Monday, April 4, 2011

Going green...stinks.

Target is selling seeds for vegetable gardens. Wal-Mart is selling fertilizer. Even the corner drug store is in on it, marketing wildflowers. I have to admit, I am suspicious of buying seeds at a department store, big box store, or a corner drug store. My parents had a rather large garden while I was growing up and they purchased all their seeds at a garden store. The kind of store that smelled like fertilizer, miracle-gro and cow manure. Stores that smelled like a place to buy seeds. Stores that stacked bales of hay and bags of peat moss, just for children to climb in and pretend all sorts of glorious adventures while their parental units discussed the advantages of one kind of tomato plant over another.

I think my parents had a book about growing a garden, because somewhere they found instructions on composting. This idea of composting has kept with me. I compost. I do not have a garden, but I have some wonderful compost. I take food scraps and toss them in a pile, turning the pile on a periodic basis, i.e. whenever I feel like it. It is a thoroughly laid-back process, which is perfect for me.

Mom and dad read about composting and decided to try it themselves. They, of course, did it by the book. They first bought a bale of hay. This was a glorious thing, since we no longer had to go to the garden store to have grand adventures; we had them in our own back yard, with our very own bale of hay. Sometimes that bale of hay was a horse, a mountain to climb, or a boat to row across a shark-infested ocean. Oh what a glorious time that with our bale of hay; until mom and dad sacrificed it upon the compost pile. Following the articles advice, layers of food scraps were alternated between layers of hay. Layer after layer, until the entire, wonderful, imagination-fueling bale of hay was reduced to a pile of fermenting food scraps.

After a few weeks, the memory of the bale of hay was dim and the compost pile was simply a pile. This pile, as far as I could tell, was to simply sit there and do nothing, except destroy a bale of hay. Thankfully, we were intelligent and imaginative children and quickly found other games to play, pretending the weeping willow, by the creek, far behind our house, was a castle or fortress and the pine trees in the back yard were enemy soldiers advancing upon us.
Finally, it was time to turn the compost pile and spread out the remnants of the bale and last week’s dinner upon the garden. This really stunk. No, I mean it. It really…stunk. The most revolting, stomach-turning, make-you-want-to-vomit smell, known to man erupted as that pile was turned over. It was so bad, that even though it was a very hot day, we closed the windows to keep the smell from infecting the house. Children riding by on their bikes spontaneously burst into tears and pedaled furiously to escape the zone of death. Fully-grown adult men were reduced to piles of wobbly jelly. It was bad.

Just the other day I drove past the old family homestead. By homestead, I mean a 30’x40’ colonial with attached one car garage sitting smack dab in the middle of suburbia. The house is located one mile from a former airport, now shopping mall, and one mile from a major local college now known for its green work on sustainability. Although a few decades have passed since the stinking kill-the-bale of hay incident, I thought for just a moment I detected that horrid aroma lingering in the air, ever so faintly. In fear I rolled up the windows and accelerated quickly to escape.

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