Last year, I became a composter.
I’ve always thought, and said, yard work is for suckers. It doesn’t matter to me what the people driving by think of my lawn. But with young kids in the house, I began throwing out an enormous amount of food. Bananas, tainted by a brown freckle only visible through an electron microscope. The inch around the peel and the core of an apple. Rejected blackberries that don’t taste as good at our house as they did at that birthday party. As a result, I started trench composting. This just means, instead of throwing plant waste into the trash, I dug a hole in the backyard and buried it. That seemed easier to me than a pile. I don’t know why.
Eventually, I got tired of digging, so I did my research and started a pile. (It required 10 minutes setting up a 20 dollar mesh off Amazon. Lesson learned.) This led to me composting my eggshells, coffee grounds, Amazon boxes, and the 9000 flyers that come home from my kids’ school. Then I asked for a compost tumbler for my birthday. Had my first grubs move in, wept with pride.
It’s a weird hobby. But I love its flexibility. With zero-knowledge, I still reduced my weekly trash and improved my soil quality. My yard was the only one around with dozens of earthworms that summer. I can collect extra scraps from local apartment-dwellers, carefully balancing the “greens” and “browns,” grab coffee grounds from Starbucks and turn it daily to improve aeration and discourage ants. Or I can get busy and not go in the backyard for a month. Or two. Or three. Summers are hot here y’all. Either way, things will slowly turn to dirt. I can speed up the process and optimize the nutrients for my garden, or I can do nothing. Decomposition doesn’t depend on me. And that’s the kind of grace I’m looking for in my life. Lesson 1: Do your best, but trust that the world will spin on without you.
Compost was also responsible for my first ever avocado sprout. I have put dozens of those seeds in a glass with three toothpicks over the years. Dozens. And I am here to tell you, people who say they grew one that way are rotten, dirty liers. “Oh I grew one that way!” Leave a picture in the comments friend. Because I’m not buying it. But I chucked one mushy avocado in the compost bin, and next time I went to turn it, bam! Roots and sprout poking up. Lesson 2: If you are in the right environment, your growth will be sudden and astonishing.
I was thrilled. I put it in a Groot tiki-cup we have and moved it carefully to my windowsill where I could water it and talk to it daily. I watched videos about how to care for a baby avocado while ignoring my human children’s request for snacks. Grimacing, I cut the stem I had worked so hard for in half when it reached 6 inches so that more sprouts would grow, certain I had just Marie Antoinette’d my pride and joy. But a few agonizing days later, it did begin to regrow stronger. Lesson 3: What doesn’t kill you, etc, etc.
Finally, Groot was big enough to go outside. I picked a sunny place of honor right in front of the house so I could see it often and eventually our grandchildren could pick us avocados as they came in to visit. (Did I mention avocado trees are not fast growers?) I dug a hole and put up a little divider and mulched and prepped, then I half-buried the seed and let it be. Every day it grew. I was overjoyed.
Then that fall, about 3 months later, one of the neighbor kids kicked a soccer ball into it and snapped the stem. I know, right!? Devastating. I actually cried. It had been almost a year since the thing had sprouted. I was so very sad. I couldn’t even bring myself to move the remains or plant something else there.
Until New Year’s Day. I was loading the kids in the car, and I glanced over and saw a stem. And five leaves. I couldn’t believe it. Like its Marvel namesake: resurrected! To me, it signalled a season of rebirth and new growth. Forgiveness. Miracles. And it taught me my final lesson — give it time, don’t despair, and keep the friggin neighbors off my lawn.
~ Laura Paquette, Family Council Chair