It’s my wife who has the green thumb. Also the green spirit. She walks into our garden of a morning and sings out, “Hello, everybody!” And the flowers, vegetables, shrubs, and volunteer ground covers (except for the goutweed, which is hateful and bent on achieving global domination) all straighten up and beam.
Whereas me, what I want from plants is produce. In Eden, even, I would have struggled to suppress my natural tendency to glare at tomato plants, for instance, and snap:
“Grow! You know! Tomatoes. Big red ones! That’s your job!”
My job is compost. My job and my vocation. If only our tomato plants were as devoted to producing big red juicy tomatoes as I am to producing good rich loamy soil, we would have so many tomatoes we wouldn’t know what to do.
That’s how much compost we have, but that’s all right, it’s there, collectedly seething, simmering, getting further and further into itself: waiting. And those plants in the garden? Every damn one of them sprang up through—via—a thick layer of my homemade dirt.
If I were more of a grandstander, I would stand out in the garden and crow:
“I am Chthon! Creator of earth! What Mother Nature does, I do for a purpose! I agronomize decay!”
Chthon comes from the Greek word for soil. Some people will tell you to pronounce it thon, but what do they know about handmade humus? I get the whole thing in there, the Ch, the th, and the on. And I get just about everything break-downable into our loam.
There should be a term for composting giftedness. “Black thumb” suggests a clumsy carpenter. “Midas touch” is about yellow gold. Which is useless in the enrichment of protosoil.
I’ll tell you something yellow that does lend a good deal to compost. A waste material drawn by excretory organs from circulatory fluids that is commonly, shamefully wasted indeed, even though it is so gratifyingly applicable, in the most direct way, to black gold.
It’s okay if a cat does it too. I checked. (Not number two, though. Work it out with your cat as I have with Jimmy.)
You can learn things from compost. Strength of everyday materials, for instance. After fifty-some-odd years of running into peanut shells of indeterminate age, I would say, just as an estimate, that you could build a peanut-hull house that would last for quite a while.
You may be more of a social butterfly than I am, but to me, this is something good about composting: You can—probably will—do it by yourself. Nobody pops up and says, “You missed a spot” to a composter.
Don’t be fussy about your compost, friends. Gather ye rosebuds, gather ye cigar butts, gather ye grapefruit rinds (not suitable for compost? An old spouses’ tale); bung ’em all in and let ’em at it.
They will decompose. What else are they going to do?
Not going to die. Not going to run rampant. What else about your property can you say that about?
Bounteous decay, it is, that draws upon the energies of ashes, blood, grounds, mowings, rakings, newspaper clippings (real news, physical news), shrimp shells (I know, you want to keep animals out; it can be done), animal fur. Name something that blends as many elements as a properly receptive compost heap.
The internet? Oh? There’s an entry on the internet for squooshed invasive caterpillars? Plenty of room in a good compost heap for just that strange oozy element. A witch’s brew, compost would be, if it weren’t so ruddy wholesome. It is dirt, people, not something “soil-like,” but soil itself. A source of rampant greenness and also—think back, further back—pretty damn close to perhaps the primal play substance.
The World Wide Web, pfff. Have you searched there for compost humor? You’ll find a few dusty attempts.
SORRY I’M LATE I WAS TURNING MY COMPOST.
I AM NOT A MUSHROOM SO DON’T KEEP ME IN THE DARK AND THROW COMPOST AT ME.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPOST.
Eh. You know this, already, before I say it: There is only one compost drollery that endures. I don’t know who came up with it. I do know that I have it on a T-shirt somewhere:
But here’s some philosophy I can offer, just a smidgen too long for a readable shirt:
IF COMPOST IS WHERE IT SHOULD BE IN YOUR LIFE, WHEN SOMETHING GOES BAD YOU CAN FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT.