honey, just think of all the decomposing we can do now…
at the 17-year mark in a marriage that has every reason to go on for a long, long time, my beloved looked to me the other eve, and murmured, “darling, whatever would enchant you for our impending anniversaire?”
hmm, you say you smell a fish? you careful reader, you. that doesn’t ring quite right? you mutter to yourself.
why, yes, perhaps it is a bold-faced fib. let’s re-roll that scene, clean up the dialogue, veer it closer to the truth. cinema verite, you know….
truth be told, he never once has called me darling. not in the 9 million years since i first laid eyes on his tall and tortoise-rimmed self. and no, not a chance, he is not the sort to volley verbal morsels along the lines of “enchant,” in any form.
more likely, he said, hey, is there something you want for our anniversary? (which in and of itself is not an oft-tossed question in this house, but that’s another story. and i will, despite my inclinations, stick to the tale at hand here. thusly, i’ll pick up right where i once again interrupted my sorry self…ahem, then…)
to which i batted my baby-blue-green-with-a-speck-of- yellows, and replied, “oh, mon sweet, could i please, please, please have a compost bin?”
sadly, pathetically, that whole last line is true. right down to the mon sweet. especially the bit about the compost gizmo.
lest he or you let out a gasp, fear not; i followed right up with this romantic retort: “how fitting to make gold of garbage.”
he might have taken umbrage there, i might have seen him bristle. but i wasted not a heartbeat in clarifying my point (er, digging myself out from the big black hole of unintended trouble i so often stumble into): “i mean, how metaphoric to take what life throws at you, and turn it into that which makes your deepest earthly essence bloom and bulge and burst with, um, life most everlasting.”
since this was not the first time in our many, many years that i left the man wholly muddled, he followed up with the only thing left to wonder: “what’ll it cost me?”
as i grabbed the keys and bounded out the door, i planted a big splashy kiss right on his grizzled cheek.
no more questions asked.
i was off to muck around in the big wide world of compost. i had much to learn, as i’d been longing for a long, long time for a heap o’ weeds and dried-up leaves to call my own. to watch it crawl with worms and creepy multi-legged beings, who’d chew through last night’s scraps and, over time, turn each and every one into just the sustenance my beds were hungry for.
why, i could think of no more life-affirming feat than to feed my plate scrapings to the lilac and the climbing rose, to watch the pure essential elements of life–carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and a splash of H2O–do their decomposing dance, and then, voila, to fill the bellies of the blooms with their God-given outa-the-park potential.
how fine if we could learn to live a life of always making what we need from what is thrown upon the heap we call our day-to-day existence.
as i shopped, and poked around the quaint black sphere they call the internet, i wound up talking to a fine gardener up in vermont. she ticked off a list of things worth not forgetting–ever; and not merely on the topic of chemical breakdown-cum-fertilizer.
she told me not to expect perfection off the bat. it’s a learning thing, she counseled, what’s important here is that you are coming to understand the cycle of life and afterlife.
who knew that the mound of old dead leaves and weeds plucked from they shouldn’t be would lay out for me a lesson so sublimely not only philosophic but theologic too?
and so, i’ve ordered up a bin (or two). carried home my whale harpoon (no big blue on the horizon here; it’s simply that they tell me i’ll be spearing my decaying leaves and table scraps to hurry things along, add a little oxygen to the equation). even have my box of compost fuel at the ready. all i need is the nice mailman to ring the bell and drop the bin on my front stoop.
i’ll take it from there, i promise. i’ve been reading up a storm. know all about the browns and greens (that would be the mix of carbon-stoked old leaves and nitrogen-heavy weeds and bits of freshly mown grass that make up a batch of compost-on-the-make).
in fact, i’ve got the recipe down pat (2 parts dry leaves, 1 part fresh clippings, 1 part food scraps, spread in 4-inch layers, add water as needed, churn, churn, churn. and, presto, you’ve got 100-percent organic goo for your gardens).
