Compost Blog

Filling Glass

FOUND IN: Education, The Farm on August 11, 2014



A golden rope of sweet stickiness descends into the glass jar below the white bucket. I attempt to control the volume, lifting on the gate valve, eying it with great concentration. I do not want to waste one drop.  Savoring this moment, I reflect on the effort to arrive here.


Luck. Skill. Timing.


They come together in an amazing collaboration, allowing for the "lift to the light", gazing onto something that has magic written in the bronzed molecules we call honey.



Summer Sun

FOUND IN: Education, Nature, The Farm on July 23, 2013



They fill the sky like no other. Their intensity is met only by the afternoon heat wave. They amaze, those stalks of pubescent green supporting hefty heads. In a breeze, there seems to be no reason they should stay upright.  But they do.


As if paying homage, they follow the sun. Each one in unison, their angles exactly alike.


Their glow brings sunrise above ground. The hum of bumblebees is the first sound to the ear.


The seeds suggest greatness, plump, strong and firm to the touch. Emerging in days, they growing exponentially.



Bought sunflowers at the farmers market and want to know what to do next. Here are some good tips for care and arranging them.



Seeing Through Paper

FOUND IN: Education, The Farm on November 16, 2012


From the driveway he looked like a puffed up rooster. Me, having stopped beside his paper bags, was being viewed as an unacceptable intrusion. Peering from above, I quickly calculate the contents below. "Yours aren't good enough, " I whisper softly,  jumping behind the wheel, screeching away in search of others.


Unlike a year ago when plastic bags were outlawed, I could effortlessly  careen through strategic neighborhood locations summing up the contents in the comfort of my own 2002 Ford F150. Whether in clear or black plastic, ground up leaves are denser, giving way to less height and greater girth. Those were always the jackpot finds. Stay away from bags with uneven protrusions. These are full of sticks. Never touch fresh grass clippings. Who knows what they  sprayed on the lawn.


The game is different now.


You can't see through paper bags. Nor do they conform to the contents being loaded into them. Every brown leaf bag looks like the next, no matter what is behind the brown facade.Those without a conscious, load half the bag with trash, filling the other half with leaves, an unwanted surprise when the bag is unloaded into a garden bed or added to the compost pile. They do what paper does, break down quickly when rained on, a problem for leaf hoarders like me who are used to stockpiling and using when needed.


Like a special forces operative, I'm on the ground.  Gloved hands lift. Excessive weight is a sure sign the bag is full of dirt and gravel from the driveway. Light weight points to branch debris hidden below. Check.  Sample for content. No Southern magnolia, no pine straw, no dead squirrels. Oak and maple preferred. Check. Examine bags for color. Faded means old and left in the rain.  Is the bag intact? Rotted bottoms happen within weeks.  Check.


Grab, load and leave.














Coming Home to City Roots

FOUND IN: Community, Education, The Farm on August 19, 2012

Entrance sign to City Roots.

I met the McClam clan in Charleston a few weeks ago at a local L.I.M.E. event. They are the new generation of farmers responsible for starting City Roots in 2009. We think we have an idea what farming is all about. The McClam family is learning it as they go daily. Eric McClam, the Farm Manager, has had a heavy hand in their farm's development. Talking with him,was like talking to someone who you know has dirt under their fingernails even before you see them.  I had to invite myself for a farm visit and he obliged.

Cucumbers hang on vines in the blistering heat of a Columbia, SC summer afternoon.

The farm is not far from my first home. I could have walked there.  Located in the Rosewood section of Columbia, near the tiny airport, it sits on City of Columbia property, leased to this family. Their mission: to produce clean, healthy, sustainably grown products while enhancing and educating the community about the benefits of locally grown food, composting, vermicomposting and other environmentally friendly farming practices.  It gets to the heart of why I'm moving in this direction.


They make a living on 3 acres. You won't see Norman Rockwell or feel moved to paint the landscape we romanticize so often when thinking about today's farm experience. They have weeds. There are tomato plants screaming for the compost pile. Rows of healthy basil need to find a home. The opportunities Eric described are no different than we are all having as we try our hand at one of this world's oldest professions.


The tractor is plowing under a cover crop which adds needed organic matter back into the soil.

It felt good to talk about the challenges. It has been a little lonely making my way in this unfamiliar place. The reassurance comes at a good time. Eric is an educator, sharing what he knows with people like me. We never stop giving and taking in that respect. Eric is an open book. From favorite tools to post harvest techniques, the information is forthcoming. He does not understand how important this is to someone like me right now.

Microgreens are grown year round in greenhouses.

As I wandered around the farm alone, taking pictures and making notes, it occurred to me just how generous they are to share this place. A lady came in a day late from picking up her weekly farm share.  Eric does not miss a step as he greets her, forcing two bright yellow sunflowers in her hand as this week's beautiful gift.


I felt like I had been given one. Thanks Eric!

Bused Into the Bronx

FOUND IN: Community, Education, Garden Design, The Farm on August 22, 2011
A community farm surrounded on all sides by transit. Buses, cars and trains provide an urban hum while the gardens are tended by locals at La Finca Del Sur.

Like kids on a school day, we were shuffled into yellow buses. With knees gouging the seat in front, I imagined the days when fitting comfortably in this tiny space might have been possible.

Today's field trip was being organized by the American Community Gardening Association as a part of the 32nd Annual Conference being held at Columbia University's Manhattan campus. Our assignment would bring us to the Bronx. I'd never been there, so the idea of traipsing on new ground looking at their community gardens peaked my interest. There were amazing things happening in challenging situations. The people we met had vision, believed in the power of their communities and realized that the garden could make it all happen.

Rainwater collection systems were the norm at almost all the sites we visited. Notice how the roof is tied into the gutter and runs through pipes to the collection tank.
A Tats Cru mural colors a small community garden as a part of The Point, a community youth development center in the South Bronx. The mural is one of many as this is also Tats Cru's headquarters.
Most gardens get their city water from a hydrant on the street.
A conference participant eyes a plot through the decorative enclosure.
The garden oasis known as El Flamboyan Community Garden has many different nationalities represented, making it a melting pot for interesting growing techniques and vegetable varieties. All were surrounded by neighborhood highrise housing.
Bees and chickens were found in several gardens. Barriers were not used to keep anyone away from the bee hives. Local children's groups assisted in monitoring the hive activity and harvesting honey. We were told fruit tree production had escalated since the bees were introduced into the garden.