Compost: A Love Story

I was doing my annual turning of the Biostack composter today, when my sister and her boyfriend walked over. Gin said, “Amy wants you to admire her dirt.”

“Dirt!” I sneered. “Dirt is the stuff you find on the kitchen floor. The stuff you grow plants in is soil. And this…this is COMPOST.”

It’s ok, though. I don’t really expect anyone except other gardeners to understand my deep and abiding love of compost. It’s like magic: you throw your kitchen scraps and weeds in a pile, and a year later, you have the most glorious soil amendment known to man. It nourishes plants. It provides microorganisms to the garden. It enriches the soil, allowing it to hold more water. And it’s free. How can you not love that?

Bette Midler, chanteuse and passionate gardener, once said, “My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap.”

Bette is my kind of dame, and not just because of her history of outrageous costumes and killer vocals.

The Biostack composter.

The Biostack composter.

The finished compost.

The finished compost.

The Biostack composter.

I bought this composter with my employee discount when I worked at Smith & Hawken. It’s great for composting my kitchen scraps, because it’s contained AND located right outside the back door. If I had to rely on my running to the other compost piles (you bet I have more than one), the kitchen scraps would never make it out.

It’s made of several tiers of black plastic, which makes it easy to turn. You take a tier off, drop it on the ground, and fork any still-recognizable chunks back into the tier. You take off the next tier and repeat.

The idea behind this turning process is to speed up the breakdown of materials into compost. I’m too lazy to do it regularly. After all, the stuff’s going to rot on its own, so why bother?

The photo above at right is what was at the bottom of my Biostack. Note that it still has recognizable chunks of grass and eggshells and whatnot.

The riddle.

The riddle.

Finished, sifted compost around the cherry tree. It's a thing of beauty.

Finished, sifted compost around the cherry tree. Gorgeous.

Finished compost.

Which is where the riddle comes in. A compost riddle is essentially a giant sieve. You slap it over your wheelbarrow, drop compost on top of it, then use a shovel to work it back and forth. The finished, smaller bits fall into the barrow, while the big chunks get caught in the riddle.

Once you’ve got the finished compost, you dump all the junk still in the riddle back into the compost heap to cook some more.

The astute among you may say, “That’s awfully big for a compost riddle.” That’s because it’s actually a window frame covered with hardware cloth my dad built to replace the glass window in the garage during the summer so the chickens don’t die of heat stroke. Farmgirl ingenuity, my friends. (Don’t tell my dad.)

I worked the compost into my vegetable beds, and I top-dressed the fruit trees with a load of compost each. The dark brown looks just gorgeous.

Compost. It’s a thing of beauty.

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