Sunday, 14 October 2007

Making a cake

I've been doing what my wife normally does so very well. I've been baking a cake.

This cake however, takes about one year to cook well. The ingredients are fresh and yet not appetising when you put them in. This recipe doesn't involve much mixing or even a big hot oven but when I cut a slice of that cake today, it smelt so fresh and looked so good, I was almost tempted to taste it.

I went to the plot this morning hoping to find something to do to fill an hour. I had played with the idea of turning over the long standing compost heap at the head of the plot for a few weeks and had avoided it because of the unknown state of the contents. I have been adding various elements over the past twelve months as it became available,kitchen scraps on a weekly basis, leaf mould when a load was dumped for the site users and likewise with the horse/stable manure. My plot refuse, everything from lettuce trimmings to runner bean vines and rhubarb leaves was added as it was collected.

I hadn't turned the plot more than once during the year and had covered it with either strawy manure or cardboard boxes flattened out to keep the worst of the rains out and the warmth,if any,in.

Today, after scraping the top undigested layers off, I found pure gold underneath. Well rotted, crumbly friable rich compost.

As I described it, it was liking slicing into a nice moist firm cake. The depth of the compost was maybe only 24" at the most but it was dense, soft and very rich. I make no idle boast when I say it had the consistency of potting compost from the more expensive shop bought ranges.

The compacted fly in my beautiful cake mix?

The previous tenant/s at some point had for some reason buried a selection of large stones in the pit which sprang many surprises as I dug in enthusiastically as did the lengths of string that must have tied up some bundled waste. The blue plastic sheeting which must have provided some protection many years past was easier to spot though. It had broken down due to photo degradation and was liberally sprinkled in tiny flakes throughout.

Encouragingly, I only started finding any sign of weed incursion when I reached the floor of the original pit, bindweed's bright white ropes twisting through the soil below and creeping into my lovely plant food feast.

As I barrowed load after load onto my hungry soil, I marvelled at the way nature turns everything back to its starting point in time. And there, amongst the dark brown mixture, were the head chef's, kitchen hands and scullery maids who make it all happen. The compost was alive with tiny creatures from woodlice and worms to slugs and spider to microscopic bacteria and centipedes.

A living . wriggling mass of slicing dicing and chopping teeth and stomachs that magically transform the everyday cast of rubbish we produce into this vital life giving feast.

A morning well spent and a satisfied gardener exercised and enthralled. Not bad for muck!

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