When I was a kid, we had a neighbor who gave the children tours of her gardens out back. She had a primrose path, a little wooded section, and far to the back, a compost heap that she turned regularly with a pitchfork. It smelled of earth and death and life, and it made rich soil for her wildflowers. She taught us not to waste things, but we were kids and we forgot. Lately, I remembered, and mentioned to my husband that it seemed a shame to waste the coffee grounds, banana peels, cardboard bits, corn husks, dried leaves, and other organic scraps. He bought an Aerobin 400 Composter.
He’s subtly coaxing me back out into the yard. The yard I wanted to run barefoot in, and climb trees in, until he killed the second copperhead. One might’ve been a fluke. Two, though – that was a nest of vipers. I’d rather think the alligators and snapping turtles ate them, but I’m convinced it’s the other way around. Anyway, he made me an herb garden, and then he built this gigantic composter. I don’t even have to turn it with a pitchfork.
Whenever there’s an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, like we had in France this summer, and I find myself wishing I could take the trimmings home to feed the garden. I took leftover celery home in a doggy bag, last night – if I don’t eat it, and I probably won’t, it’ll go into the compost. It seems a shame to scrape leftovers, odds, and ends into the trash bin, now, after months of composting. Never mind mere “recycling,” we are turning cardboard, leaves, hedge trimmings, and organic waste into rich soil. This little brown patch in the yard is swampy and baked, by turns. But now, at least, it serves a purpose.
I try to be happy that there are creepy crawlers in the bin. I grit my teeth each time I open it, because it’s a given, now, that something will leap or fly out. Spiders love it. There are bees and snails, flies and maggots. A roach the size of a mouse scuttled under the banana peels. God only knows what lives in there and thrives on death and decomp, but it’s helping to make the soil that will enrich the herb garden in the spring, so I grit my teeth and feed the beast in the bin. I want to take a pitchfork to it, turn it, make sure that nothing down there lets out an unearthly howl…
Of course it wouldn’t. I’m just indulging my overactive imagination.
It doesn’t smell bad at all. Earthy. Like the lawn after a good, soaking, summer rain, when the hot sun hits it and steam starts to rise from the pavement.
It’s my husband that has the green thumb, but come spring, I might manage a thing or two. I haven’t killed everything in the herb garden, yet. Except the mint – and that’s odd, because mint is nearly unkillable. Maybe it’ll be back in the spring. If not, I’ll plant more. We’ll have mojitos, yet.
There are other things in the yard, after the summer rains. Birds – a family of blue jays in the trees near the fence. A sundial that doesn’t understand Daylight Savings Time. I fixed that; now, I’ll have to fix it back, soon. There are flowers, both cultivated and wild. I wonder why we call some “weeds.” I found out, today, that these pretty little fuzzy flowers are Diodia virginiana, or Virginia Button Weed, an invasive little groundling that’s hard to kill and likes to take over a yard when the soil’s packed and the rains are intermittent. It’s pretty, but the grass probably sees it the way I do the copperheads.
There are crepe myrtles, white, hot pink, and peppermint striped.
Even the spiders are in bloom. Not the scary ones that spin their webs across the corners of the Aerobin, mind you, but the ones that have spread from under the neighbor’s fence to choke my pequin pepper to death and now provide ground cover around the crepe myrtles. I like spider plants, but if they decide you’re the enemy, you won’t win. They’re as unkillable as mint.
Innocent looking, aren’t they?
There are three plants even I can’t kill: Asparagus aethiopicus “Sprengeri” (directly above), spider plants, and “Wandering Jew.” The latter is purple Tradescantia zebrina; I asked my husband to look for some, last time he went to Lowe’s. He came home with an overgrown hanging basket full of it – and I proceeded to dismantle the root-bound thing. One thing about Tradescantia zebrina: it’s easy to grow from cuttings. I have an overabundance of Mason jars and cheap paper towels – the perfect growth medium for cuttings. At least for these.
Oh, yes, he’s a sneaky one… showing me, bit by bit, that I don’t just kill plants. And that even if I do, they’ll become part of the circle of life, and go back into the Aerobin.