Friday, March 12, 2010

Jefferson City’s a Smokin’ Place . . . for Three More Days

I try not to spend too much time dwelling on the down side of life, but I hope you won’t mind me venting again, because this time I’m writing about the trouble I’ve had, well, venting.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were lovely, gorgeous spring days. Temps in the sixties and seventies, oh my! And gloriously sunny as well. The crocuses are blooming now, the snakey-snakes are out getting their first tastes of 2010 (I think for them it must taste a lot like box elder bugs!)—and our first few daffodils opened up.

Ahhhhhhhh, springtime! Hooray! It’s time to throw open the windows and breathe in some fresh air. And to air out the house in general. Get all that stale wintertime Nyquil-and-Kleenex air out of the house!

It just feels good to have fresh air on these warm days.

And the cats love to sit in the windows, sniffing the air with genuine excitement, keeping tabs on the birds as they sing and swoop from tree to tree and the squirrels as they fritz around in the yard.

But for each of those three days, our paradise was ruined by evil, permeating, acrid smoke. Because, believe it or not, the City of Jefferson still allows the burning of yard waste inside city limits. Yes.

By golly, you could live right next door to the Governor’s Mansion and light up a big ol’ pile and have that smoke drift over the whole area. Your smoky smoldering pile could contain sticks and leaves, poison ivy (if you're ignorant, and I don’t count on much intelligence in my particular neighborhood), bark, mulch, and (come on, you know it happens) other “miscellaneous items” that people will slip in there.

You know that outright trash, treated lumber, plastics, and whatever also ends up in many burn piles. And that means toxic fumes, smoldering all day. Including dioxin.

And so we had to shut the windows for all three days in a row. The first two days, there was a pile of yard waste that smoldered continuously over both days and during one entire night. It was an enormous pile.

Wednesday, another burn pile right along the Expressway smelled an awful lot like the house fire that occurred on the same block a few years ago. Which means it smelled horrible and acrid. It made my lungs want to shrivel up. I suspect that a lot more than just dried plant material ended up in that fire.

I was relieved Wednesday afternoon when the winds kicked up and ushered in a storm system overnight.

The local city council struggled with the yard-burning issue a few years ago, but enough burn-barrel-lovers raised such a “stink” that the council ending up striking a compromise, permitting yard-waste burning during late fall and winter, and forbidding it in spring and summer. Basically.

November 2 through March 15. It generally robs us of our last precious few warm days of the season, and it spoils the first beautiful days after the long winter.

I guess I should be amazed and happy that progress was made at all, so that now, opening burning is only permitted during part of the year that Persephone is trapped in the Underworld.

I mean, I’m genuinely impressed that Jeff City finally this year—2010!—implemented a curbside recycling program, despite the protests of those who see only problems with the idea. (“Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.”)

A friend of mine once told me, flat-out, that he strongly believes that the very best part of living in our civilization, at this moment in history, is the organized community trash pickup. “Think of it!” he urged. “You just take all your trash, set it out by the curb, and for a surprisingly low price, someone comes and just . . . hauls it away! You don’t even need to think about it anymore! You don’t ever see it again! It’s just . . . gone!

The city of Columbia, just to the north, has curbside solid waste pickup, curbside recycling, and curbside yard waste pickup. It’s pretty impressive. Maybe someday Jeff City will look across the river far enough to see that citywide yard waste collection is actually possible and, like trash and recycling collection, makes for a better quality of life for everyone.

. . . Meanwhile, I feel like I was deprived of our first three gorgeous springtime days.

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