Late each spring, as Brigitte girds herself for about the fifth round of serious garden work, I have to fetch her a wheel-barrow-full of fresh black dirt from that shaded, dark strip of land from behind our garage. We have a compost heap although “heap” isn’t the right word. It is a rectangular frame of wood I’d covered with wire mesh when first I made it, oh, a decade or so ago. Here we dump our vegetable wastes and empty the mower’s grass bag. The rack has a great capacity to digest such waste. Its level rises and then slowly sinks again as rot and decay turn lower layers grayish-yellow and then black with rain and time. Once every year or so, this time of year, I dig a big hole in the back to fill the barrow. The new dirt then serves to fill the pots and to enrich our flower-beds. I fill the hole again from the compost heap, lifting oddly shaped pitch-forks full of stuff from its upper layer and burying them again out back. I mark the spot with a brick. The stuff will lay there for three years and, in the process, turn into black dirt again.
Meanwhile, for the third year in a row, I’ve left the bottom layer of the compost heap entirely undisturbed lest I interfere with the life of one splendid specimen of Cucurbita pepo. Long live the pumpkin!