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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Garbage or gold?

My grandfather always took old vegetables and the soiled cat litter out to the back of the garden and added it to a pile.  At eight years old, I had no clue, I just thought he was strange for keeping the dirty cat litter.  To this same pile he added all the cuttings from flowers in the yard and the detritus from the vegetable plants out of the garden.  Every spring he would turn this pile over and reveal the darkest black dirt that I have ever seen.  He would dig trenches in the garden and put the darker soil into the trench, re-cover it with the dirt he had removed and mix the two together.  He would then transplant seedlings he had started in his greenhouse into the garden.  We had the most amazing vegetables every year, a lot of them and almost always, the first tomato by the 4th of July - he did live in Connecticut.  That was his goal and I don't remember him ever missing it during my lifetime.

Today I save various items which others might consider garbage, although I do not save the old cat litter.  I use the scoop-able kind - much different than the clay concoctions of the past.  Most of our paper, food waste, spoiled vegetables, and houseplant cuttings go into a 2 1/2 gallon bucket on my kitchen counter.  It isn't one of those fancy stainless steel or molded plastic miniature garbage pails, it is a standard bucket from the local hardware store.  It has a lid and today coffee grounds, spoiled cucumbers, and egg shells are deposited into the bucket.  Once a week or more often, if necessary, the contents are carried down to the garden and added to the compost heap.

Each spring I make my seed starting mix with compost, top soil and commercial seed starting mix.  Once we finished the greenhouse, DH turned over last years compost heap to reveal that same beautiful, rich, dark soil that I remember as a kid.  We put all of our bio-degradable waste into our compost pile.  Chicken waste, rabbit waste, garden and lawn wastes are all added to the heap.  Each spring we use one pile of aged compost in seed starting mix, the flower beds, the raised beds, the herb garden, and anything remaining is added to the vegetable garden.  A new pile is started in its place and the other pile is left to stew for the season.  We try to turn it once or twice to stir up the micro-organisms and let air get to the middle of the pile, but if we forget, mother nature still seems to get her job done. 

I never thought I would cherish dirt, or it's composition.

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