Compost Again

The night shift project, actually two of them, lasted about a year or so, and then I retired. Then came surgery that flattened me out for a couple of months, and god dammit it, then a plague hit, and I started working again. There really wasn’t for a garden two years ago, or last year, or this year, and I didn’t worry about it. The compost pile, subject of many an essay on life, death, decay and rebirth, fell into disuse. I maintained the fenceline, and that was all I had time or energy to do, and for a while, that was enough. 

A month or so ago, I finally bought a riding mower, and I told myself if I ever bought one of those things, I could go into composting in a big way. Today was the day I went big. The last couple of mowings produced a lot of clippings, and I did dump all of it on the old compost pile, which is now the new compost pile. 

It took five rounds, at six bushels apiece to mow the lawn today, and now I have to expand. But I also needed new logs, rotting logs, to use to delineate the compost pile. Rotting logs are one of the keys to a great pile. They already have all the bacteria and bugs a compost pile needs. Old logs retain moisture and they’re good starter stuff for decay. I dragged a few out of the woods, and I’ll add a few more next weekend. I also started the process of turning old compost in with the new stuff, and making sure there’s enough moisture in it all. 

I realized that I miss that sort of work, and I miss the process. 

The clippings from two weeks ago, which didn’t amount to very much, were already dried out and powdery. The grass catcher’s chute clogged up many time during the first mowing because the grass was so high. There’s a couple of cardboard boxes, no colored ink, underneath the powder so it all gets some time with the water hose. I spread it out, mix it in, water it, and repeat. 

Soon, in a matter of days, the grass and leaves will begin to decay. The bacteria and bugs in the logs will move out and begin to feed. Other insects will move in to feed on the bugs that are feeding on the decay. Frogs and toads will move in to feed on those. Termites will make a home here, and the toads love that. Birds will drop in to check out the buffet, and the dogs will slip in to dig up any rodents that show. 

Eventually, not any time soon, and certainly not even this year, a layer of organic matter will begin to form at the bottom of the pile. Decayed vegetation, the waste of a billion microbes, the dead bodies of countless insects, and much more, will begin to accumulate. That’s soil. It’s what makes vegetables grow. It’s the purpose of composting, other than repurposing the stuff usually discarded. For not only grass clippings and leaves, but the remains of any organic matter from the kitchen, from orange peels to eggshells, to the ends of peppers unused, will be tossed into the pile, and be turned into dirt. 

It’s been a while since I did any work in the woods. The paths need help. I broke my bush hook today, cutting the branches of a downed tree. I got worn out by hacking on the tree, and almost overheated. 

There’s honest sweat here. There’s hard work and I’ve always said yardwork was the best gym in the world. The bush hook busted on a tree I should have moved six months ago, but now that I started on it, the realization returns of why I miss doing this so much. Skill, determination, muscle, and sweat will turn part of the tree into a bonfire, and the rest into compost pile boundaries. But it’s a damn good workout. Back muscles, arms and shoulders, and all the body is used to pull a heavy branch towards the burn pit.

I miss this work. I miss turning waste into soil, and therefore food. I miss being outside in the woods, even with the insects getting their fair share of blood, and I miss making my heart pump hard to get things done in the yard. 

It’s time to return. 

Take Care,

Mike

The Night of Barking.

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For all the drama it creates, you’d think I have about a thousand acres in back of my house. The reality it that is a rather small plot, just over an acre, but it generates doggy drama like it’s the size of a small New England state. Early this morning, about five or so, the dogs were restless so I just opened the backdoor and released them into the wild. There’s a fence with two hot wires on it and none of the current dogs, no pun intended, seem inclined to test it.

I hear the doggie door swinging and Bud returns. Then Arco follows him, and then Wrex. I put Arco in the crate, and suddenly, I hear Lilith hammering away in the woods. Everyone heads for the door, and I go back to bed.

