The Joys of Mushroom Compost and Math

Trailer with compost

I have a small 5′ x 8′ landscape trailer I’ve used for over a decade, if not 15 years, to haul all sorts of things, including a leaning tower of computers on a 450 mile journey. It has served me very well all of those years, and I hope to use it for many more. Well, this handy little trailer has specifications allowing it to handle 3500 lbs. of weight. Considering it’s served almost it’s whole life behind my 1995 Kia Sportage, which can only handle 2000 lbs for towing IF the trailer has brakes (and the trailer doesn’t have brakes), it’s not really had to be taxed to it’s limit, until recently. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved to towing with my Kia Sorento, able to tow 3500 lbs.

Before I go further, I might mention some facts about the tires on the 14″ wheels. The trailer has two, one on each side, and each is labeled to handle 1290 lbs, meaning together they can carry 2580 lbs. Hmm. So, a trailer weight capacity of 3500 lbs. could lead an engineering and physics novice such as myself to put too much weight on a 3500 lb. capacity trailer, now couldn’t it? Did I mention that these are the original tires that came with the trailer? Well, they are, and though they still have great tread, and the spare has never been used, I’m sporting tires composed of at least 10-year-old materials.

Last year I decided to drive 64 miles to Miami, OK (NOT Florida), to haul home some mushroom compost for my garden, and I did this in the Sportage. You see, the cheapest price I could find for delivery was $45/yard, and it could be bought directly for $15/yard. When I got there, I had determined that, by volume, my trailer (with walls added) could handle about 3 yards of compost. As a matter of fact, I figured it could handle four, by volume, but not knowing actual weight, I stuck with three yards. I paid for three and drove around to the loading pad where the Bobcat driver promptly loaded one… two…

“WHOA! STOP!!” I cried. My tires were almost flat to the ground, and I was panicking! I got out my tire gauge, and the tires (I hadn’t used the trailer in a season), were down to 20 lbs., not up to 35 lbs., their maximum. I stopped the loader from providing the third paid load and crippled away with two loads for the price of three. I turned into the nearest air station, found enough quarters, and filled the tires to about 30 lbs. The tires, though looking a bit stressed, looked okay, and I carefully drove home.

Enter two weeks ago. This time I needed the compost for my nursery, and I used the Sorento. This time I checked the tire pressure (as I should have done the first time) and aired up all the way to maximum allowed, and, this time, I was pretty sure I could handle three yards. I drove 64 miles, paid for three yards, drove around to the loading pad where the Bobcat driver promptly loaded one… two…

“WHOA! STOP!!” I blustered. My tires didn’t look like they could handle another load! Maybe this driver had loaded the bucket more heavily? I don’t know for sure why it looked worse than the previous time (with proper tire pressure), but, nevertheless, again I slowly limped away with two loads for the price of three, and I carefully drove home.

“Maybe I should do some research,” I thought to myself.

One, can I get tougher tires? YES! I can purchase a tire that can handle 1760 lbs. (and still fit my fenders), or two for 3520 lbs.! Well, that almost EXACTLY matches the capacity of the trailer! Oh, but I’m going to be away when the order would arrive, so I will have to delay adding new tires until I get back. Good. To. Know.

Two, just what does a yard of mushroom compost weigh? Well, a yard can be up to 600 lbs. Wow! Still, If I only get 3 yards, that would only be 1800 lbs., right? Why do my tires look so stressed? Oh, well. I’d better, for the time being, just stick with two yards. Maybe the tires are showing their age.

Enter today! Following the scenario of two weeks past, I drove around to the loading pad where the Bobcat driver promptly loaded one… two-three!!!!!

“Arrrgghhh!! STOP!! I only purchased two,” I hastened.

“Oh, I’ll give you as much as you want,” he said with a smile. “These buckets hold 1 1/2 yards, so you should have about 4 1/2 yards in there right now.”

My 10-year-old tires are looking mighty sad, and I am, too, right about now as I give the Bobcat driver my gracious thanks, while, at the same time my heart goes into palpitations. “How am I going to make the 64 mile trip home?” I mused. “At least I now know why my tires looked so stressed last time.” I then, under my breath, honestly asked God to get me home with special attention to my safety and others’. Here, at home, safe and sound I write, less than two hours after returning. Attribute my safe return at your own discretion, but it is as it is.

Somehow, with only the ability to haul 2580 lbs., my tires hauled, today, at least 2700 lbs. of compost plus trailer weight, which I imagine to be around 300 lbs. The leaf springs under the trailer, two inches from the axle when not loaded, were about one inch from the axle. After all, they could have handled 500 more pounds, if it weren’t for my tire limitations.

So, now that I know how much is actually loaded from their Bobcat bucket, one-and-a-half yards, and not one yard, I know that, over the life of this witness, I paid for eight yards of compost and drove out with 10 1/2 yards, getting a better bargain than I could have imagined. J-M Farms, Inc., is a great place to buy mushroom compost! Not only is the current going price of $15/yard a bargain, they are intentionally generous by attributing one yard to a one-and-a-half yard bucket. Don’t go there expecting them to load extra buckets, by the way. They had a lot of compost, and concerning a line of customers for pickup, the crickets were singing today. This is not their usual scenario. I love, however, their standard scenario, as the philosophy does it’s best to provide more than required.

Why write about this? Therapy. My heart rate has gone back to a normal hop, skip, and jump. Time to prepare more flower bulb beds for transplanting!

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