Friday, April 17, 2009

Please Don't Eat the Compost

Well, it's been a day of great achievements in our happy house. For starters, the snot queen had her first "walk in the garden." After several moons of soul destroying rain and wet weather, the sun finally came out and my little girl, who has been choosing walking as her primary form of transportation for the last three days now, had a go at toddling over the grass and flowers whilst pregnant, hormonal mommy looked on and wept.

Once I dried my eyes, I decided to take advantage of the good weather and hung out a load of laundry (only of course after a scan of the sky both in front AND back of the house.) I then gave the highchair (which I'm sure was harbouring several strains of unknown bacterium...) a good scrubbing after which I took a deep breath, gathered my skirts and my courage about me and went off to face my nemesis...

The Compost Bin. (Cue scary Music of the Dahn dahn dahnnnnn variety.)

It all started rather innocently enough. Originally, the discovery of a compost bin in the back yard was a good thing. I envisioned myself becoming a properly green person and reducing my carbon footprint from that of bigfoot to something more in line with one of those super tiny chinese foot binding slippers.

I immediately hit the internet and set about researching anything and everything there was to know about composting. Then, when it turned out there was LOADS to know about composting, I started adding words like "basic," "easy," "beginner" and "dummies."

After this came a trip to the garden center where I stocked up on herbs, seeds, a trowel and of course, gardening gloves. I already had a bit of potting soil, so I used this to plant the beginnings of what I envisioned to be my gardening empire. Then, when the soil ran out, it was time to open the composter...

OH. MY. GOD. Horror does not begin to describe the way I felt upon my first meeting with the black stuff. For starters, it looked NOTHING like the compost you buy at the supermarket. Instead of being lovely and crumbly, this stuff was black as oil and sticky as tar. The thought of touching it made something inside of me die. I think it was my inner gardener.

Secondly, it was crawling. With bugs. Lots and lots of horrible, manky, slithery, slimy, live in the dark bugs.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Of course there were bugs, bugs are how the vegetables and things turn into compost. Not being a fan of all creatures great and small, I had conveniently ignored this small fact and focused instead on the more important aspects of gardening, like shopping for gardening gloves and a lovely little gardening trowel.

Faced with what was essentially a giant pot of bug infested death and decay, I began to question my lofty goals and noble intentions. My Carbon footprint wasn't THAT big after all, and hey! We haven't had a decent summer in AGES, a little global warming might even be nice around these parts!

I swallowed my disgust though and soldiered on. Every day, I went outside and fed my compost the remains of the days fruit and veg. When we cut the grass, I lovingly fed it the clippings. I stirred it daily with the huge metal weightlifter's pole I found alongside it and slowly, my confidence grew. Not enough to actually touch it mind you, but it grew none the less.

And then came the ants...

It was a Tuesday evening. Himself had just brought out the peelings from supper and when he came in commented disgustedly that the banana peel from earlier was covered in ants. I froze. My stomach turned and roiled and made a leap for my throat. Worms I could handle, but the thought of ants was more then I could take. It was for me, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

My brain filled with images of ants in their thousands, their HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS, crawling through the composter. I imagined them as a moving carpet of shiny, anty blackness, their antennae twitching and their little legs scarpering about as they hungrily devoured the detritus of our meals.

For more then two weeks I stayed away. The Composter lay out back, abandoned and unstirred. The giant metal pole stared accusingly at me as I went about my daily business. Finally, Last night, in an attempt to swallow my fear I went outside with a handful of garlic , determined to defeat the evil ants. My heart rate sped up and my mouth went dry as I cautiously approached the green beast. With trembling a hand, I lifted the lid releasing a torrent (and by torrent I mean three) of worms to the ground below. I did what any good gardener would do.

I screamed.

I threw in the garlic, screamed blue murder and raced back into the house, locking the door behind me.

Which brings us to this morning. More then a little shame faced at my behaviour the night before (seriously, what must the neighbors think of all the weeping and wailing that goes on back here!) I looked at the Snot Queen, exploring the garden and stiffening my spine, turned to face my foe. It was one thing for me to be afraid of the composter, but I'd be damned if my daughter would grow up screaming and running away from what was essentially a big pile of dirt.

I put on my gloves, grabbed my shovel and opened the door at the base. The first scoop was the hardest. At the sight of all those wriggling little wormies, I started to get nervous. When the centipedes appeared, I just about lost the plot. I won't lie to you, in the start I swore - a lot. I cursed and muttered and occasionally let out a terrified yelp. But the further along I went, the easier it got until I'd dug out about half of the contents and filled the planter three quarters of the way full.

It was at this point that I turned and uttered the 6 words I never thought I'd hear myself say, "Baby! Please don't eat the compost!" Oh well, it's only a bit of old plant matter, what harm can it do?

The true test came at the end. Having finished with the bottom half, it was time to attack the top. Closing my eyes, I lifted the lid and threw it across the lawn then cautiously opened my eyes and peered in.

It wasn't that bad. Sure there were one or two ants, but that was all. Where were the masses? the legions of miniature black storm troopers that had haunted my mind this past fortnight? Surely they couldn't have been the product of an over active imagination, could they?

Naaaaaahhhhh! They were probably just hiding further down.

This afternoon, I celebrated my victory with a trip to the gardening center. My reward? 100 litres of pure, black, bug free compost. Now THAT to me, is the good stuff!

Happy planting:)


  1. How very green of you MD! Sounds like it needs a good stirring? There is a compost accelerator you can buy to (potash? maybe that is something else) speed up the breaking down process. Only recently we had our first walk in the garden, its lovely to have them outside isn't it?

  2. Absolutely brillant! The old apartment had no garden, no stairs, no second floor, etc... So this place is a world of wonder to her:)

  3. We bought a huge composter. The husband filled it with the clippings from our massive and rarely tended hedge. They rotted and got bug infested. He piled a heap of crap on top that is there to this day.