Once and Future Food

DSC_0006sm9.2 cubic metres.

7,000 kilograms.


That’s how much compost I moved over the past two days. Carting it from the old compost area to the new compost bins my husband made for me. Turning the compost is an annual ritual—a compost pile that isn’t properly made and watered here turns into a dry mummy of weeds and kitchen scraps. This year’s turning was more difficult than usual, having to lift each forkful of weeds once into the wheelbarrow, then once more onto the new pile (rather than just tossing it next to the old pile). I dread the job every year—it’s one of those tasks I imagine exists in the level of Hell designed specially for gardeners (weeding thistles out of the gooseberry patch is another one of those jobs…I did that one earlier in the week).

But the job does have its moments. Uncovering a small pile of walnut shells—remembering the bag of walnuts our dentist gave us last April (also an avid gardener, we exchange produce at every dental appointment, and he once exchanged a filling for a block of homemade cheese). Bringing up the strata of last year’s tomatoes—salivating over the prospect of ripe tomatoes in less than a month. Yanking out a bean vine wrapped around jute—Liadan’s beautiful teepee of King of the Blues runner beans that fell over in a late summer storm. And finally, reaching last year’s broad bean plants, cut down a year ago, just after the last turning of the compost—remembering the final broad beans of this season, eaten just last week.

That mummified pile of plants represents the whole year in the garden. Turned and watered, it will soon become the food for next season’s crops. It fed us once, and will feed us again and again, as long as I keep turning that compost every year.