Thursday, 12 January 2012

Compost Companions

The Christmas cooking is done. The entertaining is over. The holidaying is complete. And surrounding me now are the remnants of what has gone before.
Most of it is spilling out of the recycling area of the kitchen. Paper, bottles, plastic wrappers and rotting food. It will disappear as if by magic when the recycling fairies arrive to take it away. Unfortunately, unlike the tooth fairies, the recycling species don’t leave money.
Fairies aside, there will definitely be other winged visitors coming to the recycling area at the bottom of the garden too, arriving to investigate one particularly part of it, the compost area.
Now, I am not a composting connoisseur. I am sure many things go onto our compost that those who know better would advise against. But, by not being overly cautious with my kitchen left overs, I seem to have attracted a diverse collection of natural scavengers.
For instance, with the mild winter I’ve noticed a variety of flies out and about enjoying the rotting fruit, without which they would surely struggle to find food at this time of year. I’m pleased about this. Flies and their associated maggots get a hard press, they’re always associated with dog poo and dirt, and therefor frowned upon.  But, without these mighty miniature munchers, nature would seriously lack one if natural street cleaners that tidy up our world.  If flies want to go through my kitchen left overs on the compost, then good on them.  Clean it up guys, go for it.
OK, I admit flies are, perhaps, not everyone’s cup of tea, but they’re far from the worst of the visitors to this area of the garden. That lowly position belongs to my dog. She devours all sorts of things she would turn her nose up if you were to put it in the dog bowl. But, make said inedible waste available to scavenge off the compost and oh boy, what a treat. It really has been Christmas everyday for Delilah this last week or two.
Once gorged on something wholly unsuitable she will then sure enough return to vomit it all back up in the sitting room.  No, dogs and composts are a bad mix. An unhappy accident of the compost world.
But I’m working out ways to keep her out and still allow my favorite compost visitors in, the starlings. A bit of mash potato and couscous salad went out yesterday and within moments a huge flock of starlings fell out of the sky into the young ash sapling that frames the recycling area. From here they made darting sorties down onto the rotting mountain and devoured the accidental offerings. These birds with their glossy metallic multi-coloured coat, intricately fascinating repertoire of calls and songs and rather fun, mob handed attitude always give me great pleasure to watch. And whilst they do visit the garden to simply comb the lawn for grubs or pick up some bread of the bird table, I kind of enjoy their sorties into the compost the most. I guess because I didn’t expect them to do it, and I enjoy the accidental nature of my relationship with them in this instance.
I have no doubt that others will be enjoying the compost. Famously grass snakes revel in the heat as the vegetable matter decomposes, an ideal place to lay eggs. And hedgehogs hibernate here through the colder winter months. I have suspicion that all manner of small rodents make an appearance once the lights are out too, scavenging away. All of them a happy re-cycling accident, benefitting from our over-indulgence at this time of year.
So, whilst the thought of having to drag myself out into the cold night to go and fill those recycling bins ready for the fairies, and slop the food bucket onto the compost, at least I know from nature’s point of view, its going to be well worth the effort.

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