I added ten square meters to the garden this year. Slowly but surely, the lawn mower is being retooled as a small tractor, and a harvester of compost materials. I once had the better part of an acre to mow out here, and now it’s down to less than a quarter of that size.
The biggest area is that I simply let go back to the wild. It’s full of weeds and small trees now, in its second year of being left alone. In five years or so, trees will begin their ascension to the sky, and their shade will remove any vestige of the sparse grass that rarely grew well there.
The compost pile is beginning to churn now. Days are longer, sunlight is more, heat builds deep inside the mound of vegetation, and the process that takes plants and produces soil continues. Even on the coldest days I can dig down into the mound, turn it so the process has its oxygen, and find warmth, steaming, smelling of rich nutrients and life, still doing what it has always done and will always do.
Inside this compost pile is a metropolis of nature, a bustling city of production and tight living, with predators and prey, yet with each and every creature contributing to the size and function of the place they all call home. Plants arrive, coffee grounds, leaves from the yard, grass clippings, and cow manure are the infrastructure. Water from the drip hoses seeps in and the sun provides heat. Microbes break down the vegetation, their waste is a big part of the soil, and earthworms move in as well. Tiny creatures burrow into the compost, to keep warm, to feed, and to breed. Toads, frogs, centipedes, and a host of predators come to the buffet. Birds and snakes arrive as well. The water from the drip hose draws in the thirsty.
One morning I was turning the pile, keeping the moisture level even throughout, bringing oxygen into the depths, making sure everything was getting all it needed, when I noticed the toads hopping around. At first, I thought the trio might be displaced, and fleeing in panic, but they we running to, not from. As I turned the compost, insects, termites, bugs, all matter of toad food was on the move, and the toads were there for the feast.
All year long, in the cold and dark months, in the bright and busy months, the process of life churns. The compost I didn’t put into the garden is the basis, the fuel, of this year’s compost creation. Moisture, warmth, and oxygen turns plants into compost. This happens when I am awake and tending to the pile, and it happens when I sleep. It’s happening now, in the darkness and chill, as I write about it. The City of Decay never sleeps.
A handful of my compost reveals all. How much moisture, how far has it broken down leaves and grass, what does it smell like, what are the pieces I can see, and tell what is, what does it feel like against flesh, and somehow, I know this is good soil. My plants will grow. There will be vegetables to eat, and their vines and bushes will return to the Earth again, and again, and again.
This is how it was always meant to be.