My interest in composting was born out of sheer desperation. Many years ago in Vermont, as I was making an attempt to seed a lawn and grow a garden on five shady acres of acid soil littered with rocks, I was desperate to find a way to enrich and amend the thin coating of topsoil I had to work with. I had heard of composting and decided to give it a try. My first attempts were blissfully ignorant, free of form, and not restricted by a container or a technique. My compost piles consisted of loosely build haystacks set at irregular intervals around the yard.
I would add leaves in fall (plenty of those in Vermont), kitchen scraps daily, lime when I had it, and manure once a year, whenever the farm down the road would agree to deliver. I watered the piles when they started to smoke and turned them when they got too clumpy. After a year went by, to my amazement the garbage and leaves magically began to morph into the most wonderful, porous black dirt. When one pile got too tall, I would start another haystack and eventually there were seven stacks working in different stages of development. I loved those compost piles almost more than my gardens. They were amazing, alchemical experiments in my own backyard, working day and night to turn waste into "black gold."
One day, when working the compost, it occurred to me that composting could be a metaphor for that part of the natural life cycle that causes breakdowns and death. As an astrologer, this sounded like a perfect description of the higher manifestation of Scorpio. In ancient mythology, the higher side of Scorpio is represented by the Phoenix. The story of this remarkable bird, which was said to resemble an eagle, was that after living for 500 years it met its death in a blazing fire. After it had died, the Phoenix was magically resurrected and rose up from the ashes to live forever in the heavens. If we take the resurrection concept into the personal realm, the compost then becomes a template for how to recycle and reuse our emotional "waste materials." In this way, by creating an emotional compost pile, it might be possible to turn negative emotions like hate, regrets, and envy into a kind of psychological "gold."
What's Good for the Garden is Good for the Soul
Browns provide a carbon-rich base that is one of the key elements in the successful compost pile. The browns are yang in nature, and include dry materials such as dried lawn clippings and weeds, and kitchen scraps that have little or no moisture. The best example of browns are the dead leaves that fall off of deciduous trees in autumn, when the moisture has withdrawn into the tree roots in preparation for winter. Dead weeds, dry grass clippings, straw, and wood chips are other examples of browns.
Greens are waste materials that are yin in nature (wet and moist). Greens include any fresh garden waste, such as fresh grass clippings and garden weeds, and kitchen scraps that still hold plenty of water, such as coffee grounds and vegetable leavings. (Tip: Never put fish, meat, or oils in the compost because they attract animals.) Well-cured farmyard manure also comes under this category. All greens provide a nitrogen-rich atmosphere that creates the heat that the compost pile needs to support the microorganisms that facilitate the process of decomposition.
For example, a pile made up of 25 to 50 percent greens will heat up in the shortest time. But you must also consider that more is not always better. If you see smoke coming out of your compost, you might be creating a dangerous fire hazard and making the pile too hot for the microorganisms to live. Using too much of the browns will cause the opposite effect. The pile will dry out. Try experimenting with different brown-to-green rations until you find the balance that works best for you.
Turning it On
Last but not least, a happy compost pile is a moist compost pile. The moisture content of your compost will depend on your weather zone. If you live in a hot, dry climate, your compost will need frequent sprinklings. On the other hand, if you live where the rainfall or snowfall is heavy, you may need to cover the compost pile to protect it from becoming too wet. But whatever your weather pattern, the goal is the same. You want to maintain a moisture level that is not too dry and not too wet. The aim is to create a friendly climate for those tiny but beneficial organisms that will work diligently to decompose the waste in your compost pile and transform "garbage" into "black gold" that you will use to enrich the soil in your lawn or garden. By adding nutrients and balancing the acid to alkaline rations, you can make sandy soil hold water and clay soil less dense.
Composting by the Moon
Best Days to Start a Compost Pile
Best Days to Turn a Compost Pile
Best Days to Add Waste and to Water a Compost Pile
What Kind of Bin to Use
Excerpted from Llewellyn's 2008 Moon Sign Book. Click here for current-year calendars and almanacs.
Pam Ciampi has been a professional astrologer since 1975. She has served as past president of the San Diego Astrological Society and is President Emeritus of the San Diego Chapter of NCGR. Pam has been the author of the ...