Friday, November 24, 2017

Giving Thanks To Decomposition


Thanksgiving, a time to give thanks to, among other things, the miracle of decomposition, preferably not my own. It's harvest time for this Wishing (the Earth) Well, a leaf corral that includes a critter-proof central cylinder for food scraps. Yes, I walk out my front door with the compost bucket from the kitchen, and deposit the trimmings, the back-of-the-frig science experiments, even tissues, into a front yard composter on a busy street. There's no odor and I think it looks attractive enough, disguised by a column of leaves.

The sign says "Add a leaf and make a wish." I treasure the times I've happened to glance out the window and seen someone stop, read the sign, pick up a nearby leaf and drop it in, then walk off with a new sense of satisfaction. Maybe their wish was personal, or global, or maybe they just simply wished the earth well. We have taken so much from the earth. This leaf corral is a quiet way of saying it can feel really good to start giving back, in small and very large and steady ways.


Though the leaf portion of the corral was topped off many times with additional leaves, all has decomposed down to what looks like 6 inches of leaves at the bottom. Underneath these outer leaves is a rich compost ready for use. The left tub shows the leaf mold; the right is decomposed kitchen scraps.

The central cylinder for kitchen scraps has hardware cloth across the bottom, to prevent rodents from digging up from below. Annual emptying is necessary so that tree roots don't have time to invade.

Reassemble and fill with this year's leaves that in turn will be effortlessly composted by next fall. The leaves nicely disguise the inner cylinder of food scraps.

The fall harvest of compost is ready to spread on the garden beds. It truly is a miracle. Imagine our old TV sets or automobiles automatically decomposing down to their original materials, ready for reassembly into any and all things new. Nature leaves us in the dust when it comes to reuse, reuse, recycle.

The Wishing (the Earth) Well is useful, but most of the yard's leaves are either mowed back into the grass or put in a larger, 6 foot diameter leaf corral disguised by plantings. It's so convenient to have leaf corrals discretely integrated into the landscaping here and there, so that leaves don't have to be hauled or blown long distances.

You can see that some leaves, like oaks, resist decay more than the silver maples that begin breaking down very quickly. But none of them can resist the decomposing power of a leaf corral.

Some people say leaves won't decompose if the leafpile is too dry, so I use a rod to poke holes in the pile so the rain can penetrate. Best is one of those tree fertilizing rods that shoots water out the bottom, so it can inject water into the interior of the leaf pile. But even if one doesn't get around to that, there's usually enough rain coming in from above, and also moisture rising, wicked up by the absorbent leaves from the ground below.

Work with nature, and nature will do most of the work. That's my wish, that more people would discover what a great partner nature can be.


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