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Making news into mulch and moving the Mrs. Montana pageant

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A dispatch we received last week from Montana State University’s Extension Service posed a pause-giving question: “Do newspapers make good mulch?” To which our reply was: Some moreso than others. If you know what we mean.

But the fact is, according to MSU, recent studies have reversed a long-standing belief that newspapers didn’t make for good dirt (can you imagine?), and tests now show that tabloids like the one you’re reading now can indeed be composted.

“For years we thought newsprint was toxic,” writes extension expert Bob Gough from Bozeman, “but apparently it isn’t so anymore.” The concern, it seems, surrounded the presence of heavy metals in the paper your news is printed on. But scientists in New Jersey—where surely they understand pollution better than anyone else—found that there was little to no difference in the presence of heavy metals between newsprint and regular straw.

With that in mind, Gough lays out some on advice on exactly how you can turn news into mulch, just in time for planting season. He suggests that you first shred the newspaper, then soak it thoroughly in water. Put down a layer of the sopping paper a few inches below the surface of your garden, around each plant. The admixture, he suggests, helps conserve water in the soil, keeps the dirt cool, and of course, decomposes nicely. Just till it under at the end of the season, and the erstwhile work of journalism will return to the earth whence it came.

And you thought the Independent was only good for wrapping fish and lining birdcages. Now you know the truth: We’re almost as good as manure.
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Exhibit A: All that stunning, supposedly Montanan scenery in the 1995 film Legends of the Fall was actually filmed in Alberta. Since the movie consisted primary of a raffishly rusticated Brad Pitt galloping manfully in or out on horseback, you are perhaps to be forgiven for not noticing this. But had you noticed, you might have found yourself asking: Has the public become so persnickety in its taste for the Big Sky idyll that even Montana doesn’t look Montana enough?

Exhibit B: This year’s Mrs. Montana-America Pageant is being held in Wyoming. Same deal, sort of: Are we now to infer that we as Montanans are somehow underqualified to adjudicate the talent and pulchritude of our married women? Or are we just too inept to run our own beauty pageant?

We got uppity. Thankfully, our fears were allayed when we called organizers of the July 7 pageant last week. Turns out there just haven’t been enough entries in the competition—which is open to married female Montana residents at least 18 years of age—to make a separate pageant in Montana economically feasible. So, for this year at least, Montana’s ladies will be judged separately in Wyoming’s event. The same thing happened last year, when one of the two Montana entrants dropped out at the last minute, leaving the sole remaining competitor uncontested in her bid for the crown. She still had to go through the motions, though. As soon as more Montana entrants apply—at least 10 of them—the contest will be restored to its rightful home.

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