The Flower Bed

The garbage truck comes up the street 4 times a week in Tainan. Though recyclables are only collected on two of those evenings, trash and kitchen waste go every time. But during the last 10 years of our residence (the first 25 were in Kaohsiung), we had a house with a little backyard, so I chose to bury the kitchen waste instead of putting it into the pot on the truck. Maybe I was lazy, but I prefer to see it as being “environmentally conscious.” 

That turned into a habit which transferred to our current dwelling place in Holland, MI. There was a framed box on a concrete pad next to the garage that appeared to have been a child’s sandbox for previous owners.  I threw some dirt into it, then began burying the vegetable trimmings, fruit peels and coffee grounds from our kitchen. During the first summer as squash seed sprouted and we actually had a harvest! But I didn’t like the box, or the idea of doing this on a concrete surface, so I tore down the walls and moved the compost to another location, mixing it with a couple small bales of straw on the way.

The pile grew. During the cold of winter, when it was frozen too hard to dig, I kept the kitchen waste in a couple large flower pots in the garage, where it, too, froze. When things got warmer, I went back to burying.
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Walking around town, I’ve observed raised planting beds in community gardens and beside some homes. I still had the longest boards from that original box, so I recently nailed them together again on a bit of the lawn (not on the concrete) and began the laborious task of moving all that wet, heavy “dirt, garbage and straw mix” a few feet. It won’t be enough to fill the thing, but spring cleanup of the yard should provide enough other stuff to give a base.  

I’d thought of doing a little vegetable farming, but then recalled that this neighborhood is overrun with squirrels, and rabbits are not rarely seen. So, when the project is built and all the dirt has  been transferred, I’ll plant flowers. The ugliness of the box will be somewhat offset by the beauty of the blooms.

In Taiwan I did it differently. I cut the bottom out of some plastic barrels and set them into the ground. After depositing yet another pitcher of trimmings and grounds into them, I put the lid on and weighted it with a brick. After 10 years, that  little backyard was filled with low spots and soft soil, but it was rich dirt. 

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

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