Monday, April 6, 2009

stick this!

Give a hoot, don't pollute! Help Woodsy Owl.

This weekend Enviro-Girl rallied the troops (AKA Team Testosterone) to perform the annual ditch cleaning. Living in the country on nearly 60 acres alongside a county highway, Enviro-Girl constantly battles invasive species--including litter. Plastic shopping bags, newspapers, styrofoam packaging, fast food wrappers, soda bottles, beer cans and cigarettes get tossed, blown and dropped. Clad in grubby clothes (this is a disgusting job) and gloves and armed with two huge garbage bags, they headed out.

Enviro-Girl took one side of the driveway, Team Testosterone took the other. They stooped and grabbed. The bags slowly filled. A waterlogged pizza container. A milk carton. They got to the road and started picking up the ditch.

The road is where Enviro-Girl gets really pissed off. It's all Tavern Trash--beer bottles, beer cans, cigarette cartons and the occasional bottle of soda. There's no house or business for miles and the road runs across a creek--this stuff doesn't blow in naturally--it's not the result of someone's trash barrel accidentally blowing over and spilling out. It's the result of bar hoppers and underage drinkers who are rude and evil. Enviro-Girl pictures them driving through at 2 a.m., taking aim at the bridge with their beer bottles as they pass. Yee-haw! Team Testosterone has gotten really good at gathering other people's garbage over the years--the system is two people carry the bags while everybody swarms out and picks up what they can find. But Enviro-Girl gets crabby and grumpy and starts grousing not only about the G.D. Litterbugs, she starts ragging on her kids to pick up the slack. Come on! You walked right past that bottle, Mr. B! You see something, pick it up! I don't want to be out here all day!

The kids are ornery because Hey! It's Saturday afternoon and instead of playing we're in a ditch picking up people's garbage so lay off! Mr. T informed Enviro-Girl that he hates Ditch Day because she yells too much. In other words, Enviro-Girl has morphed into Ditch Bitch.

Humbled by his remark, Enviro-Girl changed her tune. She knows that if the management is mean to the workers, they rebel. She enocuraged her troops and suggested a game to keep things interesting. What's the weirdest thing they could find? The grossest? Spirits revived, they worked their way towards the creek.

"It's a dinosaur fossil!" Mr. G shrieked, running down towards a pile of bones. His brothers chased after him to see the carcass of a deer--the spinal column, rib cage and skull all intact. "Cool!"

"Hey, Mr. T! You're stepping on it's leg bones!" Enviro-Girl called. He jumped and looked down at his feet atop the knee joint. Roadkill wins for being the Coolest Thing they discovered. All agreed to let it be--anything that comes from nature, banana peels, leaves, dead mammals will biodegrade naturally.

Several paces later they found the Weirdest Thing: A toothbrush. But they all agreed half-drunk bottles of water was pretty strange too. "I mean, you buy water, then you don't even drink it. You cap the bottle and you throw it by the creek. Which is water. So like you're trying to give water back to the Earth, but really you're not," Mr. T ruminated.

The half-empty soda and beer cans/bottles had to get poured out or the bags would be too heavy to drag, so Enviro-Girl spent a lot of time twisting off caps. Glug glug glug. One particular bottle was half spilled on the ground (and splattering her Wellies) when the smell hit her and she retched and nearly barfed alongside the road. Yep, it was a bottle full of spit. (For readers unfamiliar with rednecks, guys who chew tobacco usually spit into a container--a can or bottle resulting in a nasty mix of saliva and chewed Kodiak.) She still gags to think about it--and the smell followed her around all day long. Definitely the Grossest.

Weary and filthy, Enviro-Girl and her sidekicks trudged back to the homefront. She'd toss the full garbage sacks into the ditch and put them in the dumpster Monday night when she dragged it out by the road. No point in dragging the weight all the way down to the house and back again for the garbage pick-up. She yelled at Team Testosterone to run ahead, wash up and have a snack. They had earned their break. And then it happened.

In the stand of willows near the end of her driveway, Enviro-Girl spotted a plastic soda bottle she'd missed when they'd come through earlier. She dropped the bags and climbed through the ditch after it. Crawling through the branches, she leaned in to grab the bottle and a twig jammed into her eye. Yow! Today her left eye is still sore and irritated. It's true, people. Enviro-Girl's commitment to Planet Earth is so great that she'll even endure physical pain.

Yes, Woodsy, Enviro-Girl will harken your cry.


  1. I hope your kids grow up giving a hoot and influence their friends not to trash the ditches!

  2. What a nightmare.

    We only had two acres in New Hampshire when I was growing up, but we still had spring clean up along the road. There's nothing like wading through the refuse left by a winter's worth of rednecks.

    Our wierdest finds were always pieces of clothing. I imagined open pickups filled with dirty laundry driving at breakneck speed down our road.

    How else do you explain random single socks, shirts, ball caps, left to rot in the ditch?

    (And I'm afraid the deer carcass would've freaked me right out.)