any day now, i’ll commence. given the vast family value to be unearthed, i’ll haul my boys out to watch and learn and lend a hand at churning. i will marvel at how i feed my compost heap and it, in turn, decomposes into something pure and black and golden.
as is my style, i’m apt to overdo. i see me late at night, out checking on my compost stew. i imagine how, come winter, i might be tempted to wrap the thing in blankets, in hopes of keeping all those creepy crawly worms from falling into chilly slumber.
and already, i am lusting for the shredder that circumvents the weeks it takes to break down stubborn leaves.
that, though, will have to wait.
until the one i love inquires, “hey, babycakes, what about our 18th?”
now don’t you tell, but you know–because i just told you–i’ve just the thing to celebrate, to mark the speeding up of all that falls apart.
hmm, i wonder if perhaps i’d do better saying not a word when next it’s time to blow out the anniversary candles? or perhaps i’ll simply call it the thing that spits out leaf confetti.
after all these years, i’ve learned a thing or three ‘bout how to ask for what it is i covet.
‘scuse me now, i’m off to wait for mr. mailman and my much-longed-for, deeply-romantic decomposing box.
so many rows to hoe here….do you make black gold out of all your gleanings from the yard and cutting board? what bits and scraps of knowledge would you pass on to a compost novice? do you, like me and my beloved, usually dispatch with the somethings tucked in bow-tied boxes when it comes to ticking off the years, be they of the birthday kind, or since you formed a union? what’s your most hilarious pragmatic-present story, you know the one that made your friends and neighbors squawk, “s/he gave you what?!?!?!??!”
Hmmmmm … such a love story … when a man knows what his sweetie likes. Case in point … last Christmas (while my friends were receiving bottles of exotic perfume and sparkly gems) my husband bought me a new tool box and a power screwdriver. Now THAT’S love!!
I talked my condo association into buying a pyramid composter from gardener.com. It’s slow — freezes in the winter! — but slowly it works. Thankfully only one or two other units in our six-flat actually contributes. Otherwise it would be overflowing. And by February even I am tossing rather than composting, because there’s no room. I have to watch the green vs brown input, but it does work. This birthday, I asked my counterpart for a tomato press. In terms of pragmatic gifts, my dad has always helped out with car repairs in the nick of time, but I always feel like the car gets my birthday (Christmas, etc.) present. The tomato press is all mine, for grinding up those lovely heritage romas of Henry’s from the Evanston farmers market for pasta sauce — bottled sunshine on those deep, dark February Saturday nights. Let’s face it, after a certain age (I just turned 50-something) how much fluff do we need? A composter, a tomato press, a leaf chopper, a power drill — these are tools that help us fulfill what we want to do, be who we want to be. Have fun with the composter. Brown paper bags without printing, cut up, help with the carbon/nitrogen balance. And turn, turn, turn. There is a season — unless it’s winter and the whole thing is frozen.
I got my second compost bin for Mother’s Day. Started with a green fence (Ace 6.99 cira 1995) throwing in earthy (green and brown), all kitchen scrappy compost friendly items – that was more tricky, we finally settled on a compost bucket outside the back door that we scrap the scraps or scrap bowl into and haul out to the compost bin. I turn it ever so often, let nature rain and snow on it ever so often and viola. In no time it produced rich rich gold soil. I have since upgraded from green fence to black vented model(s). They love coffee grounds and compost tea ….I even put my steamed veggie water, sometimes shredded paper. I read that anything that came from the earth can go in…..never meat, bones or dairy … I put everything else though.Next year how about a rain barrel (that was the second part of my Mother’s Day gift) – you will be “singing in the rain”
i think a rain barrel is a perfect accompaniment to a compost bin, and just the thing to wish for. although a wise wise farmer friend of mine rigs em up all over the place with anything that will hold a drip or drop of rain…….(see next meander “thirsty earth” for more on cherishing the rain…..) and by the way, coffeechris, welcome to the table. seems you have the perfect name for one who hangs out here.