I’ve had a compost bin pretty much ever since we bought this house , but I’ve been pretty lazy about it. I threw in kitchen scraps during the summer, and then a bunch of sticks, twigs, and woody shrub trimmings. Then it got wasps, and I left it alone for a year. It rapidly became all sticks. I never could figure out how I was supposed to get the good compost out of the bottom of it.  I never turned it, never paid any attention to what sorts of things I was putting in.  The beginning of this year, it was a mess. I was determined that something must be done.

I discovered the Compost Forum over at GardenWeb, and quickly became obsessed with the idea of rehabilitating my pile and getting some good use out of it.  The first thing I learned was that if I wanted all those sticks to go away, I’d need to add more greens (for me, this means weeds, tea leaves, veggie trimmings, banana peels, citrus peels, the occasional pumpkin)…but not too many, or it would get too wet (especially with all this rain we’ve been having) and just stink. So I learned to add in some shredded cardboard, paper, or dry leaves to balance out the greens.

Anyway, all of this is just to say that just last week I finally felt the warmth the pile was generating, and today I finally turned the bin– actually, I was moving it to a new location since we may be enlarging the deck, and the previous location was right next to it in the to-be work zone. Anyway, all the stuff from the top went to the bottom, stuff from the edges went to the middle, and it’s all fluffed up now. Lord, what I found living in there!  Let’s just say I was really glad I was wearing gloves. All the life is a good sign, though…even unearthed a couple of big mama earthworms toward the bottom of the pile, which couldn’t have made me happier. Best of all, I now have a few good inches of nice dark soil left from the bottom of the old locale that I can use in my garden.

Who knew I could ever get so excited about rot?

June 3, 2009

My friend Abbie is in Mali again, doing linguistic fieldwork in a Dogon village.  She keeps an online journal— I love reading it because she’s quite a good writer and captures many details of this life that is so different from mine here in the U.S. Midwest.  At one time I had wanted to do fieldwork– then I got to know my own nature a bit better, and separate who I would like to be from who I actually am.  When I get into unfamiliar situations, I clam up and shut down– I can’t help it, it’s a reflex, not something that I can choose to do differently and overcome.   I don’t adapt well to new people, I don’t know what to say or do.  Needless to say, this is not a successful mode of operation for a fieldworker who depends on good, frequent, culturally appropriate interactions with local people to succeed and live well in their second home.  But anyway, Abbie’s journal allows me to see things through her eyes, if only in brief glimpses.  If you’re interested in other cultures, travel, Mali, linguistics, the realities of fieldwork, do give it a read.