All our vegetable scraps go into a bucket near the kitchen. When it’s full, I dump it on the compost pile. This compost is called green stuff. Brown stuff is dirt or horse manure. It piles up all year. I turn the pile in early spring, and again in late June. By then, things are heating up in the pile.

Roger, a neighbor, contributes green stuff in the form of cooked grass. He dumps a bucket on a tarp and I wheelbarrow it to the pile. “I’ll have plenty more cooked stuff when I get around to turning it”. He dumps grass clippings with no herbicides or pesticides. In the past, he’s gives me bags of sawdust from his shop. That helps too.

Not much decomposition takes place until the beginning of summer. Our wet May has kept the pile moist. Turning the pile added air. My second turning revealed plenty of worms. Worms indicate that decomposition is under way. Three factors for good breakdown are fungi, bacteria, and green/brown stuff. I set up a screen, the wheelbarrow, a shovel, and rake to sift. I consider sifting compost to be a special event and I look forward to it in early summer. My tomato plants and other vegetables will be top dressed with the sifted compost. I like to eliminate the branches and other stuff that doesn’t pass through the screen.

I shovel three shovels onto the screen and use the flat side of a rake to sift. For me, this is a meditation. It’s like making your own soil. The result is smooth textured, nutrient-rich soil.  A handful of compost feels light and soft. The dirt gets under my fingernails. I consider this a blessing. The nutrients come from banana peels, cantaloupe, celery bottoms, apple sores, orange peels, egg shells, over ripe lettuce, and on and on.

The major elements are all in there…carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, iodine, zinc, sulfur, and phosphorus. There are trace elements as well… boron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and chlorine. My plants love my sifted soil. I will top dress tomatoes, chard, onions, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, and zinnias. Their roots await the bouquet. I am part of a process that takes place world-wide, the cycle of growth and decay.

When I slice the first Cherokee purple tomato and see seeds and pulp and taste a real ripe tomato, my taste buds are dancing. I will not have to buy tomatoes for months. I can almost taste the compost. The worms’ hotel is my compost pile.