Patsy Porco

Peanuts and Concrete

In Humor on June 23, 2017 at 6:07 pm

whiskey barrelOne of the whiskey barrels on our deck had rotted and was falling apart. No, there wasn’t whiskey spilling out all over the deck. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be complaining, which is what I’m about to be doing.

What was spilling out between the rotten wooden planks was dirt … and Styrofoam peanuts. Hundreds, if not thousands of Styrofoam peanuts. Maybe millions. At least it seemed like millions to me while I separated the peanuts from the dirt they were embedded in.

I went inside the house for a break, and to malign the former owners of our home.

“You know those whiskey barrels on the deck?” I asked my husband.

“You mean the half-barrels?” he responded.

“Yes, whatever,” I said. “You know what I’m talking about.”

“You’re the one who’s always correcting people about the proper use of words and grammar,” he said.

I sighed. “You’re right. Okay, yes, the half-barrels.”

“What about them?”

“Well,” I said, “The one closest to the grill was falling apart, so I took out the slats and removed the metal rings around the barrel. Guess what was inside?”

“Styrofoam peanuts,” he said.

“How did you know that?” I asked, flabbergasted.

He looked at me in the way that signifies he’s going to leave the room and end the conversation. I grabbed his arm to make him stay.

“Let go of my arm!” he said.

“Not until you answer me,” I said.

“I saw some peanuts lying around the half-whiskey barrel.”

“Didn’t you wonder where they came from” I asked, as I released his arm.


I breathed deeply. “Well, the former owners of our house filled the bottom of the barrel — do not correct me and say half-barrel or I’ll kill you — with those damn peanuts instead of dirt or rocks. Then they threw in a bunch of wood to take up even more space before they added dirt. Now we’ve got mounds of dirt, peanuts, and wood on the deck that I have to clean up.”

“Nobody told you to take it apart.”

“It was an eyesore!” I kind of yelled.

“Are you asking for help?” my husband asked.

“No, I’m not,” I said. “I’m just letting off steam. Can you even believe that they took that shortcut, without thinking of the mess they were leaving us?”

“They probably weren’t thinking of future owners of their house when they did it,” he said. “Those half-barrels have been here for the 11 years we’ve lived here and probably for many years before then.”

“Don’t take up for those inconsiderate jerks,” I said. “We never would have done such a thing.”

“Sure we would have,” he said. “In fact, we did.”

“When?” I spluttered.

“When the former owners of our last house left piles of broken concrete next to the garage and, right after we moved in, you had me dig a giant hole in the backyard and bury the concrete.”

“That was different,” I said.

“How, exactly?”

“We had to bury it. The dump wouldn’t accept it and Norwalk forbids putting building materials in the trash.”

“But we still left a hole filled with concrete for the new owners. If they ever decide to plant something in that exact spot, they’re going to be very angry,” he said.

I thought about that for a minute.

“I’m going back outside,” I said. “The next time I want to complain, I’m going to tell someone else.”

“Oh, please don’t,” he said.

He didn’t sound very sincere.


Addendum: After this was published, my friend, Christine, an environmentalist and gardener extraordinaire, posted an explanation on my Facebook wall (where this story also appeared) for the use of peanuts and wood in planters. It turns out that the former owners of our house weren’t inconsiderate jerks after all. Only we were.

Christine’s Comments: Uses for Foam Packing Peanuts: Check out #10: “Pour peanuts into a large pot and add soil to boost drainage and make it easier to move.”

Use of Wood: It’s permaculture practice to bury old pieces of wood because they absorb water and, as they compost, they release lots of good stuff into the soil. I don’t do the peanuts but I do bury lots of wood and it works wonderfully. I don’t have to water as often. When I read your story, permaculture was the first thing I thought of. That and the fact that I’ve found several pits of buried concrete in the yard usually just where I want to plant a tree!

  1. I have to be careful complaining about others, too. A long look in the mirror usually shuts me up.

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