I mentioned that I am taking an on-line writing class. I'm rather pleased with a piece I wrote for an assignment.
The assignment was to write about something we taught ourselves, in 500 words or less. Open with a quote, saying or cultural reference, and then return to it at the end with a twist. Here's mine:
In the old fairy tale, Rapunzel learned to spin worthless straw into valuable gold.
Although I’d always loved plants and flowers, I led such a peripatetic life that I only became a successful gardener in my thirties, when I had finally found a place in Seattle that had a yard.
That first garden was a narrow strip of dirt against a chain link fence separated from the encroaching lawn by a row of red bricks on edge. The dirt was grey-brown and chalky, strewn with bits of broken glass and rubble, rusted nails and broken concrete. Watered, it turned to thick sludgy mud.
Then I learned how to enrich poor soils with compost. Compost is just organic material rotted and broken down. Lawn clippings? Fallen leaves? Kitchen food waste? Dumped in a bin and left alone for a few months, all this so-called trash turns to compost.
I read everything I could find about composting. I was not satisfied with mere lawn clippings; I needed more. I begged from people I knew – my friend Larry found it hilarious watching me load black plastic bags of his raked leaves into the trunk of my Fiat. Each morning’s used coffee grounds went into the bin. So did kitchen waste and dryer lint.
I learned to sheet-compost, which is so easy it’s a lazy gardener’s dream. The trash goes right in the garden, around the plants, and there it rots in place. Instead of dumping coffee grounds into the bin, dump them under the gardenias – they’re great for acid-loving plants. Hide the trash with a layer of shredded bark, and it breaks down, enriching the soil, and no one ever sees it!
I knew manure – poop - made the best compost, but where could I find it in the city of Seattle? I remembered the Purple People, well-known in downtown Manhattan in the ‘70s – a hippy couple always dressed in purple. They grew vegetables in a vacant lot, somewhere in Alphabet City. They were often seen pushing a little cart on the streets, scooping up droppings from NYPD horse patrols.
My friend Betty had a horse, at a stable in Bellevue. But fresh horse poop is heavy and messy, and hauling it in a compact car was back-breakingly inefficient. I needed to find manure, but where?
My neighbor Jerry had a lush, sprawling cottage garden full of blooming perennials and roses. When I asked him how he did it, he said he ordered cow manure from the same dairy farm that delivered milk once a week. One delivery after his fall garden clean-up did the trick. Jerry spread the manure as mulch around his sleeping plants, and let it do its job over the winter.
I called the dairy and each year after that I’d get a dumpload of manure. Just in time for my birthday! In a few years, my garden soil was amazing – fluffy, moisture-retentive, sweet-smelling loam.
Thank you, Jerry, for teaching me how to spin poop into garden gold!