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Eller column: The surprises in compost

SALISBURY ó We have recycled and composted at our house for more than 25 years, years before it was the ěgreen thing to do.î One reason is we live in the county so we have no trash pickup, and another reason is my husband was a Boy Scout leader and our son was an Eagle Scout. One of my sonís many Scout projects was to set up a recycling system. We continue his recycling project to this day. We have plastic bins in the garage for newspaper, regular paper, cans and glass.
We also have a well and septic system, thus no garbage disposal. We learned from previous experiences that septic systems and disposals donít always work well together. So with no disposal and two recycling police living under our roof, we also recycled all left-over food into a compost pile at the edge of our back yard.
When we first started this project, I had flashbacks of my auntís slop bucket she kept for farm animals. I also remembered the smell.
Freddie said, ěWeíll just put it in a pot and take it out back to ëthe spotí and dump it daily. That way it wonít stay in the house long enough to smell.î OK, I could work with that. ěThe Potî as we call it, started out in a pretty pot on top of the cabinet. I mean, nobody knew it had slop in it. Now the pot lives under the sink, out of sight, pretty pot or not.
Our compost pile provides food for all the wood creatures as well as neighborhood dogs. I had to call one of our neighbors to tell her I had cleaned out the refrigerator so her dog wouldnít visit. He loved our buffet but it didnít always agree with him.
This past spring we planned a month-long vacation during the summer and decided not to have a garden this year. Yet, there was the rich compost waiting to be used. I decided to mix it with potting soil to repot plants and I mixed it in a new flower bed we made out back. I also mixed it in with flowers around the three mailboxes at our driveway. We told all the neighbors, ěHelp yourself to the compost, we arenít going to use it this summer.î We saw neighbors carting away wheelbarrows full of compost for their yards and gardens. We were glad someone else could use it.
Then, I started to notice little plants springing up in all my repotted plants, in my new flower bed and around the mailboxes. I pulled a few up but more came. I let some of them grow around the mailboxes just to see what they were. They really didnít look like weeds, but I knew I had not planted anything that resembled the volunteer plants.
After a few weeks, we had the most beautiful squash plant and the healthiest tomato plants growing up the mailboxes. We thought surely they would die, but that special compost had some kick. The squash plant grew out into the yard with squash on it and the tomato plants took over the mailbox area. Iím sure the mailman just knew he was going to have a tomato sandwich any day. When we returned from our vacation, there was an abundance of cherry tomatoes all around the mailboxes and a huge tomato plant in the middle of my new flower bed.
I want to publically apologize to anyone who used the compost and may have tomato and squash plants everywhere but their garden. I think there is a lesson in this story.
We were trying to be good ěgreenî stewards of the earth by recycling. In so doing, we shared our abundance of compost, which in turn shared the seeds within. Wouldnít it be great if we could all share what is within us. Sometimes we donít even know what sprouts from the smile, the pat on the back, the hug around the neck or just sitting by someone’s side. Share what you have and see what happens.
Cathy Cress Eller writes children’s books and lives in Salisbury. Contact her at www.cathyellerbooks.com.

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