Photo by Del Barrett on Unsplash

The land is old, and old things are seldom won over quickly. The courting of Her, and of Her children, the spirits, is a process that takes generations. Ideally, you’d bury your dead in the place you were wooing, marry their bones to Her and offer Her the first of the things you coaxed from Her flesh every season. Odds are you’re new. Odds are you haven’t lived in your place for that long (four, maybe five generations, if you’re lucky). Odds are you rent, and have plans to move off one day and find a “real” place of your own.

Not to fret, dear. There’s passion to be found in the land, even if you only mean to be a sharp, fast kiss in the night, as these things go. Gifts are always good, even for brief couplings, and especially if those gifts are thoughtful and useful. Here, we’ll examine the compost bin, that most humble of garden devices, as a source of rich and plentiful offerings for you to give to the land where you find yourself. Your connection may not ever go deeper than a few years of your life, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be true and real.

For myself, while I’m fortunate enough to live in a duplex with a little bit of yard, I don’t have quite enough to erect a large, wooden bin. I don’t even have enough room for one of those large bins that you can turn to rotate the compost inside, and even if I did, no fencing means it would be easy enough to steal. What I’ve done is to take a simple blue tote, of the sort you can get at Wal-Mart for less than $10, and do a bit of altering to it to make it work for me (here’s a how-to guide, courtesy of The Spruce, if you’d like to make your own: https://www.thespruce.com/compost-bin-from-plastic-storage-container-2539493)

In order to consecrate it, I made sure that my first offerings to it were prayers written on paper with an “ink” made from tea bags, eggs from my local farmer’s market, and a “sacred pig” I made myself from flour and water. Think of a sacred cake, but one standing in for a pig sacrifice (as many of my gods are those worshiped by ancient Greeks, who held that pigs were a respectable offering for Demeter and Persephone, deities intimately involved with harvests).

There’s some disagreement on whether you should add bread to your compost pile. This is not because of any harm the bread could cause, but rather because some people feel the bread could attract pest. As my own compost pile is rich with vegetable and fruit scraps, however, and I quite enjoy seeing possums coming for a late-night snack, this doesn’t bother me at all. If you have concerns, skip this step and opt instead to sprinkle some pigs blood (purchased from your local butcher).

In order to create the pig, I first thought to make a salt-and-flour dough, as is often created by kids as a stand-in for playdough. I had some misgivings about effectively “salting the earth”, however, and I reasoned that since I was intending to put the “pig” directly into the compost bin, I didn’t need the preservative qualities of salt.

When I laid the pig in the compost bin, I made sure to snap off its head, effectively “killing” it and making an offering of it to the spirits of the land here. I then respectfully covered it with a bit of local soil, not just to shield it from the elements, but to also introduce some good bacteria to start the process of activating the compost.

If I tend to the compost bin frequently by rotating it with a shuffle, the first batch of soil should be ready to use in about three months. My plan is to take the first fruits and vegetables grown using it and offer it directly back to the compost bin and, by doing so, the land spirits. It’s an old practice my ancestors would have been familiar with, and one which can still have its place in our world today.

[Written by Ashley Nicole Hunter.]

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