Brendan Gill, a legendary staffer at The New Yorker for four of its first five decades, recalled poet and novelist Robert Graves in his memoir, Here at The New Yorker (Random House, 1975). “Graves, a devoted gardener, has long been in the habit of naming compost heaps after friends. During my visit he honored me by naming his latest compost heap after me. A friend that Graves and I have in common — the banker-scholar, R. Gordon Wasson — had recently been honored in similar fashion. I was understandably proud when, some months after my visit to Deya [Majorca], I received a letter from Graves, in which he mentioned that ‘the Gordon Wasson is something of a disappointment, but the Brendan Gill is rotting nicely.'”
Having discovered this passage at 6 a.m. this morning while I lazed abed, I have decided to adopt the practice myself. I long ago inserted in my Last Will and Testament the hope that after cremation I will be composted, but it never occurred to me to unmortalize others by christening current mulch piles. (“Immortalize” just doesn’t apply to such a practice.)
This brings to mind my grandma and grandpa cactuses, the two plants in whose pots I sprinkled the cremains left in my grandparents’ respective baggies after my father and I scattered the better portion in a Florida lake two decades ago. I can’t recall why I decided to do the deed, but, needless to say, the cactuses are part of my permanent plant collection at this point. (Doing well, in case you wondered.)
For those less concerned with disposition and labeling and more interested in the fundamentals of composting and other aspects of organic culture, I direct your attention to the 13th annual Organic Grower’s School. The perennially sold-out event will be at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock on Saturday, March 11, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The event consists of seminars, classes, half-day workshops and a children’s program aimed at all levels, from first-time gardeners to professional growers. Subjects include veggies, flowers, lawns and fruit trees; livestock, from bees to dairy herds; no-till gardens and permaculture; raised beds and eco-villages; farm computer systems and hydroponics; and tailgate markets, restaurants and recipes. New offerings this year will address sustainable-energy options and the next generation of farmers, which will focus on helping young families start commercial-growing operations. An additional session, “Tools (Tricks) of the Trade — Innovative Equipment for Successful Small-Acreage Production,” will be held at Warren Wilson College on Sunday, March 12, from 1 to 5 p.m.
Register now, because late fees are charged after March 1, and attendance is limited. The cost is $35 for adults, $30 for students and $25 for children, with a $5 add-on for half-day workshops. Lunch reservations are available for $10. For more information, contact Karen Vizzina, the Organic Grower’s School registrar, at Karen@organicgrowersschool.org or 369-2375. And you can register online at www.organicgrowersschool.org.