Hard to believe now, but there was a time when gardening didn't interest me. I think it must have though - on a subconscious level - because I can think of instances that stick out in my mind that do have to do with growing things.
In 1987, Romie and I were fortunate enough to get to visit the pen pal from Switzerland that I'd had since 1969, when we were both 12. All through our growing up years, we'd exchanged letters and photographs with the hope of getting to meet each other someday.
We met for the first time in 1974, when my grandma took our family on a tour of the Alps for my high school graduation. Then in 1987, Romie and I spent a week with Therese , Hansruedi, and their three children at their home in Reichenbach (near Interlaken). We're still in touch, now through the internet.
There are three things I remember about that trip that have to do with gardening:
- There was a caution about eating vegetables from the gardens grown that summer, because of the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster, which had occurred the year before.
- I noticed all the gorgeous, colorful flowers that every house seemed to have growing and was told that in Switzerland, it was considered lazy if you didn't have them. I can tell you, there aren't many lazy people there! We even saw a dog house that had window boxes with flowers in them!
- My pen pal had a compost bin.
I've seen many compost bins since then, of course, and it wasn't too long after I started gardening three years ago, that I decided I wanted one. I knew I threw away a lot of good stuff from the garden and we burned an awful lot of leaves in the fall. So building a compost bin was on the list of 2008 projects and earlier this year, Romie built a two-section bin.
We had a pile of compost we'd started the summer before and I didn't like the looks of it. To me, it was a big lump of dead stuff that was unattractive. Romie thought it looked just fine like that. "As long as it works," he said. Men.
It was originally supposed to have a divider for the two sections, but we've found that it works for us to have one big section and generally try to act like it has two. At the end of the summer this year, there was plenty of wonderfully black, crumbly goodness at the bottom to put on the garden where we needed it. We stirred the rest and by spring there will be more.
When we started shoveling the compost pile into the completed bin this spring, we came upon a winter hibernator. Now for someone who's absolutely terrified of snakes, Romie surprised me by picking this one up. His rationale? "It's just a garter snake." I can remember when we encountered a rattler while hiking in Arkansas a couple of years ago. He was so upset he couldn't drive the car.
This year, we had so much stuff from the garden and yard to put into the compost bin that it was overflowing and we had to burn some of the leaves instead of adding them to the bin. What did we put in it? Deadheaded flowers, dead plants, kitchen waste (no oil or meat products!), sawdust from my dad's woodworking shop (no black walnut dust though), leaves, grass clippings, and shredded newspaper.
It was nice to have compost so conveniently handy when we needed it. Not only does having a compost bin give us good nutrients to add to the garden, it makes me feel good to be a proactive part of the circle of life - returning to the earth that which came from it.