Dirty Talk, or, Compost Conversation

You know, if you limit your conversation to non-controversial topics, you’ll never talk at all. And considering that these days people get pretty sensitive about a wide variety of subject matter —  not just the Big Three of Sex, Religion, and Politics — then the gag on the mouth goes for all of us, not just me.

Take compost.

The Garden is a beautiful place no matter what kind of compost you use. Garden Gatherings, available as original, prints, and note cards, by Steve Henderson

What an innocuous subject — table scraps, garden soil, animal intestinal byproducts — you wouldn’t think that glorified dirt would inspire such passion and emotion in certain people, but believe me, it does.

I found this out last week when I fell into conversation with a woman who, at first glance, looked like a normal human being, but the mention of compost did something to her eyes.

“There is a precise relationship between the mass of brown matter — straw — and green,” she pinned me into the corner. “And if you don’t get it right, you will never achieve success.”

“The Norwegian Artist gets his spring exercise by shoveling out the goat pen,” I made the mistake of replying (please understand: initially, I thought we were having a normal conversation). “He makes a big pile in the garden and we add vegetable detritus throughout the year.”

(And yes, I did use the word “detritus.” Even at the outset of the conversation I must have sensed a necessity to show that I speak in words of more than one syllable.)

The look in her eyes intensified.

“That is the wrong way of going about it,” she averred. And I mean that — she didn’t say it, she didn’t comment, she didn’t reply — she averred. “You can’t make proper compost that way. This must stop.”

While for the first time I heartily agreed with her, my mind wasn’t on goat pellets interacting with egg shells.  I managed to glance at my watch (I don’t wear one), exclaim at the time, and extricate myself from the situation.

Goat pellets, egg shells, orange peels -- these weren't on my mind as I sought to get away from this woman, so intent on educating me about compost. Fenceline Encounter by Steve Henderson

Aren’t we people funny? We have deep set, intrinsic beliefs about the oddest things — I’m not talking whether or not there is a God, and if there is, if He’s personal or distant; or the merits or drawbacks of particular government programs or policies; nor when life begins or ends — these are the meaningful issues, not the odd ones.

No, we get upset, really upset over whether you throw or pick when you knit; or whether or not you salt watermelon to make it sweeter; what you call carbonated cavity water —  soda or pop; or if you identify the newspaper page with the cartoons as the comics or the funnies. Either with a long I or E; apricot with a short A or long.

In many ways, as long as we can keep from shouting at one another, the differences keep our edges sharp. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing; spouses and siblings do it all the time. The problem comes when we focus on the differences and insist that they shouldn’t be there.

The same push-me, pull-me contrast that makes a successful painting makes for interesting relationships as well. Where Wild Things Grow by Steve Henderson

Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we hate. Just because we believe differently doesn’t mean we’re intolerant. Divergence isn’t deviant.

It is possible to agree to disagree. Even better, it is possible for both sides to actually listen to the other and be willing to make changes in their mindset. There are, after all, many effective ways to make compost.

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
This entry was posted in Art, blogging, Culture, Current Events, Daily Life, Economy, Family, gardening, Growth, Humor, Life, Lifestyle, Personal, Politics, Random, Relationships, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Dirty Talk, or, Compost Conversation

  1. Lori DiNardi says:

    You put this so beautifully. Wish I would’ve thought of it. I tried saying this in a blog once, but it didn’t come out near as eloquent. Thank you for putting it into words so well.

    • Thank you, Lori. Where’s the link to the blog? I’d like to read it.

      • Lori DiNardi says:

        Oh ack, it’s not near as good as yours, but here it is. Give it a try. Thanks for your interest.
        http://loreezlane.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/why-im-a-freak-reason-2/

        • I like it — the new counterculture is what the old counterculture was rebelling against.

          You make some good points and do it well — I like the part about the tattoo, and in order to be truly different nowadays you don’t get one. (I can think of some young people in my life that I could point that out to.)

          I also like your attitude about living life on your terms and your intellectual analysis of the issues, not that of the voices around you. If more people did that, this would be a different world indeed.

          Vive each and every one of us!

          • Lori DiNardi says:

            Thanks Carolyn, you are too kind. I do so love your point here though. I recently talked to someone who was very angry (with their opinion), describe that anger as passion. My first thought was … note to self: be careful not to confuse anger for passion … or passion for anger. I know nothing about gardening, but I do know that sometimes you gotta pull some weeds. 😉

  2. cabinart says:

    Excellent wisdom, Carolyn!

    That woman would have a fit at my “composting”. I dig a hole in the ground and put it in. Eggshells, onion skins, teabags, orange peels, broccoli toughness, coffee filters – it all goes in the ground and it all disappears! Is my soil any better? Don’t know – forgot to have it tested 13 years ago when I began.

    So do you do each entry in your checkbook register on one or two lines? Do you let the water run when you rinse dishes or do you fill the sink? And for Pete’s sake, I hope you never refrigerate tomatoes!

    Sheesh. Some people need to find a real Cause to be passionate about!

    • Such personal questions, Jana. I really don’t feel comfortable sharing my water running practices while doing the dishes. On the aside, it’s interesting that you use handwashing of dishes as an example. I read a comment on a blog weeks ago in which the writer was horrified at the concept of doing without a dishwasher. My Tired of Being Youngest wholeheartedly concurred, but there was no change of opinion on my part.

      On some things, you just have to stand your ground.

      Speaking of ground, have you tried planting anything in that rich soil of all that stuff? I can imagine some very happy plants there!

      • cabinart says:

        Teeheehee, forgive my prying into your personal practices.

        You’d think that soil would be a gold mine, but it seems that decomposed granite remains decomposed granite-ish regardless. I planted watermelon there last year and the aphids covered them when the melons were about 1″ long. Then something icky and brown happened. All I could find to be happy about was that the gophers and deer never had a chance.

        • We’re planning to try watermelons out this year, and cantaloupe. The Son and Heir got hold of the seed catalog and we threw caution to the wind, saying, “Here’s the budget. Just make sure you order things we can eat.”

          It will be an interesting menu-season this summer — assuming that everything survives the aphids you mention, and then the gophers and deer. Let’s not talk about wire worms.

  3. planthoarder says:

    Passion can make someone extremely charismatic or extremely off-putting, depending on how compatible that passion is with our own beliefs and interests and how open each is to another point of view. I’m a “compost happens” kind of person, so while it might be interesting to hear how to do compost “right,” I doubt meeting a compost evangilist would change my mellow way of life. Thanks for putting this into writing. Food for thought.

    • Planthoarder: how very right you are. Passion is a good thing — I mean, the opposite is apathy — but oddly it requires a degree of control to be most effective.

      Like you, I am a “compost happens” person. Give that yard debris enough time, and you’ll have something to put on the zucchini to make it happy.

  4. There’s so much in this post I don’t know where to start with the love. It relates to your other post about being an “expert” in something- like what does it take to be a compost “expert?” Big fat tomatoes? Or proper paid-for scientific soil testing at regular intervals? How we have become obsessed with “finding your passion” as I read all the time- but perhaps without regard to how it’s the little bits of common sense a long the way that actually make life happen- not perfect compost. Thanks- I really enjoy your writing. 🙂

    • Thank you.

      You know, years ago people used to say that “the proof is in the pudding.” I’m thinking they didn’t mean chocolate or banana cream jello brand pudding so much as that boiled thing that British people eat at the holidays and stuff trinkets into.

      Regardless, seems to me the proof of how well a person’s compost works is in, as you observe, the tomato.

      Love the love. thank you.

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