frolicking earthworms and black gold

On a too-short trip to see my parents this weekend, my father invited me out back to see the results of a compost pile that I began so long ago that no one can remember exactly.  (Consensus is the late ’90s.)

Following my usual jump-right-in style of trying any new discovery that captures my interest, I began it in a hidden spot where two brick walls of the house meet at the corner, shielded from view by the raised deck, and I’d only read one or two articles about the concept of compost and not investigated any further.

About the only thing I did do right was to lay gravel at the bottom, knowing from hard experience that that area of the yard can have drainage issues after heavy rain.  And I soon moved on with my life and forgot all about my first experiment in decomposition.

But Dad kept faithfully putting grass clippings on it all summer every summer, piling on a bushel of dry leaves every autumn, and dumping his used coffee grounds on top, day after day.  Mom occasionally remembered to take out her eggshells or orange peels or carrot shavings and toss them into the mix.

Otherwise, no one has really done anything at all to it.  It’s never been turned or carefully layered in “brown” and “green” matter, and no one has ever added a compost starter to it, checked its temperature, or watered it when it dried out in summer’s heat.

“Could you use this?” Dad asked, scraping away the topmost layer of leaf mold and pine straw to reveal dark, crumbly compost three feet deep covering an area fully six feet by four.

I went down on my knees in awe and immediately stuck my hand in it up to the wrist.   The compost was moist and several fat pink earthworms frolicked in it wherever I disturbed the top layer.

“It’s black gold, Daddy,” I breathed.

He helped me pack up several garbage bags of the stuff, over 400 pounds at a guess.  But then we stopped for fear of stressing the back axle of the car.  And also, because my poor arms were trembling from being unaccustomed to wielding the shovel for so long.  (Dad has ongoing shoulder issues, and I refused him the option of shoveling in my stead.)

When I got home, I barely took the time to kiss F. hello, take off my coat, and put down my purse before rushing back outdoors to direct F. in the unloading and begin spreading my new treasure in the garden.

And now I have another reason (as if I needed another) to want to go back and visit my parents again soon:  to get another 400 pounds of free black gold.

I did photograph the earthworms for you, but it turns out they are not very photogenic.  I felt mildly disgusted by the results and instead settled for a shot of a small hill of the new compost in the fall extension bed.

Beyond the edge of the hill, you can see the thinned autumn radishes stretching away in their rows, and Leo busy investigating some garden debris on the edge of the driveway (he is so happy to have me back in the garden and is already on patrol for birds marauding my poor lettuces), plus the geometrically butchered azaleas, our trash and recycling bins, and even a hint of our mailbox.

By the way, since I was not only gone, but unplugged for a refreshing change of pace, it may take me a little while to catch up on reading all of your lovely blog posts.  I still cannot access Blotanical upon my return, and I’d like to request an e-mail from anyone who has not had a visit from me lately, but knows I used to read and enjoy your blog.  Let me know I haven’t been by, please.  Sadly, I cannot possibly remember you all off the top of my head.

I had not bookmarked or subscribed to many of the blogs I read, but was using Blotanical as my virtual subscription service — a mistake that I now sorely regret.  Now that I have a blogroll at The Enchanted Earth, I plan to use it for my own convenience (and maybe locate a plugin which will notify me promptly when you update your blogs with new posts, too!)

Come on over and check out The Enchanted Earth and change your links and subscriptions if you haven’t already!  The day of Victory Garden Redux’s final post is approaching fast.

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12 Responses to “frolicking earthworms and black gold”

  1. What a fantastic surprise! I bet your garden will thrive this spring/summer. *Someday* I plan to do more gardening and I want to try composting. (I have an inexhaustible source of horse manure already…)

    • Kathy, from your lips to God’s ear. 🙂 I do hope you are making good use of that horse manure or giving it away to local gardeners; sounds too good to be true!

      It is so hard to choose from among our many passions and narrow the field to attain focus and reach some goals — an issue you’ve seen me struggle with this year, I think.

  2. Wow, this makes me want to run out and start a new compost pile! Isn’t it amazing how nature can work things out on her own with the littlest help from us humans…just a little garden/kitchen cleanup. I think the garden books take the “science” of composting way too seriously, don’t you?

    • I suspect the reasons for all the science are actually good at heart, Floridagirl. Although I agree with you that Nature can handle this stuff on her own — if we leave her alone for long enough to work her magic. 😉

      Most people who begin a compost pile for the first time need to achieve positive results or they won’t keep going — and with a six-month minimum investment in the project, the people teaching the science want that first experience to be great, so they advise methods which are nearly foolproof in a short time period. If we were a more patient populace, or perhaps more familiar with the process, I think we wouldn’t need such strict methods.

      And for those of us who want to take it to the next level and get a really nutrient-rich mix, it is necessary to monitor what you’re putting in and perhaps add activators and aerate it regularly. For instance, altho I’m grateful for the free stuff, in my own pile I am concerned about my ultimate carbon to nitrogen ratio. 😉

  3. Truly its a black gold, something that is a rare find in my part of the world. I understand when you mentioned about the earthworms – they must be very pink at health.

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting in my blog. Hope to hear from you more often.

    • James, you know, they are pink and sometimes they are bluish grey, too. I think sometimes the oldest ones attain that blue tinge. (I really don’t know!) I wish I could send you some where you are that it is so rare… compost is a wonder food for the garden. 🙂

  4. Thanks, Dirty Girl. 🙂 I hope the cabbages and peas say “yum” and eat it up!

  5. Oh how lovely!!!! I know exactly the spot you are talking about. 🙂 I know you were just thrilled.

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