aesthetics vs utility

One of the things which many, many permaculture practitioners seem to struggle with is a particular type of hoarding. I have this problem myself. You hold on to things because they might be useful, and because the idea of simply throwing them away is distasteful. After all, we know where “away” is in this context – it’s the mid-ocean garbage patch, or the local waterways, or at best the local landfill.

I can throw away biodegradable things without a moment of guilt, because I know that they’ll just rot down and return to the soil. But those things tend to go into my compost anyway, since good soil is one thing we’re a little short on. Throwing away plastic hurts me inside, because I know that most of those plastics will still be there in 100 years, making problems – so I try to avoid buying plastic non-recyclables as much as possible, and one of the factors in my purchasing choices is the recyclability of the wrappers of the things I buy. But potentially useful pieces of steel, or aluminium, or wood.. I find those very difficult to toss. Even if they’re covered in rust¬†or in sizes that will never actually be useful.

The problem with this is that you end up with a yard full of junk. It’s ugly, and it just sits there not being used.

Moving to a rural property doesn’t make it easier to avoid this sort of hoarding. We have so much more space now, and many, many things that we need to build. Plus, more sources of possibly-useful junk. Our neighbour has a collection of old truck gates, for example,¬†previously used as sheep- and horse-fencing, which he’s said we can have if we want them. They’re rusty, and bent in a few places, but they have so much potential. We’ve taken the four in the best condition to use as trellising for grapevines, and we’re resisting the rest. For now. I’m still thinking about what they could be used for.

In the meantime, though, we have some epic grapevine trellising to de-rust, paint, and put up. This is useful, because the hot weather is here and I really want some shade along the western side of the verandah to keep the house cool in the afternoons.