Writer's retreat

Writer's retreat

Monday, 16 November 2009

To compost or not to compost? – that is the question.

This is another snippet written to a given theme.

I have to confess a crime. It weighs heavily on my conscience. It goes against my beliefs and the current exhortation to save our planet.

On Tuesday, November 6 2008 , I burnt a pile of leaves. I did not put them in a black plastic bag and soak them with cold water and leave them for eighteen months to rot down into leaf mould. I also failed to place them in the green recycling bin given to me for that specific purpose by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. My compost heap was nearby but I did not place them amongst the grass cuttings.

My green credentials have been dinted. I can no longer consider myself a true friend of the earth. I hang my head in shame.

It was so much easier when I was a child. All vegetable matter went over the wall into the neighbouring field. Anything edible was eaten by passing badgers, foxes, stoats, weasels or fieldmice. It was not a concern. It did not smell. It disappeared over time. The same spot has been used for the past 48 years and is indiscernible amongst the wonderful crop of nettles, grass and horseradish growing on the other side of the wall.

All waste food goes to the hens. They adore potato peelings, meat, vegetables and the regular supply of mice and shrews caught in traps in the house or shed which holds the two deep freezes. They used to be pernickety about carrots, but since my father took over their feeding, they now show no distain.

There’s nothing to consume my waste food, it has to go into the bin to be removed by the rubbish men. I can’t even place vegetable peelings on the compost heap because of the rats. We know about rats. They really like our garden shed and our garage. My eldest son got to the stage where he recognised signs of rat infestation and would ring Environmental Services off his own bat. Even though he now lives elsewhere, he still rings up to check nothing has set up home in his bass drum or chewed through any of the other drum heads.

We can’t do as my father does and sit in the barn with a 12-bore until the rats emerge. It’s a slightly cleaner death than getting caught in a rat trap. Of course they’re illegal and the one hanging up in the barn is just an antique.

I understand we must recycle, re-use and compost our waste. Raw materials are scarce and there is no point in creating something new when we have the means to turn car tyres into place mats and juice cartons into the covers of notebooks. The new Eden Project teaching centre is filled with such examples from all over the world. It is very impressive.

Even at work I must wash out my milk cartons and the plastic bowls which held my lunchtime salad and place them in the recycling bin. Corporate clients expect their lawyers to now have green credentials alongside their legal practice certificates.
What should I do? Autumn stalks us and winter will not be far behind. As trees slumber more leaves are going to appear on the grass. I could leave them for the winds to transport elsewhere and forget them. This has been a very successful strategy over the years but I doubt wins me neighbours as good friends.

There will be trees to fell and hedges to trim this winter. Some of the wood will go for turning, but no wood turner wants hawthorn sticks and laurel leaves along with rose and blackberry brambles. The green wheelie bin may well be filled, but I suspect the fire pit will also play its part in garden management. The ash will add phosphorus to the compost heap and everything will come full circle once again.

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