The Big Hole Project

My wife thinks I am half crazy dragging bags of leaves, grass clippings and other yard debris to an erosion gap in our creek.  Maybe she is right, for I have just unloaded bag number 1,311 into that hole.  All of these bags were collected since June of 2011.  That’s 108 bags per month I have saved from the Baton Rouge landfill.  Estimated to be 26,000 pounds of good organic material not wasted. See more pictures.
Adam Aucoin stand in the hole in June of 2011,
since then 1. 311 bags of leaves  have been put in.

Why?  It started on September 1, 2008 when the winds of Hurricane Gustav knocked down a pine tree, 3 foot in diameter and over 80 feet tall into the above mentioned gap.  It extended into my creek.  I was immediately sad to lose such a big tree and especially so because that gap was my trail to the stream. I solved part of the problem by trimming the limbs off the tree so I could walk down to the creek on top of it. A little more than two years later this became dangerous as the tree rotted.  On May 29, 2011 my stepson Adam and I sawed the pine log into four foot pieces and left them in the hole. A few days later I started throwing nearby limbs and branches on the logs. Brainstorm!  I could see the crevasse totally filled up, making a nice view point over the creek and creating 720 square feet of usable land.
CC stands on the newly accreted land after many bags
 of leaves and grass clipping have been put in.

Branches would take a long time so another idea came to mind as I headed to my office and saw some garbage bags by the street full of grass clippings.  I had collected leaf bags in the fall for years to make compost.  I decided to start collecting bags of yard refuse and fill the crevasse.  With a combination of grass, leaves, sticks and a little dirt every now and then, this concoction of materials will decompose faster than just the logs, limbs and branches.  Furthermore, it has the added advantage of keeping those full bags of valuable vegetable matter out of the land fill.  I made my first entry in my hole ledger on June 5, 2011.  Twenty-one bags of grass went into the hole.  I quickly found out who had the best bags of stuff in a six block radius of my office. So in just a few minutes each Monday on the way to work I could obtain 20 to 30 bags.

So working like a beaver, engineering with layers of leaves, grass clippings and fallen limbs, I began filling that eroded crevasse. It was about 18 feet wide and 40 feet long.  It starts about 4 feet deep and reaches 15 feet deep by the creek. Today, I can walk out about 22 feet on solid ground and another 10 on a spongy surface of compacting leaves.  This leaves only 8 feet left to reach the bluff above the creek.  That will be the hard part, developing a firm vertical bank.

I know as it decomposes, it will sink, compact and subside just like the Louisiana coast and I just like the Mississippi River will keep adding layers until I reach the height and compaction I need.  Unlike the Louisiana coast which always needs new sediment, I think I will reach a point where I no longer have to add.

It's a crying shame that we do not let the Mississippi River get its valuable sediments from the heartland of America into our beautiful and valuable marshes anymore and drag our feet in making that right.

It took 6,000 years of Mississippi River sediments from the heartland of America to build 8,000 square miles of coastal Louisiana.  It will take me about a year and a half to make a 720 square foot plaza above my creek and save the landfill about 2,000 bags of leaves and grass.  As I sit out on my newly accreted land, I think maybe, just maybe this hole project be the inspiration to getting the valuable sediment out of the Mississippi and back into the coastal wetlands.
Link to Baton Rouge Recycle


Bags of Leaves

What does saving Louisiana's subsiding coast, making compost and taking it easy on the Baton Rouge landfill have in common with these bags of leaves? Find out Monday when I write about a project I started one year ago.

Bags of leaves collected from the street in South Baton Rouge