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So, What Do We Do With the Garbage?


If I may engage you in a thought experiment for a moment, try and imagine there was no garbage collection. Ever. I’m not talking garbage collectors’ on strike, although that’s one event that can give you material to work with here, you know, mentally. Remember the last strike? Now what if there was no garbage service? Ever. The strike went on forever. What would you do? (Suggestions below are welcome)


City folk shovel their garbage to the curb each week; feeling pretty proud of themselves for having separated tin/plastic/glass/organic material for the city workers to pick up and haul away. Wipe clean. Leaving nothing but empty bins ready to be filled up again.

But here there are no garbage collectors. There is just one dump, 25 kilometres away, with funky hours, take it or leave it.


What if you were older, retired, had no car but did have a hectare of partially forested land?

Turns out, you’d build bonfires to burn what you can. Then you’d find beautiful large crevices in the rocks and trees and you’d squirrel away your remaining empties there. Turns out that on a hectare of partially forested land there are enough places that, after 30 years, these caches are still not immediately visible. Only once you walk and really look do you discover them, these cleverly placed deposits of waste.


Today Harry and I have been clearing our place of old tin cans, bottles, rusty barbed wire. Bags of it. Yet it’s surprising there isn’t more. Tip of the hat to the cleansing properties of fire. To the returning to the land of everything over time. To the lifestyle properly designed to conserve as much as possible while producing as little garbage as possible.

Because we have a car, we’ll take these bags of other people’s garbage to the dump and there hand it off to the lady who makes it her business to separate and sell it. (More on her later.) And then that will be done.


And then … (and for the rest of our lives?) … we’ll revise our entire system of living — every action, every purchase, every aesthetic impulse — so as to produce as little garbage as possible. Something different from a life where it’s just a matter of hauling heaps to the curb. Deposited in the morning knowing it’ll have disappeared by evening. Via elves and fairies and municipal taxes.


Either I’ll come back to Toronto with a few good ideas to share for everyone. Or I’ll come back and be the biggest garbage producing hog anyone has seen. Only time will tell.


Originally published January 22, 2012


Janet K, love your blog, your photos, your writing. I am so glad for the insight into life on Karen and Harry’s farm. Needless to say nothing much has changed here. The cars all have solid floorboards, garbage is hauled to the curb and you can’t pay a cop off (at least not at my level of criminal infraction). Rainy January day. Gray. That about sums it up. xoxo J Reply

karen there are days when I long for all that – even the grey. It’s sunny here all the time!!!. Miss you, thanks for saying hi here. Please give my love to everyone xox klh

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