My Pile: Raking It All In

The capacity of my pile to absorb ever more never ceases to amaze me. It is not so much a bottomless pit, as a topless one.

Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned my fall cleanup. Given the size of my backyard and the time and inclination I have to give to it, I find it simplest — quickest and most efficient, quieter, too — to rake up a batch of leaves by arm and hand rather than to mow and blow and mulch with motorized implements. I figure about half of each season’s leaves goes straight into the pile, wholesale, by gathering up sheets of leaves scraped up from across the lawn and garden beds with a spring-tined metal rake.

Some people hate the very idea of raking leaves, or yard cleanup of any kind. I find it a pleasant excuse to spend time outdoors doing some meditative busy work, crossing a chore of home ownership off the list without having to write a check. For a gardener, raking provides a tactile connection to the ground you tend. I like touching virtually every square foot of my property, at least once a year. Sweeping the ground clean of fallen leaves is a peculiar cross between vacuuming the carpet and giving the dog a scratchy massage.

Heavy lifting? Hardly, if you pace yourself and the ground you sweep clear. A single leaf, untouched by rain or morning dew and dried to a crisp by the sun of an Indian summer, weighs next to nothing. A pile of leaves amounts to more air than anything else. As if to prove the hack golfer’s axiom, a tree really is 90 percent air, even — especially — when its canopy of leaves is splayed flat across the ground.

Every few days through the fall, I try to make time to collect and deposit loads of this ephemeral fluff up across the top of my pile until it spills over the sides, strains against the wire fence stretched across the back and cascades down the open front, each leaf finding its own angle of repose.

Every load gathered up in an old bedsheet is a cottonball of dry, crinkly fluff. It takes only two or three sheetfuls and 20 minutes of time to both tidy up my small tree-lined suburban yard and to fill my pile to capacity for the day. It’s a rhythm that I keep throughout the fall. I enjoy the exercise and the satisfaction of sweeping up such easy pickings.

By volume, the size of my pile is limited by the two rows of logs on either side and the length of wire garden fence, about 9 feet, stretched between the two logs on the back.

Culled from a large maple in my backyard that fell to a Nor’easter a couple years ago, these log pillars are set in ascending order, to better step up and along. So in all, my pile then is about 9 feet wide and 10 or so feet deep. Using the log sides as stepping stones is a bit of a balancing act, but I can generally drag a load of leaves up the sloping front and deposit the batch directly on top.

In years past, when my son was small enough to clamber up the row of logs that brace either side of the pile, he and his friends would delight in jumping in, to be swallowed whole. Their antics would help flatten and smoosh the air out the pile, allowing me to add even more.

He’s long outgrown jumping into a pile of leaves, and as I’ve stepped up my scrounging efforts, my pile is no longer fit for little kids to be free-falling through the coffee grounds, seaweed and rabbit poop that I now add in copious amounts. My pile is now my playground alone.

A freshly topped pile after a day of yard cleanup. It will soon breathe out and settle back into itself, soon to be ready to receive more.

A freshly topped pile after a day of yard cleanup. It will soon breathe out and settle back into itself, ready to receive more.

 

I enjoy the busyness of fall, which for my nascent pile begins in early October when the first leaves begin to drop from the swamp maples and the ever-messy sycamores. I tend to and add to my pile through each season, until it’s ready to harvest in late summer. But the bulk of my pile is amassed over six or so weeks of autumn, with the last big round-up of leaves coming over the Thanksgiving holiday.

As Robert Frost wrote in his poem “Gathering Leaves,” 

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who’s to say where
The harvest shall stop?

I stumbled across the poem while reading an article by Les Line in Audubon Magazine, “In Living Color,” in which the author puts some hard numbers to go along with the poetry in tallying up the season’s leaves, which “fall and fall and fall in uncountable numbers.”

“However, it is possible to calculate their total weight, or mass,” Line writes. “For example, the annual leaf-fall mass in a mature mixed hardwood forest in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia ranged from 1.57 to 2.45 tons per acre during the first 19 years of an ongoing study led by U.S. Forest Service soil scientist Mary Beth Adams. ‘It varies a lot from year to year, depending on rainfall, temperature, and insect outbreaks,” she told me, adding that the long-term average was 1.83 tons an acre.”

