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Taking out the Compost

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, February 9, 2001

On my kitchen counter, right beside the sink, is a pretty covered pottery bowl, where I put my compost before it goes outside. I used to keep a big bucket on the floor, which would hold more, but it got to be too hard to carry that much weight. When I switched to the smaller container, I thought it would be a bother having to take it out more often. As it turns out, I enjoy it.

Taking out the compost is one of those little daily chores that seem to resonate deep into my life; a practical ritual. It gets me out of the house and into the garden, even when the weather would otherwise intimidate me — like today: a sunny winter day, but cold, with a fierce wind. Once I got out there, I enjoyed the fresh air, a moment of solitude, being in my garden for a few minutes, and giving nourishment to it.

I’m more than a little in awe of compost. I start with stuff many people throw away: in the spring and summer, trimmings and weeds; in the fall, dead leaves. All year, the peels, stems and tops I take off produce before we eat it, the bread crusts and coffee grounds, the moldy food cleaned out of the refrigerator — as long as it is vegetation: no products of flesh.

There are ways of composting with the more dangerous bacteria that breed in complete protein, and to deal with the unpleasant animals that are attracted to it. But I prefer easy compost; I just dump it in a pile and wait til it “cooks.” Eventually it gets soft and crumbly, and full of worms — and my plants love it: gardener’s gold.

It makes me feel like the girl in the Rumpelstiltskin story, who spun gold out of straw. Except I don’t have to do anything hard to get compost, it happens practically by itself. The magic that turns refuse into beauty is safe, natural and foolproof. All I have to do is bring the raw materials. Awesome.

Today the snow was shallow — pretty enough, but I like the walk to the compost pile even more when snow is deep. Walking down the path Ward makes with the snowblower, keeping within that sculpted little canal through the white, feels like being part of an ordered system, like part of a grand pattern — the same one that makes snowflakes and compost.

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark