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My Compost Story

For many years, my father tried to teach us the value of recycling and composting. We laughed at his efforts and snickered at his ingenious use of his resources. Smuggly, we continued in our ways of garburating fruits and vegetable waste, raking every last leaf from our yard, waiting for the biannual leaf pick-up and then each spring ordering a new batch of soil from some local supplier … only to discover weeds grew from that soil.

When my father was dying, I started to tend to his garden. He had a true passion for gardening and was known to nurture his annuals into perennials. In the early stages of my taking over the work, I was closely monitored. When he was strong enough, he came outside and sat in a chair barking directions. Most of these orders were to not throw anything out … to put it all in the composter. Later, as he weakened he would sit inside at the window and tap on the pane to get my attention. Even as he could no longer make it to the window, I continued, knowing that wherever he was, he was still watching so I better darn well do it right.

As I plodded along, learning as I went, I just kept tossing every discarded piece of nature into the bin. Truly, I was just using it as a refuse container because I still had no clue what to do with it. As he lay in his hospital bed upstairs, I would continue to try to get the info from him I felt I needed. “What do I do with the composter? You have to tell me what to do with it. I've stuffed it with all the stuff … now what?” … and he never answered. To his death, it was as though he chose to ignore the question. We actually joked about it … “you can't go yet … I have to know what to do!”

Well, the answer never came but I continued with the chores right through the fall cleanup and then I bid goodbye to the garden. After everything was cleaned up and put away for the winter, I did all I knew what to do with the composter. I packed it to the top, scrunched the lid on it and twist it shut to prevent the animals from nesting. Then, I forgot about it… until the next spring.

When I returned in the spring, I nervously went right to the composter. Hesitant about removing the lid for fear of what might leap out at me or of what odor might attack my nostrils, I carefully pried it open. Surprise, surprise … when I poked my head in for a peak, I noticed immediately that it was only half as full as I had left it in the fall. But, somehow magically, when I took an even closer look, I could not believe what I saw … soil rich enough to toss right back into the garden it came from.

It was enough to get my attention. I was amazed. I was impressed. And now I was excited!

Somehow my father managed to teach me this valuable lesson without telling me. He knew if he held off answering my questions long enough, I would eventually learn about it on myown. I was hooked. I emptied the rich earth back into the garden, marveling at its richness. I then cleaned out the bin and transported it to my own backyard. Then the obsession with composting began ... coffee grounds, banana peels, old lettuce, peanut shells, lint from the dryer... I even put a small strainer in my sink to catch the shavings of fruit andvegetables. I now visit my compost bin daily. I water it and stir it up weekly and whenever possible peek in fascination at what is so beautifully developing.

Thanks Dad!