I read elsewhere that the average mature tree has some 200,000 leaves, which weigh about 60 pounds in sum. Of course, like the trees of Lake Wobegon, I think of my trees as all above average. At least it seems that way, as each bedsheet full of leaves seems to weigh at least 60 pounds, and account for only a portion of the gathered cast-offs.

If the weather and my work schedule cooperates, I can put in an hour or two after work several times a week — at least until daylight savings robs me of that last hour of workable sunlight. It’s enough to rake up a load of leaves from underneath a tree or from along the street gutters that contain my corner lot. Weekends are for fuller clean-ups.

There’s something about using a two-stroke combustion engine to recycle green energy from my yard that strikes me as off-putting. As I’m tooling about in the garden after work or on the weekend, I’d rather listen to the tines of my rake scraping across the ground or pavement than the blast of a leaf blower. I also like the exercise raking affords, the basic movement a combination of a hockey playing taking a slap shot and conductor waving a baton. There is an art to raking, after all. Poets don’t write odes to a leaf blower.

What’s more, the high-revving motor of my old Toro or newer blower spew a worrisome amount of exhaust. On the “Fun Times Guide” website, I read that “In one year’s time, that little leaf blower engine you hear buzzing up the street pumps out as much smog-forming pollution as 80 cars, each driven 12,500 miles, according to a California air quality agency.”

The author adds, “In addition to blowing leaves, there is a considerable amount of trash, dust, dirt and other allergens that are sent airborne as a result of using a leaf blower. This could greatly affect those susceptible to respiratory problems (such as asthma).”

That said, a leaf blower does have its labor-saving moments, and my lawn mower does a good and necessary job mulching volumes of leaves into a fraction of their former selves.

Though I add many leaves wholesale to my pile, mulching with the mower vastly reduces volume.

Though I add many leaves wholesale to my pile, mulching with the mower vastly reduces their volume.

Chopped-up leaves are manna to my pile.

Getting sliced and diced by the whirring blades of a lawnmower turns each leaf into many more bite-sized meals to all the things that want a piece of it. Most anything is more vulnerable to attack if injured, and decay begins at the edges.

My pile is firstly about deconstruction: of a whole leaf, banana peel or or egg shell into ever-smaller increments, mostly by something eating something else, and pooping it. Then you die and become a meal for something else, usually smaller. I couldn’t give you the technical definition of entropy, but have a feeling that my pile is a pretty good example. Things fall apart in my pile, according to laws governing both biology and thermodynamics — along with some more magical dark arts, it often seems.

Even a pile that is already stuffed seems always able to accept a load of leaves, especially when they’r mulched. A load or two of the dry, dusty stuff also makes a good cap for my pile, especially when I’m cleaning up the yard ahead of a coming storm. Mulched leaves don’t scatter in the wind, they soak up any rain that may come, and spread across the top give my pile a manicured, maybe even a little manufactured, look.

It’s also heavy, a blanket to throw over my pile to help it settle, to get it cooking under its own increasing layered mass.

Come late fall, when my pile is stuffed, I mulch the last of the leaves back into the yard. What’s good for the gander, is good for the goose.

The best, most productive way to shrink a pile is to just add water, and all it takes to shrink my pile is to wait for a good soaking rain. (Raking a patch of leaves soaked by fall rains is another matter altogether, one that I try hard to avoid. Each load I spread atop my pile is like a wet blanket.) But water is weight, and in the right proportion, it is also the catalyst for all the energy my pile will consume and create over the next few months.

If it’s dry, as this fall’s been, before I put away the garden hose for the winter, I’ll poke the end of it into the innards of my pile and turn the tap on for a few minutes. By mid-fall, my pile’s about the size and shape of an old VW beetle, and I imagine I’m sticking the hose through the sunroof to soak the inside.

You can see the weight of the water sucking the pile back into itself, and no doubt the wetness helps activate its inner workings. Heck, I’d be thirsty, too, if I’d just ingested a half-dozen trees’ worth of leaves. I leave the hose on for 10 or 20 minutes, and figuring a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, I’m adding a hundred or more pounds to my pile, say a bathtub’s worth. If I’ve done my layering and mulching right, my pile soaks up all the water like a sponge.

A good compost pile is a mix of green and brown organic matter, air, and water. Here, I give my pile a drink after a fall-leave cleanup in early November.

A good compost pile is a mix of green and brown organic matter, air, and water. Here, I give my pile a drink after a fall-leaf cleanup in early November.

