Gardening has been such a joy to me this month. The skies here are bright blue and cloudless, leaves are coming back to the trees, and my sprouts are growing faster every day! It’s finally time for me to use my compost.
Last autumn, I turned my old wheelbarrow into a compost bin. My dad helped me carve out a few holes in the bottom, then in went the vegetable scraps, dirt, and water. I let it stew all winter, covering it with tarp to make sure that not too much snow got into it, occasionally braving the icy temps to drop in some potato peels. Every book and website I read about composting said to keep in warm, that way the “decay” and “decomposition” would occur faster. Honestly, I used to hate to think of composting at “decay”. Who wants to do that? I prefer to view it as a more “creative” process. Unfortunately for me, the winters here are long and very very cold. When spring came around (5 months later) I realized that my compost, though protected from the elements, was actually too frozen to “create” itself…and still bore some fairly well preserved veggies inside.But there was also another ingredient that my garden guides suggested that I had omitted: worms.
As the ground began to thaw in late April, my spade and I went into the yard to find some crawly critters. It was a strange notion, like digging for slimy treasure. Slowly I began to comb the ground, careful not to accidentally chop them in half with my spade. As I frightfully pokes and prodded my way through the dirt, foolishly trying to keep the mud off my jeans, I realized why I decided to start this garden in the first place. The whole point of growing your own (or some of your own) food is to embrace all aspects of nature. If I was grossed out my the idea of decay, or the slipperiness of an earthworm, I had no business gardening.
Much of the cruelty of the modern food industry is that it wants people to be afraid of nature. To view dirt as filth, and not nourishment. It alienates us from nature so that we can be dependent on genetically modified, unhealthy foods that generate profit for them. Once you get your fingers in the dirt and accept your inherent connection to it, you will have a deeper respect for the food you put into your body and actively do more for yourself. Even my own distaste for associating the food I would be eating with “decomposition” is evidence of this.
After pondering this, dumbfounded and dirty, a sudden glint of purple in my shovel grabbed my attention. My first worm! It was 2 inches long, and attempting to ascend the handle of my spade. Then another emerged, slightly longer, wiggling its way back into a new patch of earth. I gently (but swiftly) scooped them onto my spade and placed them on an apple core in my wheelbarrow compost bin.
It’s been a few weeks since my first encounter with the critters, and yesterday while rotating the compost pile, I discovered an entire family of 5-inch long ( I kid you not), brownish-purple creepers. They had done some excellent work! The bottom of my compost was black with nutrients and decay, which, now I realize, is a good thing.