Monday, June 29, 2009

Pile it on

My dad's idea of family fun was having his kids make manure tea in the rain barrel. Whatever manure didn't make it into the barrel went into his homemade compost bin resulting in a crumbly brown goodness. Us kids found these gardening chores a form of punishment. Now, as an adult, they seem a lost art.

so good I could touch it
Photos ©2009 Tammy Maseychik  

Yes, I admit it...I finally enjoy gardening. But a small element of punishment lingers – compost! Eliot Coleman and Victory Garden books litter my home yet all sage advice falls away as my kitchen scraps mildew into a mucky anaerobic slug factory.  Clearly the composting gene skips a generation. 

Failure creates desperation. Fantasies of plastic tumbling bins creating easy quick compost float in my head and across my computer screen. Each time I look at them my resistance weakens. Composting problems forever solved with a quick click. It would be so easy – charge it to a card, wait for UPS delivery, dump in kitchen scraps and tumble away to that elusive crumbly brown goodness, right?

Wrong. First, my frugal Yankee values get in the way. (Translation: I'm a cheapskate who won't pay the $100+ corporate composting commands.) Second, there's no getting around the ironic aesthetic of a giant, expensive plastic thing in an organic, wanna-be permaculture setting. Third, no amount of tumbling makes up for lacking a good compost recipe. So what to do beyond my grumbling? 

Here's what: have Newforest Institute show me the way. Birchwood Motel hosted "Secrets of Soil", a Newforest workshop, in the motel gardens last week. Pallets were turned on sides, wired together and reinforced with rebar. Et voila! – Loverly bins that fit right into the landscape. Nothing like hands-on learning to clarify things. 

the lovely & charming Julia listens to Jenny's compost woe

Julia Yelton, co-director of Newforest and permaculture sage, showed us her compost recipe that gets things cooking: layer the bottom with twigs (my thorny spent wild roses from the burn pile) and then alternate layers of brown and green to create the hot environment natural microbes love. This will all break down to finally make me some of that elusive crumbly compost goodness from childhood.

workshop team installs permaculture potato patch in minutes!

So thank you, Newforest, for fulfilling my compost quest. Eric and I are thrilled to see the small hill of coffee grounds our sweet little motel produces daily feed the garden instead of the dump. Add to that our kitchen scraps and some layers of straw, leaves, jewel weed (also a great poison ivy remedy) or other wild medicinals, manure, some seaweed and you have the secret to our soil. 

What does any of this have to do with tourism in Maine? I'd argue that enjoying, preserving and protecting the diversity of the world starts in your own back yard. And should you need any more detail than that, then come on up to Maine and head over to the Newforest Institute!

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