Sometimes I take a bucket of sand from the beach and spread it across the top. Grains of sand may seem like spreading fairy dust across my pile, but there’s heft to it, and I imagine the grains percolating down through the mass of leaves and greens, contributing in their own way to the organic stew that is my pile. Unlike water, sand is immutable, a direct deposit to my pile.

Along with air and all the organic and inorganic material that adds up to my pile, water is the other key catalyst, and I try to find the right balance  by combining them all. (Eventually, especially after my pile has been covered by a heavy blanket of snow, the trick to keeping my pile alive is to breathe air back into it, with pitchfork or other tool. But that’s a story for another day.)

My pile is an accordion that expands with each fresh effort, a squeezebox that in its own sweet time produces its own sweet harmonies.

My Pile: An Endless Source of Fodder

I have long wanted to collect my thoughts, feelings and findings about the compost pile I have tended to, in various backyards around the country, for the past 25 years. My pile is an endless source of fodder, materially and spiritually.

A compost pile is wonderfully useful to a suburban gardener. It’s recycling in its most elemental, home-brewed form; a hand’s-on effort at sustainability that sustains me with plenty of manual exercise the year-round.  Set in the corner of a verdant backyard lot in the wooded suburbs of Fairfield County, Connecticut, my pile is well-situated. What my land and life produces and consumes, stays on the property, by and large. My pile also has the capacity to take in the organic remains and vegetative cast-offs from my neighbors, my work place, the coffee shop I frequent. It also reaps the rewards of the nearby seashore and local farms and stables.

There are four full seasons to this land at its privileged latitude, and my pile continually stimulates me and my backyard as a bio lab of a project in which the profundity of one year’s bounty turns into the next year’s wellspring of continued growth. Each fall I gather the freshly dead ingredients of the growing season. Over the winter and spring the collection melds and molds and is amended into something new. Each summer I spread loads and loads of wheelbarrows full of finished compost across the garden and lawn, which in time returns its bumper crop of harvested life back into my pile.

My pile weathers the seasonal swings in temperature, drawing strength and sustenance from the sun through the spring and summer and feeding off its own inner resources over the long cold months when everything else is dormant. My pile is a power plant, an internal combustion engine that produces enough heat to stoke it through the coldest stretch of winter.

My pile is also blessed by regular dousings of water, as vital as air. Nearly 50 inches of precipitation falls upon this landscape each year, on average. Sometimes it’s in the form of a gully washer of a thunderstorm, other times it’s a foot-thick blanket of snow. Generally, though, this essential ingredient comes in nearly weekly doses of about an inch of water throughout the year.

Making compost is an act of creation through destruction. Part plant, part animal, the domain of the multitude of microorganisms that make up the preponderance of life as we know it, my pile is an endlessly looping live performance that plays out through the seasons, according to my humble inputs and its own internal rhythms and processes.

My pile is more than the sum of its parts, a process that in the end produces something that scientists are still trying to describe, much less exactly define. My pile is not dirt, exactly, nor fertilizer. “Soil amendment” hardly covers what some scientists call Humus, from the Latin word for “earth” or “ground.” Wikipedia says humus is “the fraction of soil organic matter that is amorphous and without the “cellular structure characteristic of plants, micro-organisms or animals.”

How do you define something that by definition is amorphous? Wiki takes another stab: “In agriculture, humus is sometimes also used to describe mature, or natural compost extracted from a forest or other spontaneous source for use to amend soil.”

For my pile, I suppose the “spontaneous source” could refer to the trees that lord over my backyard lawn and garden, the dumpster bin full of coffee grounds, the beach lined by seaweed — or me.

If you can’t exactly define something, the next best thing is to describe it, and in that regard, my compost pile is truly a little bit of everything.

My pile is made of many things, like all these ingredients stockpiled through a winter storm and about to be added to the mix.

My pile is made of many things, like all these ingredients stockpiled through a winter storm and about to be added to the mix.

There’s no exact recipe for making compost, and managing a compost pile is like being a baker who doesn’t have to follow a recipe to turn out finished product that by happenstance is somehow always just right.

What a compost pile is and ends up as depends on where it’s made and what it’s made from. This weekend, I dumpster-dove for coffee grounds because the seaweed I gather from the high-tide line of our local beach is in short supply. It’s been a delightful fall; no early Nor’easters, just a steady decline in temperatures and daylight that have allowed the leaves to flutter to the ground at a steady pace.

