Reading is good right? In fact it can be fun, informative and entertaining. But it can also do your head in, especially when the topic is about compost! I’m confused and sort of scared because I think I’m getting obsessed about compost. And worse than that, I think I’m turning into my father.
My dad Joe, has always been a keen gardener and without intention, has always lived a naturally sustainable and healthy life: raising chooks for food, eggs and manure, growing vegies, fruit trees, herbs and ornamentals. I’ve never known him not to put newspapers or bottles out for council collection and he practiced this long before the word ‘recycle’ ever existed.
As far back as I can remember, Dad also made compost in our backyard. During the earlier part of my life, he kept a compost heap piled up with autumn leaves, grass clippings, prunings and banana skins. I can still remember jumping into that warm heap of leaves with my younger brother John, scattering them everywhere as we clambered out of the box. Knowing what I now know about potential compost temperatures (but am yet to experience!) it was a wonder we didn’t get burnt.
Our family is an earthy bunch and it’s not surprising. Our backyard was a place we spent a lot of time playing in as kids and although our games were simple and co-operative, there was never a lack of imagination. Running under the sprinkler was always a big hit in the summer but lawn mowing days weren’t far behind. As soon as someone heard the mower start, we’d run out and beg Dad to mow without the catcher. He didn’t always do it but when he did, we’d gather the fresh clippings and use them to make the outline of boats. We’d use boxes for seats and sticks for oars and off we’d drift, our imaginations running wild. We’d spend hours in our grass boats and never wanted the adventure to end and when it did we’d itch and scratch for hours afterwards.
Dad was always left to pack up the boats on his own, patiently raking the clippings back into neat piles and tranferring them to the compost heap. I never appreciated the importance of those clippings to him and looking back we were lucky he let us play with them at all!
The compost heap was conveniently located next to the vegie patch and fruit trees and earlier on, near the chook yard. But some time in the late 70’s, Dad decided to switch to a modern metal tumbler. It was a beast of a unit which sat on a stand, well clear of the ground with enough room to park a wheel barrow underneath. And he loved it. He’d disappear for hours, tending to his tumbler and his preoccupation drove Mum mad. I can still picture him grinning as he slowly turned the handle and while telling me all about the wonderment of composting, he’d open the lid , close his eyes and lovingly raise a handful of his precious ‘black gold’ to his nose. Being in my late teens at the time, I remember thinking my dad was weird but here I am, with young adults of my own, who give me the same odd look when I talk about my compost heap.