Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

May 16, 2008

my compost story

I've been trying to make a good compost pile since I was about 12. I started with a lot of enthusiasm and pretty much no knowledge. I was allowed a strip of ground next to the back fence to plant some wildflowers, but I had to dig up the sod myself. I remember it being impossibly hard. I was not an athletic kid. But I jumped on that spade and shook the dirt off the sod as best I could and lugged those heavy sod pieces under the lilac bush and slowly made a pile. I remember there being some dispute about my pile of sod, but I think I called it a compost pile and it became the place where grass clippings ended up. Turning the pile was completely beyond my abilities and I never did anything with my first compost pile except start it.

The next time I tried to make one was about 10 years later at my first apartment in Champaign. This time I was armed with a book that my aunt had illustrated and sent a copy to me, Greening the Garden, by Dan Jason. Fun compost pictures made it seem easy and fun, but again all I had to start it were sod pieces from clearing a little space at the back of the yard for a garden patch and a few weeds I had pulled here and there. Again I couldn't be bothered to turn it and never saw it become compost. I got discouraged by groundhogs who ate all my carefully tended bean plants and moved soon after.

Attempt number three was seven years later, with a few issues of Organic Gardening magazine pored over, and a clearer understanding of green matter and brown matter needing to be in some kind of ratio. I talked my brother-in-law into building me a compost bin out of old pallets that I had scavenged. It even had two compartments for turning. Unfortunately, no doors for easy access so the thing could actually be turned. I think I mostly put leaves in it, and a few kitchen scraps. It didn't do much but be a pile of leaves, as far as I could see. But there was a breakthrough. When we were getting ready to move, there was a big pile of leaves on the driveway that had sat there over the winter and gotten all mushy. We paid a neighbor kid to haul it away in his wagon to add to his compost pile and I was amazed to see what had happened to the bottom layer of that mess, once the top was peeled away. It actually looked like mushy dirt! Compost! It was true! I saw it with my own eyes! A crazy theory no longer! But then it was gone.

Fast forward to now, and the lovely compost bin Billy made. I saved up greens and browns for a year to put in this thing. When I transfered all of it into the bin, I noticed some beautiful compost at the very bottom of the pile and immediately spread it around on all my beds. A very satisfying act, let me tell you. But then, after it had been in the bin just a week, Billy and I pulled the bin off (with it's handy handles) and set it next to the pile to turn it for the first time. I sat down to check out how it was doing and started picking at it. It was looking good, some good decomposition and worms crawling around in it. Then I pulled out a chunk, and something strange happend. Through my gardening gloves, I felt warmth! I put my hand up to the pile where I had pulled the chunk out and sure enough, the durn thing was hot! We finally did it! We made a hot compost pile! For a compost pile, hot is THE thing to be. It felt like such a huge accomplishment that in that moment I felt completely satisfied with my time on this earth. I had taken crap and scraps and made food for plants that would make food for me. I was being a good steward of my little piece of the planet. That was a good day.

Still, compost doesn't have to be this difficult or dramatic. A little more knowledge and help at the beginning would have made it all much simpler. I would advise anyone starting a compost pile to just keep it simple and ask someone you know who gardens to come help you get started. I've never met a gardener who didn't love to be asked.

Posted by Bahiyyih at May 16, 2008 09:57 AM

Thank you for being so encouraging and for sharing your story! I've always wanted to have a compost pile, but have never known how. Perhaps this shall be the year to finally get one going! :-)

Posted by: Heather at May 27, 2008 06:53 PM