Each fall I construct my pile like I’m making lasagna, in layers. The pasta is the fall leaves, and these sort themselves out accordingly to their own schedule. The maples shed their leaves first, followed closely by the sycamores; last are the oaks.

My favored form of leaf cleanup is to rake the leaves into a slouchy heap, lay an old bed sheet beside it, then pile the leaves over it until just the four corners of the sheet are visible. I gather them together and, like Santa Claus, sling the makeshift bag over my shoulder and haul it over to the heap I keep in the back corner of the yard. If the leaves are heavy with dew, then I have to drag the damp sheet across the ground. Either way, it’s quick and easy, and in short order — a load or two or three — you’ve got a clean sweep of a lawn and that much more organic material stashed atop my pile.

A sheetful of leaves swept up from the yard and ready to be added to the beginning of my pile in mid-October. I've already tossed in the spent vines and stems from the vegetable garden, along with sunflower stalk. As it decomposes, the hollow stem will serve as a passageway for air and microorganisms, from top to bottom.

A sheetful of leaves swept up from the yard and ready to be added to the beginning of my pile in mid-October. I’ve already tossed in the spent vines and stems from the vegetable garden, along with sunflower stalk. As it decomposes, the hollow stem will serve as a passageway for air and microorganisms, from top to bottom.

But compost heaps don’t thrive on leaves alone — at least not mine. True, a pile of leaves alone will in time — a year or two in these parts — turn into leaf mold, a very good and basic kind of compost, to be sure. But where’s the fun, the art, in that?

So along with every fresh deposit of leaves, I try to add a layer of some sweetener, a catalyst of high energy to inspire my pile to be more than humble leaf mold. In early fall, grass clippings are still in good supply, and what I don’t mulch back into the yard, into the pile it goes.

Between mowings, there’s seaweed, hauled in big plastic buckets from the beach, or coffee grounds. Kitchen scraps, from my home or from one of my neighbors. Manure, brought home by the bin from a local nature center, nearby rescue shelter or riding stable out in the country.

My compost pile is not mine alone; over the years my neighbors have gotten in on the act. The family of six next door contributes their kitchen scraps; the neighbors across the street have learned that it’s easier to haul their leaves over to my pile than to stuff them all into big paper bags for the town to pick up.

The neighbors to the other side have a rabbit, and from their hutch I get a steady supply of rabbit litter. Manure is about the most potent source of nitrogen you can add to a compost pile, and the end product of a little bunny is more convenient to work with than, say, what comes out of a cow. It’s also a whole lot easier to find than bat guano, which tops the charts in containing the three main ingredients of commercial made fertilizer, nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash, according to Stu Campbell in “Let It Rot — The Gardener’s Guide to Composting.”

In my experience, it’s the rabbit bedding — shredded paper, soaked in bunny pee — that is the favorite foodstuff of earthworms. When I turn the pile over I sometimes come across a remnant of recycled rabbit litter being feasted upon by a mass of wriggly red worms. Of all the living things in my pile, worms are my biggest allies. It’s funny to think of a worm as an apex predator, but they exist near the top of the food chain that is my pile. It’s humbling to know that it is their digestive tracts that in large part produce what becomes of my pile.

So, in it all goes, layer upon layer, soldier after soldier. Water, air, sweat and the toil of countless things seen and unseen that eat and fight and live and die in situ. It’s all fodder for my pile.

 

My Pile: Dive Right In

I lean over the grimy edge of the dumpster so I can sift through the jumble of garbage bags mired below with outstretched arms. Toes tipping to the ground,  the heavy metal lid of the bin pressing against the button on my baseball cap, I pluck a squishy, pendulous plastic bag from the mix and hoist it out of the bin.

I hold the straining, swollen bag at arm’s length, like a trophy fish.  It’s 20 pounds, easy, of freshly spent dark brown coffee grounds groaning against the thin white plastic film. I see no drippy leaks or cast-off paper cups or plastic lids, just a smattering of soggy paper filters. It’s a keeper. I set the bag, warm to the touch and ripe with the dank, roasty aroma of spent coffee beans from the tropics, on the floor mat of the backseat of the car and head for home.

