Small Talk for Big Piles

By knoxred (knoxred) on September 5, 2010

A tongue in cheek guide to the proper etiquette when your neighbor embarks upon a multi-day mulch-a-thon.
(I'm an equal-opportunity mulcher, but for simplicity's sake, I'll just use "his" throughout the article instead or "his/her". For the record, I'm a "her".)


Your neighbor has finally pulled the trigger on that big mulch project.  As the dump truck pulls away from the steaming, aromatic mountain of mulch,  you notice your neighbor standing by the pile with his wheelbarrow and pitchfork, pulling on his gloves.  At this point, said neighbor is feeling those first niggling doubts..."Yikes, how am I going to finish this?"..."Did I order too much?".  He  bravely brushes away those doubts and starts loading up the first wheelbarrow load.  Now, what's your conversational move?

Day 1

Day 1 is your day.  Day 1 mulch-a-thon etiquette allows for a little bit of joking and poking fun.  Today you can make such small talk as "Whoa, that's a HUGE pile!", 'You've got a lot of work ahead of you.", and "How long do you think it will take you to finish?" 

Slightly bolder comments like, 'You're a glutton for punishment, aren't you?", "That will take you FOREVER!", or even "Better you than me, buddy."  are all fair game and may even motivate the mulcher to accomplish as much as possible today to prove a point.  The more obnoxious you are, the smaller the pile will be tomorrow. 

If you're a budding weather forecaster, today is also the day for any comments about how hot it is, or likely to be in the next couple days. Also, if rain is expected, now is the time to interject a quick "Better hurry, it's going to rain."

There's a couple other good Day 1 conversational gambits.  Today is when you can toss out a joking "Come on over to my yard when you're done."  Also, now is the time to pretend you're going to come help out.  Tried and true phrases here include "Let me run to the store/ go get changed / achieve world peace/ change my forwarding address/etc. and then I'll be right over."

If you have an extra pitchfork or wheelbarrow to lend, now is the time.  Under no circumstances offer any advice on mulching techniques.  I truly mean this. Even if they are holding the wrong end of the pitchfork, hold your tongue.

Day 2

Day 2 requires you to up your small talk game. Remember, your neighbor is sore and tired, and a little less chipper than on Day 1.

How big the pile is is no longer on the conversational table.  All references to pile size should reflect how much smaller it has become since yesterday morning.  "You've made a lot of progress.", "Wow, you sure put a dent in that pile!" and "At this rate, you'll knock that pile out in no time."  are all good choices.

General comments about the state of the yard are safe as well.  Offerings such as "Wow, what a difference - that mulch really makes the plants pop." and "All the time you spend on your yard really shows--it's beautiful." are always appreciated.    Do NOT point out the spot where the wheelbarrow overturned and spilled mulch into the lawn.  

Day 3

Should the mulch project extend into Day 3, you should really consider taking another route to work / church/ the store/ etc.  until the project is completed.  Even if you actually do have a death wish, death by pitchfork is a rather gruesome way to go.  Just saying.

If you simply must pass by on Day 3, any comments must be upbeat and positive, and preferably delivered through the window of a locked, moving car.  "Looking good!" is a nice safe choice, but seriously, keep the car locked and moving. 

I say this because your neighbor is sore, cranky, blistered, and sunburned. Mulch has been tracked throughout the house and he has run out of clean work clothes.  He also just figured out that he didn't order enough mulch.


Related articles:
etiquette, mulch, neighbor, pitchfork, small talk, wheelbarrow

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
This was so funny! Patti1957 Nov 27, 2010 2:59 PM 19

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