The humbling pile of compost
Alternate title: You Can’t Sit On The Couch For A Week And Think You Can Move Compost All Day. And Then Again The Next Day.
We got a delivery of four yards of compost from Grillo Services in Milford. I’m very glad we had it dumped on a tarp, but I wish we had gotten it on the driveway.
I moved compost for hours the first day we got it. And then I iced my arms and back, rubbed Arnica gel on them, put heat on them and then ice again. ...And then heat again.
And then I shoveled again the next day because compost weighs 2,000 pounds a yard and that was four yards sitting on my worm-filled vegetable bed. I did not want to crush those babies. By Day Two I felt good. At the end of Day One, I felt really discouraged in a way I think is worth sharing.
They way I felt about the giant pile of compost in our front yard is similar to how I felt about the humongous pile of wood chips we got last fall. (See the third photo for reference.) Defeated, embarrassed, and unsure. Compost is easier to share, though, and we’ve made some neighbors very happy.
After hours of moving compost, I started to make choices I was worried I would regret, and it’s possible I have created extra work for myself. The explanation is too long and stupid, so just trust me. Making bad choices bothers me. I made a careful plan, I spent lots of time reading so as to avoid making mistakes. But there are so many variables that it’s hard to make decisions, and I often end up doing extra work, or doing things in the wrong order. I am not a perfectionist, but I grew up getting 102s on spelling tests and I just want to get a 102 on everything in life. But I’ve never done anything on the scale of this yard project before so I can’t get a 102. Probably not even a 90.
Adam gave me some wonderful perspective when we talked about it that first night at dinner. He said it would take “freakish luck” to do a yard project like this without making any mistakes. He also reminded me of the platitude that mistakes are how you learn. I have a hard time accepting that because I do NOT want to learn my lessons in our front yard for the whole neighborhood to see. And that’s sort of why I haven’t shared this blog widely. It’s mostly just friends who read it, and almost exclusively my Nana and Granddaddy who make comments. (Thanks, guys!).
In my heart, I know that this is the most interesting stage of the project. The messy stage, when you don’t know how it will ever come together. The drama of mounds of organic material decomposing everywhere to feed the soil. The mystery of what the neighbors think of you. The suspense of not knowing whether you will achieve your vision. This is the stage everyone will go through if they plant a large garden on a budget, and it’s valuable to show, even if it’s messy. Especially if it’s messy, because everyone will know it doesn’t have to be perfect, and you’ll get somewhere beautiful eventually. It’s boring and it’s cheating to just unveil a perfect yard. It shows no respect for the process.
Shoveling compost today, I thought about how new ideas are only weird until everyone adapts them. Sure, people are building edible landscapes in rural areas, but it hasn’t really happened in the suburbs yet. And it needs to. Our millions of suburban yards have to turn into pesticide-free habitat for wildlife and food-bearing plants. I genuinely believe that the fate of life on earth depends on it. Not ONLY on that, on lots of other things too, but a collective mindset shift towards environmental consciousness would work wonders. Maybe in ten or twenty years yards like this will be commonplace. Then my anxiety will have been put to good use— helping pave the way for people to feel comfortable doing what I’m doing.
As Adam says, “people are ready for humility.” Well, this whole project is humbling to me. I hope to continue to report on it with humility, reflection, and a respect for the process of learning.
4/1/2020 06:23:44 pm
I think you are brilliant. Thank you for this outstanding, informative blog. I never ever got 102 in spelling. I can’t believe I know someone for whom that was common.
4/1/2020 10:46:28 pm
Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I can relate as a fellow perfectionist.
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