Column: Compost gets me to thinking

Column: Compost gets me to thinking

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The structure of the compost.

Yeah, this is what I think about in late May.

I’m spreading and spreading compost with the wheelbarrow, with the tractor, with bushel baskets, with whatever.

Yesterday I started with a pile that was finished last year. Last year it had pumpkins growing on it.

I made the pile with a particular garden in mind, one that is very rich in topsoil.

I added layers of sand to the compost to give the soil more structure, so I could move myself and my tools around in it without sinking up to my ankles or my hubs.

This year the compost is being distributed into its garden, mostly via grunt work.

That’s just fine with me, because I really enjoy gardening, building gardens, and working. But I know my kind of gardening is not for everyone.

When people claim I have a green thumb. I reply, “No, I really don’t think so. I think it is all work.”

I don’t move fast. I just keep moving as long as I can. Sometimes I can’t keep moving, so I sit in a chair near Dog Unit until I can again.

If people say, “You’re lucky, because you have really nice soil here.” I don’t say anything. I just nod.

When we came here 30-some-odd, and I mean odd, years ago, the soil was mostly structure. By which I mean sand. It’s so rich now because we’ve been building it up, all these years.

The only time I think twice about gardening is when I’m planting potatoes while the blackflies are biting and the blood is running down my ears and eyelids. Believe me, that scenario has happened more than once.

I pretty much associate early potatoes with blackflies.

I still like the potatoes, because by the time I eat them the pain is just a memory.

One memory of pain, the worst I ever had, was when Peanut Ox, all 2,500 pounds of him, accidentally stepped on my foot. It took him a while to move himself off, because, ox like, he had to slowly consider the situation and then shift his weight in order to lift his foot.

I had to rip off my boot as soon as I could because my foot would have swollen right into it.

Now, though, I can think of it, although it felt at the time like my foot was going through a printing press. I even think of it fondly, because Peanut, excuse me, was kind of dumb as an ox, but very sweet and kind.

After a long, cranky winter, I have started to form new memories of some of these heavenly days that seem perfectly designed for working in the garden — not too hot, not too cold, sunshine and summer clouds.

Oh, what a relief.

These memories are adding some much needed structure to my thoughts, which were getting a little too mushy and dismal.

Now it’s back to wheeling and carting and carrying compost and manure — my May occupations. I will do this as I channel my inner ox and slowly consider my actions.

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, N.Y., where he keeps moving along. Leave a message at


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