    - Julia

  3. Good for you & thank you! My neighbors were doing the same weekend before last. I'll do both sides of our 1/2 mile this weekend if weather cooperates. The majority of our finds are usually beer & cigarette related also. Ditch bitch - that made me giggle! I totally understand.

  4. That bottle of spit grossed me out, too. So glad I haven't had breakfast yet...
    Awesome job - I hope you treated yourselves to something good after that.

  5. First, I am beyond impressed with your dedication to picking up the litter on your property. As long as I live I will never understand what possesses a person to litter and I don't know that I would be opposed to public flogging as punshiment for those who do.

    Second, I had a Woodsy t-shirt very similar to that as a kid and am so going to look on the internet for a grown-up sized one today!

    Third, Ditch Bitch is the greatest nickname EVER...

  6. What is wrong with people?

    When I asked my oldest son last year why his car was so full of trash--it was because he was picking up trash the other kids left in the parking lot at school.

    I have to agree that Ditch Bitch is an awesome name--you need to put that on a t-shirt.

  7. This would be on my bottom-of-the-bottom, LEAST favorite chores to do! Ugh! Thank god it's only a couple times per year, huh. I'll bet this task will get significantly better when the kids are old enough to knock back a beer or two themselves while working...putting the empties in the bags as you go, of course...
    * ; )

  8. The boys are so lucky to have such an awesome example to follow.
    Seeing Woodsy Owl made me remember another 'Stop Litter' campaign from my childhood.
    Do you remember the native American with the tear in his eye?
    He surveyed the litter and it made him cry.
    Well, EnviroGirl surveyed the litter and nearly got HER EYE poked out from kickin' it into gear and DOING something about it!
    I do hope your recovering quickly from your battle wound.

  9. You deserve an all-time award for the most dedicated environmentalist I have heard of yet! I am still naseated by the spit-gag gag gag--so gross--definitly grossest!

    Why? Why do people litter? So bizzare. But you know, what I have found is that those in more rural areas, blessed with natural beauty all around them, are the worst for throwing stuff out all helter skelter, burying, and dumping garbage. It's always baffled me.

    I hope your eye feels better. You are amazing.

  10. we always marvel at the one shoe we see on the side of the road. how do you lose one shoe?

  11. I bow to your fabulocity, because there's no way I'd do what you do.

  12. We live smack dab in the city and my best buddy and I walk three miles through our neighborhood every morning. Fridays are trash days so as we walk we pick up trash and throw it in the cans. The worst part is walking by our park and the apartments at the entrance to our neighborhood. I can't get over how piggy people are. I think my four kids are as fanatic as I am about keeping our planet clean, thank goodness. We do this every week and the trash never ends. I just can't get over people. Ugh!

  13. Good for you for making, I mean encouraging your boys to help you clean up the earth.

    Forever more I will think of you as the ditch bitch.

  14. Oh, good for you guys! We used to do that, too, before our little country township was overrun by subdivisions.

    We kids were always proud at how wonderful everything looked when cleaned up! I'm sure TT is, too.

  15. Littering is one of my biggest pet peeves. Right now, living in a duplex with less than stellar neighbors, my kids are making a killing picking up trash. I pay them because it disgusts me and they would never do that.

    BTW Madge there is a web site dedicated to the shoes left on the side of the road. It has baffled me for years.

  16. Awesome dedication to the cause - sure wish it wasn't necessary!

  17. We do something like that as a community, it's called SOLV

    I think it's cool that you do it on your own.

  18. All that pain, grumbling, and nastiness and THEN you get poked in the eye. You are a dedicated woman and the earth thanks you for it!

  19. Mr. T is quite the sage with his water ruminations.
    My skin is crawling in honor of your rednecks' refuse. Ew. Ew. Ew.

  20. That's really awesome that you guys clean your ditch like that. It's too bad somebody with the local paper doesn't print a story about it. The sobering reality of it might convince some people to stop trashing the environment. Might. I can dream, can't I?

  21. I LOVED those commercials..."never be a dirty bird!"

    I've been lurking here for awhile and finally decided to comment :)

  22. What an awesome mom you are. Really, that's great training for your kids.
    I still can hardly believe it when I see people litter RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! Have they no shame?

  23. Love the new nick name! ;)

    And you go Enviro-family!
    Hoot hoot!

  24. Wow. You are amazing. Simply amazing. Mr. T's 'weird thing' rumination was pretty insightful too.

  25. You guys are the best!

    I have been known on occasion to pull over along our mountain roads and make the kids get out to pick up trash on the side (have a box of bags in the trunk) if it's particularly obnoxious.

    We've never done it as a family, though. Great idea!

  26. *Sigh* Must remember to take extra large garbage bags to beach house. Thanks for reminding me. Everything that washes down Nariva River ends up on Mayaro Beach. Styrofoam! We hate it! Oh, and what about a bottle of PEE? I don't open them anymore.

    Hope your eye is okay.

  27. Oh it drives me nuts when people litter!

    When I was in Puerto Rico, I couldn't believe how much trash there was there, and how hard of a time I heard people say they had getting the locals to not litter. It's paradise people, and you live there. Take care of it.

    I think we all need to remember that :)


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