I back away from the dumpster, rolling down the back windows and with a parting, sheepish glance into the rear-view mirror. I’m relieved to see no barrista running out the door asking me to explain myself.

But explain myself I will, for I’d do most anything for my compost pile. Even if that means getting, I see with a glance down to my lap, a smear of grease on the front of my good leather jacket, in return for some surreptitious dumpster diving for a morning’s worth of coffee grounds from the neighborhood coffee shop . Oh, well. It seemed a good idea at the time.

Coffee grounds already look like dirt but pack a bio punch. Not caffeine, but nitrogen.

Coffee grounds already look like dirt but pack a bio punch. Not caffeine, but nitrogen. They make a prized addition to my pile.

It’s early November here in Westport, Connecticut, an affluent, artsy New York commuter suburb along the shore of the Long Island Sound. The trees that surround my small home on its flat, one-third acre corner lot have largely shed their leaves. Over the past few weeks I’ve raked colorful, crinkly leaves into piles and hauled them the blanket-full over to the log-walled compost pile I keep in the back corner of the yard.

The heap of leaves and such I gather is now head high and a broad-jump deep and wide. It’s the copious conclusion to a short but bountiful burst of green growth that culminates with the kaleidoscopic “leaf-peeping season” here in southern coastal New England. The autumnal leaves of hardwood trees in these parts are more than a tourist draw or seasonal scenic perk to living in Connecticut. I see each leaf as a bank slip of carbon and other nutrients and minerals, just waiting to be recycled into new gains over the coming year.

My pile is a final resting place for a season’s worth of green life given up for dead. But it’s more like a waystation, and all those dried-up leaves need a catalyst, a kick-start to their conversion into living new soil. Rich in nitrogen and other nutrients, the 20 pounds of recycled coffee grounds will deliver the same jolt to the heap of leaves and such I compost in my backyard as they gave to scores of caffeinated customers this morning. Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Not only are coffee grounds sky-high in nitrogen, the granules have a microporous structure like charcoal and contain a wide range of useful microogranisms, reports Nicky Scott in “How to Make and Use Compost — the Ultimate Guide.” Besides being a rich source of nitrogen, which both kickstarts a heap of fall leaves and hangs around to supply plants with an essential element for growth, coffee grounds happen to look pretty much like finished compost — dark brown crumbly soil that acts pretty much like fertilizer once its spread around plants or cast wholesale across the lawn.

I’m acting locally, thinking globally, I tell myself, trying to rationalize my dumpster diving, lightening the coffee shop’s dumpster by a bag of trash and saving the garbage hauler from having to truck off that much more organic waste to some distant landfill.

All that coffee adds up — to some 500 billion cups a year, worldwide. In all, 7,658,780 tons of coffee are processed each year, making the brewed beverage the second-most valued commodity on the planet, behind only crude oil.

“That’s a whole lot of coffee — and a whole lot of spent grounds,” I read on www.mastercomposter.com, where founder Mary Tynes “focuses on innovative sustainability efforts worldwide, and encourages environmental mindfulness in personal choices and actions.”

“I teach composting because I believe it helps connect people to the Earth’s natural processes,” Tyne writes. “The more we learn about compost’s effect on soil, soil nutrients, soil structure, water, bacteria, fungi, insects and other creatures, it is obvious that Nature’s entire cycle of life was designed flawlessly.

“Environmental protection doesn’t just happen on the other side of the world.  Our first responsibility is to care for the patch of soil on which we live.  People who understand soil and how Nature replenishes it are able to make more responsible choices on both small- and large-scale environmental policies, and wider socio-economic issues.”

Which brings us back to coffee. Spent coffee grounds are the perfect compost input, Tyne says, because:

  • They smell good.
  • They absorb and hold moisture which is so critical to the compost pile.
  • They are one of the few sources of nitrogen that is widely available year-round to people in urban and suburban areas.
  • They are easily stored for days in a closed plastic bag.
  • They are free.

Tyne surveyed followers of her blog and found that “more respondents have used coffee grounds for gardening or composting (87%) than actually drink coffee (81%).” She also found that “the idea of using coffee shops as a source of spent grounds had not occurred to most of the respondents in our survey.” Only 13% reported doing so. The chief reason being that most were too embarrassed to ask for other people’s garbage.

