Six Cubic Yards of Compost

Six Cubic Yards of Compost

On Friday, the day our Miss Martha was sprung from jail, I had six cubic yards of compost delivered. The first year I ordered three yards, then last year I ordered four and noted in my gardening notebook, that I could easily have used six. So, this year it was six yards, which is a very big pile of dirt.

At this point, I have flower beds, about three feet wide, across the front of my house, and running thirty feet along the side. I also have a long perennial bed that’s about six feet by thirty along one side of my back yard, and I just extended it by another 20 feet (eliminating two patches of lawn that were a pain to mow). Then there is the vegetable garden, which is eight raised beds, and a three-foot wide strip of flower garden running down the opposite side of the back yard where I grow mostly hollyhocks and sunflowers. My long-term goal is to get rid of as much lawn as possible, and just have flower beds and a patio (or, should my ship come in, add a convertible screen porch off my kitchen). But I’d like to slowly replace the lawn with something less thirsty, and more scenic.

Six cubic yards of compost was enough to cover all these beds at least two inches deep in lovely dark compost. Last year, I didn’t have enough to really cover the perennial bed, and the soil there really shows it — it’s the least friable soil in my whole garden. I’ve also had a lot of problem with annual weeds in that bed, so I’m hoping that a nice thick layer of compost will help with that.

I had an odd evening on Friday — I had quite an upsetting conversation with the guy who my brother Patrick drove home the night he died. This man’s had a tough time dealing with his own regret that he let Patrick drive back down that long road, and although I’ve told him on any number of occasions that I don’t hold him responsible, he’s had a hard time working through it. We’d all been out — there was a fabulous community performance — the Main Street Show — which my friend Maryanne describes as “Prairie Home Companion for the Really Twisted”. It was a great show, and afterwards everyone was dancing and having a good time. So I was really pretty upset by this guy deciding, after having had a few, that he needed to walk me home and blather on about Patrick’s last night. I really didn’t want to go there. I’d had a fun evening. I had a cute outfit on. I’d flirted a little with a couple of people, and danced, and listened to people I really like perform brilliantly. I didn’t want to go over Patrick’s last hours and what we could have done to have prevented his accident.

So Saturday morning I was a little cranky, and was really glad that there was that big pile of dirt in my back yard upon which to work out my crankiness. Yes, Patrick’s death has been a terrible thing, but I’m getting through it, and despite my sorrow, it was a lovely sunny day, and the cheery sight of my raised beds, topped up with beautiful dark compost, ready and waiting for another year’s crop of greens and tomatoes (which I’m planning to trellis this year. I saw some really interesting-looking tomato trellises in France last fall, and I want to try that method), went a long way toward banishing my blues. I layered the grass patches I’m trying to kill with newspaper, then bark mulch, then compost, then straw, then compost again. I’m thinking I may try potatoes in that section — Elwood and Nina grew some potatoes last year that were so wonderful. Who knew that a potato was that much better when fresh? I’m also thinking of putting in a raspberry patch back in that part of the yard.

A couple of months ago, Leah over at Struggle in a Bungalow Kitchen mentioned in relation to Before Sunset that what seemed most interesting to her in that movie was not the much-vaunted “connection” that the characters shared, but rather, that they each responded to losing one another by creating works of art, and to her that seemed extraordinary. I remember thinking at the time, “but isn’t that what everyone does? makes something?” Maybe it’s that I was raised by somewhat artistic parents, particularly my mother, who when the going gets rough, gets out the craft supplies, so my first response to not really knowing what to do next, is to make something. It’s what I’ve liked most about finally owning a house — I can make a garden, or paint a wall, or cook a meal for my friends (or write a book, but that’s much less fun than all of the other options). So after an unsettling night out, it was a joy and a comfort to have a garden to work on. I thought of Miss Martha, volunteering to begin her prison sentence before the appeal of her conviction has played out, and wanting to do it in the winter so she’d be home in time to get her garden in in the spring. Life is generally unsettling, but preparing for spring, thinking about new roses, transplanting herbs and imagining a raspberry patch in that back corner. Well, it burned up some energy, it made things lovely, and cheered me up enormously.

5 thoughts on “Six Cubic Yards of Compost

  1. Did you see Martha’s homecoming speech to her employees yesterday? It was extraordinary, and I felt quite buoyed by it myself. Her stay at Alderson (which she manages to make sound like an exclusive girls’ school!) has caused a shift in her vision. She announced that she wishes to focus less on the “how-to’s” of homemaking, and more on the “why’s” – to strengthen families, connect with others, reduce alienation, nourish body and soul, and the like. (I wish we could get someone to run for President on such a platform.) Apropos Leah’s observation about “Beyond Sunset”, apparently a fellow inmate crocheted a GORGEOUS poncho for Martha and presented it to her as a gift. I guess the two women forged a positive connection, and it inspired a work of art (or craft). (Ponchos were going out, but I think suddenly they’re WAY back in.) The “how-to’s” of a craft, and the “why’s” are embodied in that beautiful garment.

    So with the composting of your garden – you’ve got the “how-to’s” and the “why’s” all in the right mix there.

  2. I actually have really mixed feelings about Martha. I think she was targeted for aggressive prosecution because she’s a very rich, self-made woman, which is hard enough in our culture, and I think the anger she incites is also complicated by the fact that she made her fortune purveying a vision of unattainable domestic perfection. While I admire what she’s built, I’ve always found the perfectionism a real problem — that there’s ONE vision of how things should be done hobbles us all (and there’s the pesky problem that her recipes, all too often, don’t work). It would be quite exciting to see what she can do if she goes deeper and does indeed start to investigate process as opposed to focussing so exclusively on product.

  3. To paraphrase Martha’s own comments about missing cappucino, it’s not so much Martha I like as the IDEA of Martha. I suspect that in person I’d find her insufferable. (And, yes, one Thanksgiving I had a disastrous experience with an inaccurate apple pie recipe in her magazine.) At the same time, I find her fascinating (can’t wait for her memoirs). It was interesting to hear her “new” ideas – ideas that so many of us struggle with daily. I just wish that she would at some point speak passionately about her evolved vision not only as it applies to reinvigorating her conglomerate, but vis-a-vis a proposed philanthropic role for herself. I strongly feel she should be closely allied with a particular charitable cause (not necessarily women prisoners’ rights). She’s far too wealthy and influential not to be. If nothing else she has always had vision and drive, and she could potentially have as huge a positive impact and influence as does Bill and Melinda Gates’ foundation.


  4. Ach, for a load of compost!! I was so cheered by the Cook’s Garden Catalog’s arrival yesterday, though — speaking of IDEAS, it’s the idea of gardening that will have to comfort us folks who are having a March that keeps snowing on us! But you reminded me how I really need to get some good dirt onto my front flower beds, (last year it all went to the veggie garden. This year I’m advocating for my flowers, which, while not edible, look nice).

  5. Every year in late winter I think that THIS might be the year that I get my hands in the dirt and make a garden or even just a flowerbed, but I never quite get there. I really enjoy reading your posts about the gardens you create; it keeps that hopeful spark alive for me.

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