Lyla Lovett has solved my compost problem.
“Compost” and “problem” don’t really belong in the same sentence – except in “compost solves problems.” Like all gardeners, I believe in compost as enrichment or as mulch. I’m thankful for compost when it rains and when it’s dry – but I’m not able to make it well for this garden.
In my old garden even with many months of winter, compost was easy from big piles of birch leaves (from the trees in our yard) and kitchen scraps. I’d put the kitchen peelings and trimmings in a garbage can all winter, and dump them into the leaves in a stinky spring rite. They would diminish into black gold by mid-summer. Simple – and bountiful.
But rural life in Washington presented different challenges. When we were coming here only intermittedly, I’d bury the scraps 12” down in my berms of compost and straw becoming soil. That led to gift potatoes in various beds – and to a mystery plant later identified as an avocado.
But once you plant plants, the burying no longer works. So I built a big bin out of house scraps – even putting a metal mesh top on it – but left plenty of space between boards for chipmunks, squirrels, mice, birds – pretty much anything but a raccoon. Safe for garden cuttings, but not for food.
Next, as a present to ourselves, we bought a double-barreled compost tumbler. It took a couple of weeks (and several calls to the 800 number) to put together. (In spite of a video animated by a couple we named Betty and Bob, who wore nifty outfits and had a lot better luck manufacturing compost than we did.)
Betty and Bob might live in warmer climes – and most likely they had brown leaves for carbon. Living in a conifer forest means using straw, and it is slow to break down. Animals can’t get in the tumblers, and that’s positive, but the ingredients form into either wet or dry softball-sized lumps (the tumbling action). Beyond recognizable food at that point, I put the balls into the wooden bin to finish. The system is complicated, and compost doesn’t get made with any facility.
But now – in a magic alchemy – all kinds of vegetable peelings, discarded outer lettuce leaves, carrot tips and stems, snapped-off ends of green beans, root ends of spinach, slightly gone-by fruit – become eggs!
My clever friend’s abundant garden packs more into a three-quarter city lot than you’d think possible – flowers, vegetables, a tiny greenhouse – and now chickens. Lyla Lovett, Buckwheat, Pansy, and Petunia live in a stylish chicken coop, (with raspberry-pink trim to match the big house), and a good-sized run. Buckwheat and Co. are little still, but Lyla came nearly full-grown.
They are happy to receive my vegetable offerings, and the other day when I dropped my bag of scraps, my friend presented me with two of Lyla Lovett’s eggs. I am doubly honored – fresh eggs, one still warm, and a compost solution!