 

By now, the Coyotes have to realize that the Cousins are gone. Those two packed over one hundred pounds apiece and that’s a serious amount of dog. Size matters when it comes to dog fights. But Lilith is still a low slung powerful sixty-five pound Pibble with an even bigger heart. She’s backed by Tyger Linn, fifty more pounds of muscle. I doubt either of the boy mean a lot to the Coyotes; neither of them are pushing forty pounds, but there are two of them, which means at any given time you have to tangle with four dogs. Raiding over the hotwire means dodging it twice. The math is wrong for this to be Coyotes. The return isn’t worth the risk, unless they’re trying to make a statement to the naked ape who owns guns. Again, risk versus return tells me it isn’t Coyotes.

 

Arco isn’t interested at all. I tell him to lie down and he does, inside the crate, and he doesn’t lift his head or voice again. He’s about got this thing figured out, where he gets to sleep inside, and he gets petted, and there is breakfast as soon as I get up. Hunger is a terrible thing, but it lends me a great tool for training purposes, even if I am trying my very best to eliminate it. Arco would learn to deal Blackjack and light cigars if he thought he’s get fed for it. Being silent in the crate seems a very simple thing to him. Whatever is out there, it does not give him breakfast. He is not interested.

 

Lilith Anne and Tyger Linn, in point of fact, are interested. I hear them both hammering away and whatever it is has to be inside the fence and likely up in a tree. Budlore Amadeus returns and Wrex Wyatt eventually follows, but they can’t seem to stick. One again, they hurry back to the sound of Lilith’s barking.

 

I drift in and out of sleep, mostly out, listening to Lilith’s voice and wondering what she’s found. Armadillo, likely, in one of the abandoned Cousin Caverns, perhaps, or maybe there were deer just in the other side of the fence. Either way, Lilith is lending her voice to the early morning stillness and everyone who is listening, and there are many listening, know her. Sixty-five pounds in this part of the world means she’s carrying more mass than most things that hunt for a living, and they do realize that Lilith is hunting. This may have a lot to do with this display. I’m not sure.

 

Ever else can be said about him, Arco Fenney isn’t interested in leaving the house to go bark at the dark. The other dogs can come, go, bark, not bark, but he’s good, thanks, and he’s content to sit this one out, whatever this one turns out to be. He likes to stick close to me when we’re out walking, but not to the point of being a Velcro dog. He’s happy in the kennel in the corner of the room when I’m writing. Arco is all about let’s see how long this regular meals thing is going to last here before we start asserting ourselves.

 

The first few days Arco stayed in a constant state of motion, trying to sniff everything, trying to figure out where he was and what was happening to him. It was difficult to get a photo of him because he was never still. But now Arco is beginning to get his feet under him. He knows the other dogs are not going to attack him. He knows I am not going to hurt him. He knows there will be food every day, and this is a concept he enjoys. Arco will put his paws on my shoulders while I am sitting on the back steps and allow me to pet him. Allow me? He’s getting pushy about it, actually.

 

This is the second dog since March I have taken in because they were dumped at the Humane Society building. We’re teaching people bad habits by this. But Budlore Amadeus lies on my bed asleep next to Tyger Linn. Bud was strung up by the collar to the building and left to whatever fate might bring. Now Arco. Another lost soul. Another abandoned dog. Another set of eyes looking at me through the grates of the kennel, wondering if there will be more heartache and more loss.

 

I make promises. I made promises to Bud, and I make promises to Arco. I make promises to myself, about how much I’ll invest in each dog’s heart. I make promises that I won’t take in another damaged dog, I won’t pick up a hard one, I won’t take in a dog that’s been wounded in some way. But that’s all there is. That’s all of them. That’s each of them. And in some way, that’s us, too. We’re all part of the society that shifts and bends things so dogs are left to die, or left without food, without water, without decent care, because we do that to our own, too.

 

 

I can hear the sound of Arco snoring gently from across the room. It’s the deep sleep of a dog who believes, despite all the evidence, that there is a human who will take care of him.

 

I promised him I would.

 

Take Care of them,

MikeIMG_3191