I got out the hedge shears yesterday once the day had warmed a little. I sheared the dessicated salvia, blazing stars, and cleome, bit by little bit rather than cutting them at the base. I snipped them right there in the garden, letting the pieces fall where I cut. I wondered as I scissored if they’d break down much between now and next spring, or if come March I’ll find fully intact pencil-lengths of hard stems littering the flower beds. It feels like they need to be buried to break down.
For the larger stems too big for the shears, I bit through them at the base using hand pruners, and dumped them in the barrow to wheel up to the compost pile. The wheelbarrow is all rickety at the axle and the tire won’t hold air. The most essential parts of it are falling apart — the parts that give it mobility and make it more than just a bucket to hold pieces of garden. I need to replace it, but what do I do with the old one? It’s so big to just throw away.
I used the pitchfork to turn the kitchen compost. We’ve got two green garbage cans my husband drilled full of holes for worms and air and flies and water to pass through, but with snap-top lids to keep larger critters like racoons and possoms out. I keep one as the working bin and one as the resting bin. Yesterday, forkful by forkful, I moved the one that’s been sitting all summer. At the bottom, under the less decomposed pineapple tops and onion skins, was a thick layer of rich sludge. Now it’s been turned and and stirred and can sit and compost over the next few months with a brick on its lid to tell me not to add more kitchen scraps to it, and I have an empty can to add to all winter.
Our other composting mechanism is for yard waste. I used rabbit fencing to build an enclosure open in front for me to wheel garden clippings onto the pile. I toss the clippings on one side of the enclosure, and once a month I use the pitchfork to turn it, pitching forkful by forkful to the other side of the enclosure. Right now both sides are full: one side has a hill of finished compost that looks like soil, and that I hope to spread on the beds once I finish cutting things back.
The other side is loose, dry clippings that I need to figure out how to get going. I’m hoping by the time I finish cleaning up the flower beds by cutting everything back, the clipping pile will be heavy and deep enough to start decomposing at the bottom. I’ll dump some soil from the old planters on top and water it, too, to give it a boost. I probably won’t get many chances to turn it in winter, so I guess we’ll see what happens by spring.
The composting process of the garden is a lot like processing things in life. Older experiences, the ones that have sat for a while, that have felt the heat of emotion and the wetness of tears, those bring wisdom as we realize what we’ve learned from them, as those learnings infuse our daily life. Fresh experiences need time and consideration, need turning over, need blending before they fully integrate as nourishment.
I’m tidying and putting things to rights before winter. It’s that time of year, to go to ground, to turn inward, to rest and let things mulch.