When Life Hands You Cookies, Make Mulch!

by Katy on May 7, 2009 · 12 comments




My day started innocently enough. The boys were rousted out of bed, fed, nagged, brushed and hustled off to school. I drank my morning tea and then drove over to my mother’s house to provide my signature airport shuttle service. (I can’t complain as I did receive a shoebox full of homemade chocolate chip cookies as payment.)

I was just rolling back into my neighborhood when I spied an arborist’s truck at a neighbor’s house. Sure enough, it had a wood-chipper attached at the rear.


The South side of my house consists of hard packed clay that gets all muddy and slippery when it rains. (And as I live in Oregon, this is an all too frequent occurrence.) I’ve been wanting to lay down mulch for years, but somehow have never got around to it. I know that arborists will often dump their mulch for free, and had even called a few companies in the past, but never had any luck.

Today was my day.

I parked the car and walked back to the neighbor’s house and asked the worker if there was any way he could dump a yard or so of mulch at my house. He looked dubious at first, but did come around quickly when he saw I was only a half-block away. 

And indeed he drove his truck over and raked out a yard or so of beautiful cedar wood chips into a pile in front of the house.

Cookies were distributed, and all appeared satisfied with the transaction.

I would estimate that it took twenty wheelbarrows loads to transport the mulch to the side yard, but since the it was very lightweight this was not a difficult task. I listened to an audio book from the library and the time flew by.

I am so happy with the results, and am looking forward to not becoming a muddy mess every time I take out the compost or simply wish to enter my beautiful back yard.

I love not only that the mulch was free, (and smells unbelievably terrific) but that it’s from a tree a half block away. Also, had I been a full-time worker, I wouldn’t have been home to take advantage of this opportunity. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to take my mother to the airport, and there would have been no thank you cookies.

And for that, I’m happy to live frugally, simply and frankly, in a home with a no longer slippery South side yard.

Do you practice frugal gardening? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”




{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

aries May 7, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Nice post…thanks for sharing it with us… cheers 🙂


Jinger May 8, 2009 at 5:44 am

What a smart idea! I love the scent of cedar mulch. Alas, I have no yards, but do have 2 porch container gardens. My front porch has succulents, ferns and Swedish ivy in pots…all purchased at a school fair for less than $1 each and my back porch is my vegetable garden…a tomato and green pepper plant and herbs…each purchased at my local grocery store as seedlings for 85 cents each.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl May 8, 2009 at 7:14 am

Ohh, free mulch is awesome!

Our neighbor is a landscaper, and he has given us free leftover mulch on quite a few occasions. Love it!


Judy May 8, 2009 at 9:48 am

I love it! What a serendipitous moment in time!


Angela May 8, 2009 at 10:08 am

Nice post. I particularly liked the way you turned into Miss Marpole for a second when you “spied” the landscaper’s truck at the neighbor’s house with an attached wood-chipper.


Alea May 8, 2009 at 1:42 pm

On Wednesday I blogged about how I reuse items to inexpensively extend my short growing season: http://premeditatedleftovers.blogspot.com/2009/05/extending-short-growing-season.html


Jennifer May 8, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Way to go Katy!


Ellen May 9, 2009 at 12:25 am


the mulch looks great! I put down 14 bags on my garden beds before my folks came to visit, and not only did it make everything look nice and tidy, but it smelled great too. Smart of you to have taken advantage of the opportunity–I think those 14 bags cost me about fifty bucks.


Cheryl May 9, 2009 at 5:34 am

Great post! My husband recently went to our local dump (we live in the country) and was surprised to see a mountain of wood chips. (Who throws this stuff out? It’s gold!) The landfill worker was happy to have my husband take it away so he filled bag after bag….all free for the taking. He has found it’s handy to keep some bags and a shovel in the trunk at all times.

I love your blog. We’ve been living with voluntary simplicity for the past 11 years….since my husband retired at 51. It really is a good life.


linda May 9, 2009 at 6:52 am

What an improvement! It’s so hard to keep up those small areas on side of house, behind garage, etc. If you’d like to nestle a row of stepping stones down into that mulch, and always have a way to walk through the area in all kinds of weather–have a visit with your local home and garden store, or even Wal-mart. When they bring in those stacks of flat rectangluar, square, hexagonal, etc. stones–a few are always broken. I looked through such a pile of cracked and broken ones, chose 15 that weren’t too bad, got them 3 for $1, and laid down a nice path behind our garage.


Michelle May 9, 2009 at 8:40 am

Overwhelmed by a sense of urgency to get everything just so in my new 30 year old house, I am encouraged and inspired by your PATIENCE! The “right now” culture that surrounds us makes it hard to slip around in our mud while waiting for opportunities like this. But how much more rewarding because you waited! Bravo!


Angélique May 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

Of course, it never hurts to ask!
In my neighborhood (in a suburb of France) the city gardeners clear out the perennial and seasonal flowers three times a year and – get this – throw them all away!!
So every once in awhile if I’m home (I work odd hours) I ask them if I can have some. And, voila, I add them to my garden.


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