At sun-up Saturday morning, Jerry Lane was sitting in his pickup truck atop what once was the city's landfill on Old Frankfort Pike, enjoying the gorgeous pink backdrop to Lexington's skyline.
Lane was second in line for the city's mulch giveaway, which he thinks is a pretty cool concept: "The city takes our (yard waste) recycling, turns it into mulch and gives it back to us," Lane said. "Just get up early and get in line."
With snow blanketing the ground and the thermometer sitting at 33 degrees Saturday morning, the line was only about five vehicles when a Bobcat began dumping bucket loads of steaming black mulch into the trucks' beds. A total of 45 people had come through by the time the event ended at noon.
On Jan. 8, with snow coming down, about 15 people took advantage of the giveaway, said Esther Moberly, a city recycling program specialist.
"They don't know what to do with us," said Jim Calonico, who drove up in a passenger car with his wife, Patti Meyer.
They used a shovel and their hands to fill eight yard-waste bags about half full, then hauled them home in the trunk of the car.
"This is a great service," Meyer said. The couple planned to use the mulch in small raised beds in their backyard.
"In these troubled times, you can save some money," Calonico said.
Lane said a 30- or 40-pound bag of mulch bought at the store costs about $3, and "it covers about twice the space that's in the bag," whereas the city will give him a whole truckload of it for free.
He planned to wait until the snow melts before spreading the mulch in his yard. Lane said he likes the look of fresh mulch around trees and shrubs: "Call it a touch-up," he said.
In the past, the city has offered free mulch to residents on the second and third Saturdays in April, July and October. This year, January distribution was added because people asked for it and the mulch was available, Moberly said.
In the summer months, when demand is higher, about twice as much mulch is given away, and there have been times when the mulch ran out before the line was gone. Any remaining on Saturday would be left where it was for use by the Streets and Roads department and Parks and Recreation department, Moberly said.
It takes six months of composting for the grass clippings, sticks and leaves Lexington residents put in their Lenny yard-waste carts to turn into mulch, meaning that the Christmas trees hauled out to the curb in recent weeks won't come back to residents as mulch until this summer, Moberly said.
Also Saturday, the city offered residents a good deal on garbage disposal.
People who drop off household waste at the Bluegrass Waste Alliance Transfer Station normally have to pay about $50 a ton, but on Saturday, the city was picking up the tab for one load per household.
Ron Price hauled in a load of trash and cardboard boxes. He said he has private garbage pickup, but he lives in a rural part of the county and worries that if he leaves bags of trash next to the road, animals will scatter it.
"The free days motivate us to do cleaning," he said.
The next scheduled day for free disposal is April 16; the next mulch giveaways are April 9 and 16.
Mike Yost, one of the first people in line for mulch on Saturday, said his "neighbors thought it was kind of weird to get it in the middle of winter," but the cold, early-morning trip is worth it, because it makes his wife happy. She uses the mulch for her flower beds.
"That's what she tells her friends," he said with a grin, "that I'm a good husband."