Tyne helpfully suggests “calling it ‘organic waste’ instead of ‘garbage’ — problem solved. Spent coffee grounds are a fruit nut that has been ground and had boiling hot water poured through it. It isn’t medical waste, or something that has been in someone’s mouth. It is the cleanest garbage around…You might be surprised at how fascinated some shop clerks can become with a person who finds spent coffee grounds useful.”

Some coffee shops around the country are making it easier to recycle and reduce waste; Starbucks has a “Grounds for Gardeners” program that offers spent coffee grounds to gardeners and composters, free for the taking in the bags originally used to ship espresso beans to the stores.

But this is a local java hut, and the last time I was inside I asked the girl behind the counter if she had any coffee grounds I could take home with me. She couldn’t quite process the out-of-the ordinary morning order, and it’s not easy to explain the concept of composting to a barrista when there’s three edgy people in line behind you.

“OK,” she relented. “There might be some in the bin, as long as you don’t make a mess…”

The mess is on me, at least for this day. But only the best for my pile, my insatiable, wondrous, mysterious pile.

My pile is my touchstone, a wellspring of life that nourishes me and my garden as I nourish it.

My pile is my balm. Some count bounding sheep to drift off to sleep; I turn over shovelfuls of compost in my head. After all, what’s a brain but an organic, chemical repository for gathered thoughts and things to be broken down and processed, to be composted. Visualizing, x-ray-style, what’s in my pile, sifting through its unseen layers and musing of its secret processes soothes my soul.

Garbage in, garbage out? That is only half-right about my pile, and that’s the beauty of it. The bits and pieces of digested life and matter that make up this heap of compost, in time and with some tending, always reconstitute themselves into something new and useful and whole, if only for a moment before being dispersed as fresh fodder and fertilizer for the future.

Each season brings a new and wholly unique pile, yet over the years each pile inevitably becomes one in the same. The longer and more deeply I dig into it, the more firmly my pile remains terra incognita, a Rubik’s cubic yard of shape-shifting organic matter that defies description.

Still, I try, if only for the exercise. My pile is a portal to the physical and psychic place where I spend my most agreeable waking hours, the backyard. On that front along, my pile is worth getting to know. I am comforted by the fact that there is a rich history of such landscape navel-gazing.

 

“To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience,” writes Patrick Kavanagh, in Robert Macfarlane’s “Landmarks.” “In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width. A gap in a hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow — these are as much as a man can fully experience.”

“While writing about landscape often begins in the aesthetic, it must always tend to the ethical,” writes Brian Lopez, also in “Landmarks,” a compendium of nature writing that aims to “re-engage a largely metropolitan populations with the marvelously specific and intricate habitats that continue to be smashed by industrialization, population growth and sprawl.” As a construct my pile may have modest value that extends beyond just one backyard.

“People exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love, and to defend what we love we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know,” wrote Wendell Berry. I want to particularly know my pile, and to do that I aim to plunge into it deeply, to turn it over and again, to process it, and, in time, to reap in and share its rewards.

Karel Capek,  writing nearly a century ago in The Gardener’s Year, had it just about right in unearthing the essence of what draws me to my backyard garden, and keeps me there. It’s not the showy blossoms or ripening fruits, it’s something much more basic:

“While I was only a remote and distracted onlooker of the accomplished word of gardens, I considered gardeners to be beings of a peculiarly poetic and gentle mind, who cultivate perfumes of flowers listening to the birds singing. Now, when I look at the affair more closely, I find that a real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers; he is a man who cultivates the soil. He is a creature who digs himself into the earth, and leaves the sight of what is on it to us gaping good-for-nothings. He lives buried in the ground. He builds his monument in a heap of compost.”

I could write a whole book about my pile.

So let me begin.

All the raw ingredients of fall start cooking quickly.

All the raw ingredients of fall start cooking quickly in my backyard compost pile.

About Me and My Pile

I’ve started this blog as a way to gather my thoughts, feelings and findings about the compost heap I keep in the backyard of my home in Westport, Connecticut. Like my pile, these postings are a work in progress. I’ll add to the collection as I go and as best I can, wholesale and piecemeal, layer upon layer, from sources both local and far-flung. I will allow it all to sit, foment and mature. I’ll toss and turn it, mull it over, tend to it as the seasons turn. In time and like my pile itself always seems to do, perhaps this blog will become more than the sum of its parts and produce an end result of lasting and real value, even if only to me and my backyard.

Source: About Me and My Pile