At My Happiest.

“You’re at your happiest”, she said.

I could only look at her with my usual non-comprehending face, mouth open, jaw dropped and blank expression. It’s a regular expression of mine. Mary makes statements, like the above, which leave me, well, wondering; wondering what’s coming next or wondering if she had said something before this that I didn’t hear (wasn’t listening! Shhhh!). There are two types of statements: those like the above which are short, a beginning, but lack a middle and an end and those which have a beginning, a middle which goes on forever but with no end in sight.

Last week I asked her if she knew that Billy’ Dunphy’s family used live in Barrack St. and this was answered with, “His mother was one of the Hearns. She was Cissy Hearn’s sister – Cissy was married to Michael McEvoy and they lived in Francis St.  They had two children, Joan and Paul. Joan was about our Betty’s age and Paul was older than me. Joan used borrow a Tansad (a baby buggy) and herself and Betty used go down to George’s St. and take Billy and me out for a walk around the town. They had a brother too, up in Sweetbriar Park, – you remember he used bring the children swimming in Newtown School Pool, a tall man with dark hair. He used live in on The Rock at one time; where Tobins live now. They used live in Barrack St. Did they? Oh, yes, they used live where the Singer Sewing Machine shop is on the corner of Barrack St. and Mayor’s Walk?”  Sometimes, it takes a roundabout route to get to an answer!

So, I waited for illumination and it came: “You’re at your happiest when you’re digging compost. You love it when you are digging out a compost bin, turning it from one bin to another.” OK, that wasn’t so bad; a bid odd, I suppose, but nothing upsetting about that and my incomprehension was cleared away. And, there was a ring of truth about it. I certainly enjoy turning the compost bins but I wouldn’t go as far as saying I am at my happiest when doing so. Goodness, life would be rather dull if turning compost was the highlight!

I do enjoy the job, to be honest and had a full day of it today. In the last few days there has been too much grass going into the compost bin – a grass cutting after a break of over a fortnight and then there was all that came from the two small lawns to the front of the house when I scarified them. All of this soft green material would lead to soggy, messy compost bin without any decomposition. Beside it was another bin which had had a large amount of material added over the winter from shrub and tree pruning. When shredded, these prunings produce a large volume of dry material which doesn’t decompose. The solution was to mix the two, wet and dry, green and brown, and that is what I spent my day doing – and I was happy at it.

Compost bins (1)
A compost bin with too much fresh green material – grass cuttings and grass and thatch from scarifying lawns. At least half the depth of this bin is fresh material which would simply form a sludge and never decompose.
Compost bins (3)
The bin on the right has about two feet of shredded prunings – too dry to decompose
Compost bins (2)
And the mixing begins, a layer of dry material, a layer of wet material etc etc
Compost bins (10)
Until the new bin is full. It has since been covered with a sheet of black plastic and will be ready for use next spring.
Compost bins (6)
The cleared bin is ready for fresh material
Compost bins (9)
Found in the compost bin – a regular occurrence.
Compost bins (8)
We have no potting compost at present as we are not able to go to the shops so I sieved some from the compost bin – the bottom layer was well decomposed.
Compost bins (11)
Three bags of compost ready for use.



12 thoughts on “At My Happiest.

  1. Making compost feels like “real gardening” to me. I consider the tranformation of debris into the black gold of compost is truly magical! My neighbour matches Mary’s description and since she was short of compost and I am still convalescent when it comes to turning compost, she did a marvellous job of sieving my compost heap for me. My receptacles up near the potting shed are all full and my friend went home with a barrow full for her garden! I am filling the empty bay very rapidly with new stuff and layers of the reject pile from the compost making!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have me smiling from ear to ear as I visualize you and Mary and your communication methods! A fun story, and I, too, enjoy taking care of my compost. Perhaps you could help me: I turn my compost, I don’t add any weeds, and I let it sit at least a season before using it. When I use it, it looks great! But I always get lots of unwanted things growing from where ever I place it around the garden. It is very frustrating. Any suggestions?
    Anyway, I really enjoyed your post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t mind adding weeds except for a few – dandelions which have a strong tap root and might survive the composing process. Docks, similarly, but I don’t come on very many of these so, in truth, everything goes into the compost bin. I have found a huge improvement in compost making since I started using a shredder to break up the material. That and adding the grass cuttings makes the heap very hot – too hot to leave your hand on it regularly. This kills most seeds I think and so we don’t get a lot of germinating when we put it out on the beds.

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  3. Hi Paddy, remember there is a soil bacteria Macrobacterium vaccae I think, that gives an effect like Valium if ingested or on a scratch or even juts in touch with you skin I believe. How often does a gardener come in with dirty hands, but happy? I’m sure the average compost heap would have plenty to give you a mild happy pill. Don’t tell Mary, she will have you turning the heap daily…

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  4. Hi Paddy. I’ve only seen this post now! Mam, Bernie, is the last of that generation. She’s 94 and is in Killure Bridge now. Her brother, Michael, was the one who lived in Sweetbriar Park. He died only a number of years ago, also in his 90s. I don’t remember being brought around town for a walk. Too long ago!!
    What’s the connection with compost?


  5. Now, to answer that question accurately, In would need to understand the workings and wanderings of my wife’s, Mary’s mind. You had posted something and I had passed comment to her – it was something about you living in Barrack St and then moving to George’s St. I just mentioned that to her and it opened the floodgates of her mind – a bit like her mother who would always start such a rambling with, “I remember….”. So, there is no connection whatsoever with the compost only she had made another of her kinds of comments on me in that regard. Mary has just told me that she doesn’t remember being brought around the town either but that Betty (Betty Keane – Galgey’s shop on the corner of The Glen and Francis St, Mary’s cousin.) and Joan McEvoy used bring you and her around for a walk. Long memories – Ballybricken people! Old town!


    1. And it has come back to mind that this had begun from an item you had written – a telephone conversation you had with your mother!


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