Out of the Dirt
By Tanya Ward Goodman
At the tail end of winter, we began a huge yard renovation. We dug things up and moved things around. It would look much worse before it looked any better. My daughter and I took apart the composter where we had been tossing rinds and seeds and smushy ends of fruit and vegetables for nearly three years. We turned the whole mess over with a pitchfork and then shoveled it onto a piece of screen set over the wheelbarrow. My girl shook the screen while I, with gloved hands, crumbled chalky bits of eggshell and removed hollowed cornhusks and banana peels made leathery in the heat. We found huge white grubs, eyeless worm things as thick as my thumb. We found earwigs and shiny black beetles and millipedes as flexible and bright as copper wire. It was messy business this composting, but our labor was rewarded with a nearly full wheelbarrow of fine soil, dark as coffee grounds.
As the work in the yard dragged on, we rolled this precious soil from one place to the next, hoping to add it to new garden beds where we would grow more vegetables and herbs and start the whole composting process again. It took a long time before the beds were ready and with all the rain and sun, small sprouts had begun to grow in the red wheelbarrow. I recognized the jagged leaves of tomato and the lily pad leaves of squash or melon. I thought there might be an eggplant. We transplanted these “volunteers” into the new yard as the gloom of June lifted. As the heat of July descended, we waited for them to reveal their identities.
This morning, I held the hem of my shirt up to make a pocket and loaded dozens of bright red tomatoes the size of quail eggs. In my garden there are also Japanese eggplant and the prickly green mystery pods have turned into melons, which ripen in the sun. Miniature pumpkins rise from the husk of last Halloween. It is magical and wonderful, but also very logical and real. These things went into the compost and so it makes sense that they would come out.
That logic doesn’t detract at all from the magic.