Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cycles and Cycles

There have been so few bees this year I've had to pollinate the squash blossoms myself. Until last week I'd seen one bee, and that one was skinny and miserable-looking. Only in the last week have fat, furry, active bees shown up in the garden. I captured a picture of this one only this morning. But Summer glides toward Fall. Though the days are "hot like Hell", to quote a man in the parking lot at the grocer's today, the days are growing shorter. Where the light lingered until 11:00 pm in late June and early July, now it's dark by 9:00.

In the garden the summer's second clutch of robins are now flying clumsily from branch to branch. At this moment a mother robin is stuffing her youngster with worms she's pulling out of the ground like spaghetti.

Beneath the tree in the front we've had wave after wave of mushrooms, of several different types. They are amazing to watch. Some grow so fast you can see them expand. Some were delicate, almost transparent, with sinuous curves like the fleshy edge of a clam. Others looked like your typical grocery store brown mushroom but within hours the caps flattened, flared out and split. Others were shaggy, almost hairy.

Salvador has a cat friend down the way. His friend is a big fluffy grey cat named Elvis. Sal walks down most days to visit with Elvis. A "visit" consists of the two of them touching noses and then lying down two or three feet apart and ignoring each other. While Sal is allowed outside only on a leash, Elvis is the park's mouser. He is allowed to run free.

Elvis comes up to visit Sal at night, sitting outside Sal's enclosure. Last night he brought Sal a mouse as a gift, which he left outside. I was watering the garden when Sal discovered this gift. He lay with his paw on it for a long time, but (thank goodness) had no interest in eating it. We eventually lured him away with the promise of a "cookie", and our neighbour used his grabber to pick the mouse up and dispose of it.

In our continuing efforts to green up I turned an old laundry basket into a composter. It's been very successful, and it has devoured almost all our kitchen scraps all summer, keeping them out of the garbage bin. I started by tossing some sticks in the basket. Then I put some purchased manure/potting soil mix on the sticks, and added my scraps and some grass clippings from the day's mowing.

I have an old ice bucket with a snugly fitting lid which sits near the sink. I put all my peels, trimmings and leftovers (except meat) in the bucket and when it's full I take it out to the composter. The first few times I simply scattered the trimmings over the top of the stuff that was there, and covered them with an inch layer of the bagged soil mix. When it got about half full I just started pulling back the top layer, stirring the bottom up a bit, adding the trimmings and pulling the top layer back over the top. I water it lightly every four or five days, and it's never smelled or attracted bugs.

The resulting soil is now very bioactive. I dump the scrap bucket into the basket and within three or four days there's nothing recognizable left. It eats up pepper steams and apple cores, corn cobs, onion peels, banana peels, even egg shells. The compost in that laundry basket is black and will be almost unbelievably rich next spring. We're now eating tomatoes, squash, herbs and even the occasional green bean from our little garden. Next year I will plant more vegetables in the very sunny hot space at the south end of the trailer, and this compost should be the perfect growing medium.

One afternoon this week I looked down and saw an enormous Antheraea polyphemus moth. Its wingspan was the length of my hand. These moths emerge from their cocoons in the afternoon, breed in the evening and die within hours. They do not feed, in fact they have no mouths or digestive systems. They are lovely creatures, and I enjoyed seeing this one.

There was a very serious accident on the road late this afternoon. A car struck one of the park residents who was crossing the road on her bike. Our next door neighbour saw the accident and called 911. There was a paramedic in the car behind the vehicle which struck the woman. He immediately began to administer CPR, but our neighbour said she was so severely injured that she appeared to be beyond help. She was a quiet woman. She kept to herself and didn't socialize but she was a neighbour, and her death will come as a shock and a tragedy to those who loved her, her children, her grandchildren.

Death comes, for the moth, the mouse, and for us. But life comes again too, not necessarily in the same form, but transformed by a very active universe. The cycle continues as it has for untold ages, and though the fabric of the world is rent, it is also continually rewoven and repaired.