Days 2 & 3 of WCG Volunteering

Well, there’s nothing like the feeling of starting a new project… it’s the continuing that’s harder (as we all know).

Life got in the way for last week’s Working Bee and this week I’m airport bound. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been up.

Popped up on Friday and got to share in some weeding (think my technique may still need work but it was good to weed and chat with the women who do so much for the community through the Waitaki Community Gardens).

Then yesterday, Ra walked me and my visiting friend (Kerin) through our paces on making compost. Green layer, then brown layer and so on until we’d exhausted our ingredients.

Turns out that making compost is a lot like baking. Gather the ingredients, mix and cook. Yet, it’s nowhere near that simple either as it takes six months to turn out perfect compost. Our recipe looked something like this:

Mix the following in layers:

  • organic waste
  • shredded, dried brassica stalks mixed with cow poo
  • fresh grass clippings
  • hay

Normally (I have on the best authority), we’d add some water between layers but as it happened, our ingredients were wet enough.

Then we covered it from the worst of the rain and cleared up.

That first mix should reduce really quickly and can be topped up (using the same, brown then green, formula). Then you turn it every two months, for a total of three times which makes it a six month process for ideal compost.

Of course, this recipe makes it look really simple. As Ra says, it’s all about the microbials and stuff… and there’s a lot to know and look out for… the thickness of layers, tszujing at the right time and for the right amount (I liked tszujing), the time of year, how big the woody bit are… and more…

For example, fresh grass clippings apparently heat up really well but older grass clippings can be mouldy (not in a good way) and clump. Like all artisan expertise – the devil is in the detail. And yet, I already understand more than I did. What’s more… there’ll be plenty of opportunities to actually see the process unfold over the coming months.

More than anything, I appreciate Ra’s patience and her generous knowledge sharing. I ask the dumb questions and she answers without a hint of intolerance. (By way of example, I asked if fallen leaves were ‘green’ or ‘brown’ in the mix and she smiled and said ‘brown, cause they’re dead leaves’ and that makes perfect sense in hindsight but I wasn’t sure).

What’s amazing to me is that as a fully fledged grown up, I’m not often in a situation where I am a complete novice. We all learn a whole heap of stuff over the years… half the time don’t really notice what we know… but as we get older, it can be rare to be in a situation where we are truly ignorant.

At the gardens, I am a complete newby… and I love it! It creates a kind of wonder that I haven’t had for a while. It’s like being a kid again in some ways. That’s a special kind of magic.

While I’ve always been a good reader; I couldn’t learn what I’m learning from a book. Seeing, smelling, feeling, listening to the details… that’s a priceless education.

So what I’m saying is, whether you’re a gardening enthusiast or a newby like me – the feel-good factor of the gardens is hard to beat. Come join the fun!

Kerin and Ra – compost done!

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