In my defense, I am genetically predisposed to chopping down shrubs and building huge brush piles, following in the tradition of my mom, whose summer brush pile dwarfs anything my yard could produce. My parents live in the country, though, where they can burn their brush pile and create huge compost systems, while I try to carry out my agrarian urges here in a small city lot. So I feel lucky that the City of Austin indulges my need to accumulate brushy trash.
Brushy trash collection was this week for my neighborhood. On Sunday I dragged the accumulated branches of the summer and fall up to the street, revisiting yard projects of the past as I worked my way through the pile. On the top of the pile were a few branches that had fallen from the trees in the backyard since the cold fronts started blowing through town. Not far below were the remains of the multi-branched Japanese privet tree that I removed from the backyard. As the crackly, dead privet leaves fell from the branches I remembered the cloudy, humid July day when I cut down that shrubby tree, exposing the back corner of the backyard to sunlight.
The next bunch of branches, trimmings from the shrubs at the front of the house, a holly, a yew, and a few boxwood shrubs, were shorter and tangled, making them harder to carry to the growing pile at the sidewalk. At the bottom of the pile, I dug through a dense pile of privet leaves to find trimmings from a chaste-tree shrub and branches that had fallen from a cedar elm tree in the backyard during a wind storm late last spring. Those bottom branches of my backyard pile became the top branches of the new pile I created at the street, ready for pick-up.
The thing about having a brushy trash pile in the front yard is that it tempts me to add more. By Tuesday afternoon, when collection had not yet happened on my street, I decided that it was time to remove the last remaining shrubs from the south side of the house, where I want to create a tomato garden. I didn't feel bad cutting down the Chinese privet, which, like the Japanese privet that I removed from the backyard in July, is non-native, invasive, and, in my opinion, ugly. I did feel guilty about taking down the small Texas persimmon tree growing next to the house. But, if I wanted to plant tomatoes along that sunny wall, then all the shrubs had to go. That is how my brushy trash pile got even taller.
As proud as I am of my large brushy trash piles, I always think that next year's pile will be smaller. I have removed most of the shrubs that I don't like, or that have grown in unfortunate places, so I should have less brush to remove. But I also know that the hackberry tree needs to be trimmed, as does the cedar elm by the back door, and winter ice storms or spring wind storms have a way of dropping branches when least expected. So I am confident that, by the time of spring collection, I will once again have a pile of brushy trash to offer to the city.