In organic cultivation, compost is very, very important. Let me share a related anecdote.
A Saint in the Compost, by Montgomery Howard
A couple of weeks after turning the pile, it’s ready to sift. Scoop up a forkful of compost and throw it on the sifter. Work it around a bit. Toss what doesn’t go through the sifter to one side, to be used as starter for the next pile. Bag up what does go through, to be used as soil conditioner and fertilizer. Just one of so many routine jobs in the garden. This final step in the preparation of compost, like the other routine jobs, lends itself well to “being here now”, really getting into the moment for all its worth. Some very rich sensations are involved. It also, however, lends itself well to divided attention. That is, it can be done on autopilot, leaving me to “wander elsewhere now”.
So there I was, wandering elsewhere then, when a flash of green caught my eye as the forkful hit the sifter. Seeing green in the compost at this stage of development is unexpected. Soft yellows and browns and deep black are the colors that usually meet the eye. But seeing green, and having a sense that what I saw wasn’t compostable, I bent down to pick the thing up. It wasn’t compostable at all. It was made of plastic, smeared filthy with compost. Cleaning it a bit with my gloved hand, I saw it was a little capsule of transparent green plastic with a small amount of dirty water and some kind of something solid inside. I set it aside and continued my work. I managed to extract six five-gallon buckets of compost ready for the beds, as was usual. It was mid August and the last time I’d sifted the compost was three months earlier, as was also usual. It was usual, and it was insufficient. I just didn’t have enough kitchen waste, the fresh material, to combine with the dry material I have in abundance to be able to produce enough compost for the area I had in cultivation.
Later, when I washed the capsule off, I recognized it for what it was. It was a capsule with a tiny cast metal sculpture of a saint inside, Pilar has some on her altar. I’d found a saint in the compost! I managed to remove the flat bottom of the capsule, so I also cleaned the inside and the saint himself. Then I dried it all well and reassembled the capsule. I decided to put it on Pilar’s altar, since she has similar images there. I did so, then promptly forgot all about it.
A few days later when Pilar was putting fresh flowers in the vase on her altar, she got very excited at seeing Saint Judas Tadeo. “You’re back!”, she exclaimed. “Where’ve you been?” She picked him up, looked him over well, and put him back on the altar. She surrounded him with a couple other of his images, then arranged a few flowers in a small vase just for him. She was very happy. Pilar may not go to Mass often, but she maintains her altar with devotion.
She came out to the garden where I was weeding the beds to tell me about the reappearance of her image of Saint Judas Tadeo. When she described the image I knew it was the saint I found in the compost, so I told her the story. I asked her what he is the patron saint of. Of Difficult and Desperate Cases was what she told me. “Well,” I told her, “I hope he sees my difficult and desperate case and becomes as well the Patron Saint of Compost”. She laughed at that, but then said that surely he was pleased to have been found, cleaned, and returned to his place on the altar, so maybe he’d help us out.
We pieced together how he came to be in the compost pile. In May, the Frangipani blooms. The beautiful white, very fragrant flowers are one of Pilar’s favorites to use on the altar. They don’t have long stems, so she just lays them on the table, covering the entire surface, except for spaces around all the images she has there. After a few days they’re dry, so she picks them up and tosses them into the compost can in the kitchen. Saint Judas must’ve been caught up in the beauty or fragrance of the flowers. Pilar didn’t see him in the dried flowers and he wound up in the compost can. A few days after that he was in the compost pile where he resided for the next three months.
The Sunday after I found Saint Judas in the compost, we were approached by Celia, who sells fresh organic fruit and vegetable juices at the market. She asked if we would like to have all the waste from her Sunday sales. Of course, we said, and I told her I’d bring the buckets back clean every Sunday to fill again. It’s more than two times what we generate weekly in our kitchen. As a result, now I sift out six to eight buckets of rich compost, nature’s perfect plant food, every month!
So San Judas Tadeo, the Patron Saint of Difficult and Desperate Cases, is as well our Patron Saint of Compost.
Let us pray:
“Saint Judas Tadeo, Patron Saint of Compost and of Difficult and Desperate Cases, convert this organic matter into a rich fertilizer to aid our soil. Come help us with this great need so that we may receive the nutrients that give solace to our fruits and vegetables. We promise, Glorious Saint Judas, to never forget this great favor, and to do everything possible to foster organic cultivation in your devotion. Amen”
To take a visual tour of Huertos Bi Nisa, click on the link below.
Please note Huertos Bi Nisa’s new location in the entryway to Las Bugambilias Bed and Breakfast, next to the restaurant, bar & gallery La Olla,
Monty and Pilar at their new site, La Olla, Reforma 402, Centrol Historical.
at 402 Reforma, Saturday’s 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Pilar has a presention at http://www.flickr.com/photos/25313648@N04/4162135082/.
- Monty and Pilar at their New Location. PHoto by Alan Goodin