The Country Junkyard

The Country Junkyard

the country junkyard 

A. Caluen

We are just back from a quick trip up to the Sierra, which means all my I Wanna Go Now neurons are firing.  I spent most of the 12+ driving hours thinking about what's involved with living there.

Here's one topic that I haven't seen addressed before in articles about country living:


Ever driven down a country road?  Ever noticed how so many houses seem to have, as a yard-art theme, broken-down cars, etc?  Ever wondered why that is?

I'm guessing not.  I never thought about it myself - even though we lived out in the country when I was a kid - until quite recently, when something was brought home to me:

If you do not live in an incorporated city, there is a very good chance that the only sanitation service available is ... you and your own truck.

There are "transfer stations" in Calaveras County (and, I'm guessing, most other counties).  This is where you take your trash if you live outside of city limits.  And I do mean you take your trash.  There is no collection service that makes the rounds of all the hundreds of country-road miles.  Unincorporated towns generally have business and/or homeowners associations that make contracts with sanitation services.  Those of us outside have to haul it ourselves.

This, I believe, is the explanation for the dead washing machine, or the cracked fiberglass shower stall, that may appear in the yard a few houses down ... and stay there for years.  

What's required for hauling?

For big stuff, you need at least two strong people and a vehicle larger than the junk you need to get rid of.  The prospect of dealing with big garbage - stuff like old mattresses, crappy fiberboard furniture, broken lamps: everything you have ever surreptitiously left in an alley or dropped off at Goodwill, guiltily, knowing nobody on earth wants this old junk - will make you think twice about "trading up" or otherwise replacing things that still function.  When you actually have to work to get rid of it, you do look at things differently.

If your junk is metal, and there's enough of it, you can probably get a salvage company to come and get it.  You might not even have to pay for the removal.  Everything else, though ... .

Basically, if you don't want your yard to be a junkyard, you absolutely do have to build trash removal into your budget.  If you don't want to own a pickup truck yourself (and they are not very useful vehicles for most people, so why would you), plan on renting one from U-Haul a couple of times a year. 

If you are not robust, or don't have extra hands in your household, build hired helpers into that same budget.  Rent the truck, but rent a couple of teenage football players along with it.  

This - disposing properly of trash - is not a luxury: this is a basic component of civilized living.  In the city, your property taxes and utility fees cover it.  In a gated rural community, your HOA covers it.  If you are an independent householder, you cover it.

For the small stuff - which generally has to be separated just like recycling in town - plan on a visit to the transfer station at least once a month.  I'd plan for twice a month: unless you wash all of your trash before you bag it, it's going to attract the local variation of a rat, opossum, raccoon, possibly even coyote or bear.

Transfer stations charge fees based on the weight of what you are bringing, and you have to be a county property owner to use them.  Most accept garden waste as well - stuff that in many areas is considered "burnable."  (And many people do burn it, because you can, and it doesn't cost anything, as long as you don't set the county on fire.)  

Burning your yard waste (this does NOT include paper) is acceptable even in the dry foothills as long as you check with the county extension office first.  Obviously - or what SHOULD be obviously - there are some days when you absolutely should not even strike a match outdoors, much less set your deadfall on fire.

When we were up in Calaveras last April, we cleared a large nest of old barbed wire that was right up by the road.  Mr. P cut it in short lengths, we packed it into a bucket, and took it to the transfer station.  Fortunately, we had our property-tax statement with us because we paid the tax while we were up there.

Note on barbed wire: that stuff is heavy

Another budget line-item associated with not living in a junkyard:

Metal trash containers with lids that can be secured.  See above re: trash-pickin' varmints.

My Sierra house plan does not come with a garage, because - like Habitat for Humanity - I am working on a small budget here that covers shelter only for humans, not for vehicles.  We will probably have an open-ended, prefabricated metal shelter for our vehicle.  Our trash containers will be out there with the car, not down by the house with us.  

If a bear should wander along and get curious, she is welcome to throw the garbage cans around up by the road.  We do NOT want that particular nocturnal sport occurring right outside our windows.

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