Saturday, February 19, 2011

Compost (and the actual "Taming of the Shrew")

Oh, compost. My old friend, we meet again... who would have guessed (certainly not I) that I would become an expert in compost construction during my time in New Zealand? This morning's (and afternoon's) five-hour marathon task involved spreading old compost, then creating a bedding of sticks and leaves, a wall of bricks (oh yes, I'm a stonemason again!) to separate the new compost from the old cabbage leaf compost, and crafting alternating layers of compost ingredients. I could hear Rosemarie in my head as Penelope instructed me on how to alternate the compost layers; her system was very similar to Rosemarie's, with a few minor adjustments (a variation on a theme). After the initial layers of sticks, we laid down a layer of leaves and pea-straw ("dry") and then watered that down and sprinkled on "cow pooh water" (the yummy concoction was exactly what the name describes it to be). On top of that went the "green stuff", which was the huge pile of weeds I had managed to amass after four days of ravaging the garden. On top of that went a sprinkling of hydrated lime, and then another layer of dry pea-straw, starting the whole cycle again. Interspersed into the "green stuff" layers I added the seaweed I collected from the beach two days ago, and wheelbarrow loads of mulching chips that Malcolm (and later Ilya) generated by running branches and sticks through the gas-powered mulcher in the front yard. I also turned the existing "old" compost into the new compost, helping to aid its decomposition, and spreading the desired bugs and bacteria into the new compost pile.

Finally, by 2pm, I had a compost pile four metres by one and a half, and about three-quarters of a metre tall, or about 4.5 cubic metres of compost... that's a lot of compost, and boy, did my back and hands feel it! (I imagine I also looked and smelled like a compost by the end of it, either).

Thankfully, Penelope had created a delicious lunch for me and Ilya (rice, millet, and stewed veggies), and a slice of my banana cake for dessert. After lunch I sat around like a vegetative blob... I was exhausted from all my carting and shovelling and raking and spreading. As a thank-you for all my hard work, Penelope asked if I would like to go see an outdoor production of The Taming of the Shrew this evening with her oldest son, Vaughn, and his girlfriend, Kristin.

The production was put on by Top Dog Theatre, a local amateur theatre company, and on the Mound Lawn at Mona Vale, a historic farm estate on the Avon River. The picturesque setting was perfectly fitting for a Shakespearian production, and the three hundred or so audience members were crowded on the gently sloping lawn, sitting on blankets and in deck chairs, dining on picnic dinners and enjoying glasses of wine (there was even a draw at intermission for a bottle of wine, te he).

After a bit of an embarrassing moment at the gate (where Kristin made a big fuss about the tickets costing $12; she's American, and I hate to confess that I found her reaction and general temperament to be that of a typical American), we found a space to sit, and sat back to be entertained. And entertained we were! I had never seen The Taming of the Shrew (I've seen Kiss Me, Kate!), and this was a delightful way to experience it for the first time. Shakespeare is really meant to be heard and seen, not read... even though I didn't understand the usage of an occasional word or phrase, the spirit of the story easily shone through. As for the misogynistic-untertone-debate, I didn't pay it too much attention; I didn't feel like getting bent and twisted over something written over four hundred years ago, and intended as a comedy to boot. (But believe you me, I'll be doing a bunch of literary criticism reading on the play over the next few days!). I can't lavish enough praise upon the actors; they made Shakespeare come alive, and their flawless memorization was no small feat, I am sure!

After the play ended Vaughn and Kristin drove me back to Penelope's, where Ily and I got into a debate about the amount of corn-derived products in the food system, culminating in he, Edward, and I watching an iTunes U podcast on my computer of a lecture by Michael Pollan (drawn primarily from his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma). Now I am in the living room, Malcolm and Ilya and I are all on our computers (two MacBooks and a Dell), and Penelope and Edward are behind us, talking about Edward's trip to the lake, and the data he was able to gather to further the fight against the Hurunui Water Project.

Now it is 11:40pm, and I'm yawning like crazy... I think it is bedtime for Shakespearian compost-wenches. :-P Night!


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