Compost

A friend sends me an email with the subject line Beauty and a photo showing a pile of rotting tomatoes, watermelon rinds and sweet-corn shuckings. “Except for a June bride, there is nothing more beautiful than an August compost pile,” he writes.

A bunch of other friends in a private listserv are having an intense discussion replete with highly personal confessions. Because I have nothing to confess, I eat half a jar of pickled jalapeño slices, which makes me sweat profusely and blow my nose five times, like summer and winter in the same jar. Afterwards, I feel wonderfully purged.

I pass the compost pile on a moonlit walk — that too-sweet smell of fermentation. A mid-sized animal goes crashing off into the weeds. We are not doing compost right; I know that. But there are just too many rewards for doing it wrong.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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  1. The open compost pile was all that remained of my back to the land days, until now, sniff. I loved the open compost pile. Mix a bit of this, bit of that. Turn it every now and then with my golden-tine pitch fork. It burned like a hot oven, yielding piles of crumbling dark loam. Now I’m on to an urban phase again. I’m composting but it goes to the curb. It seems so strange, having my compost carted away by a truck.

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    1. That’s weird. Do you then get to go to the municipal composting facility to get compost whenever you need it?

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      1. The city uses it for landscaping projects, I think. Or maybe they sell it to someone who packages it and sells it back to people. Pure speculation but not beyond imagining.

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  2. I loved taking macros of blue mussel shells and old gourd rinds in my compost this past winter and watching things ferment. I guess I’m not doing things the right way either but I like to see what’s happening.

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    1. We purposely constructed ours so it would be visible from the veranda of my parents’ house for maximum wildlife-viewing opportunities. A cool compost heap can get quite an assortment of invertebrates, too.

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  3. Hilarious. I can quite see why such a discussion would make you eat hot peppers. I at least find your relationship with the place and nature around you just as passionate and passionately interesting as if it was with another person. I’m sure living in cities and far from nature is one reason for the exaggerated drama of many personal relationships – we have to make our own elemental storms and droughts, our own micro-climates, because we’ve shut ourselves – so many of us – in concrete boxes.

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    1. Well, there may be something to that, I don’t know. Mostly though I think it’s just that I’m too lazy to deal with a relationship. They are so much work!

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    1. Surprisingly, perhaps, my personal compost didn’t cause any problems at all. Thanks for your concern. :)

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    1. Well, not necessarily. It was kind of a free-association thing. Glad you liked!

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