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Garden Alchemy and a Place for Everything

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

For years I had tossed my organic waste: watermelon rinds, onion peels, etc., into the empty lot next door. I'd pile it up, but between the sun and the ants (my cat takes care of the mice) it never amounted to much compost. My girlfriend Veronica has been worm composting, making soil for her garden, for a few years now. Needing some soil myself for the new garden bed I'm preparing out front (pulling up cobblestones as I do), a couple of months ago I decided to try my own hand at it. There were advertisements for worm farms in the comic books I used to read as a child. And now I can affirm, as Max Yasgur did at Woodstock, "I'm a farmer," a worm farmer.

I know. I know. I felt the same as you. But when you see the way those little wiggly darlings can convert a week of table scraps into fertile ground, you look at them differently.

I bought a bag of tierra from a woman who knocked on my door early one morning. It's not soil. Not fit to plant in, at best it's mulch. Technically, I think it would be called leaf litter. Organic matter that has been accumulating under trees for some years, it's dry and fluffy. I started by mixing that leaf litter with the pulp left over from my daily, carrot-beet-cucumber-ginger juice; a big layer of litter a smaller layer of pulp, a big layer of litter... inside of a five gallon pail. I added some worms that I got from Vero. But the pulp was already pretty dry and the worms like it wetter and sloppy. So now every week, one by one, I empty my 5 pails out onto a couple of sheets of vinyl and layer them back up with all the kitchen waste I've accumulated in another smaller pail in my kitchen. Those worms are voracious and multiplying rapidly. Like those comic book ads promised, it is fun.

(The vinyl sheets are local campaign signs from years past. I admit I feel a certain glee emptying this mess of proto-soil out onto the smiling faces of politicians, and this, regardless of their party. Back when I was a boy, we distrusted them all.)

Also, I've recently developed another past-time... house-keeping. Sure I always had to clean up a little, especially before the cleaning lady made her weekly visit. If I didn't put things away, then she would, using her own logic about where they belonged. Then, afterwards, of course, I couldn't find them. Only half in jest and mostly for Veronica's entertainment I would complain, "Esa mujer" (that woman) as I searched through drawer or cabinet or closet for whatever it was I was missing.

But recently, in a near Herculean feat, I cleaned up my bodega, the space aside my landlady's entrance where I keep things I don't use very often and wouldn't mind much if someone walked off with. This done I reordered the closet in my bedroom, where I keep things I use more frequently or would mind losing. Then it was the kitchen cabinets; then the chest in the office and the living room hutch.

It was one of the Chinese Medicine doctors I worked or studied with who said, "If you want to improve the feng shui (the energy or chi) of your house, you must clean out your closets." It's hard to have a good vibe when you have skeletons, or even dirty laundry, in your closet.

Anyway, with those out-of-sight spaces now less out of mind, my house-keeping hobby has spread to the forefront. Just above the kitchen sink I have a pass-through between cocina and living room where I've learned to put my computer and watch (or just listen to) Youtube videos while washing dishes, cooking, swabbing down counters or otherwise puttering around. This well-placed hole also allows me to quickly wash some dishes (the kitchen is so small) during the dinner party, while maintaining my part in the conversation.

Vero says yes, but I'm not sure about adding artichoke leaves to my worm farm. So this morning I took out two yogurt containers of them to my old pile in the lot next door. The morning was overcast, giving me a strange delight, like those relatively rare cloudy days summering on the Connecticut shore when I was young. This Mexican sun can be a bit much.

As most of you already know, the rainy season, such as it is here in this high semi-desert, is July and August. Those afternoon thunderstorms, taking the heat out stone, concrete, bricks and the air, make those months pleasant. The months of May and June, on the other hand, are dry and hot, the most uncomfortable of the year. This year though, the rains and freshness have come early, here now in May. The afternoon sky clouding up, the storms are smaller than summer's, less thunder and lightening, less rain, but they are a blessing none-the-less.

Farmer that I now am, I think of the crops of corn, milpa, in the surrounding communities that are luxuriating in the regular wettings we're enjoying. Not summer's downpours, this measured precipitation, is just right for the ground to absorb. The presa (our nearby reservoir), suffering from last year's lack of rain, won't fill without those summer deluges, but now with these unexpected waterings there is a lot of relief in the campo (countryside).

Earlier this morning, my artichoke leaves just deposited, I walked over to a sizable chunk of soil, still formed into the shape of the pot it had recently filled, that someone had recycled in the lot. Standing there wondering if I should carry it back to the new bed in front of my house, inclined to do so, I felt some raindrops falling out of the gray sky. The rain increasing precipitously, I went inside and continued my meteorological revelry out the window, watching the rain wet and splash the ground and walls still moist from last night's drizzle.

Now, in the time it took to write this, a few blue patches appeared and have grown into a general clearing. The sun shines, adding its gold sheen to the already golden walls of my patio. The orange tabby sitting on my lap, golden himself, wants to be fed again. (There is food in his bowl, but that's not the thing. He likes receiving it, me pouring in even a very little bit more.) So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get up and do that and then maybe I'll straighten the place up a bit.

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Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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