The halton region gives away free compost twice a year. You just need to bring your own shovel, containers and a donation for the food bank and you can take home the equivalent of 8 garbage bags of still-steaming dirt to satisfy your gardening appetite. And I'm not afraid to admit that not much gets me as excited as the free compost giveaway event.
This year, I decided to take my son, Cole. He's nearly three years old and loves to dig holes in his sand box. Sadly, the small sand box can barely meet his digging-in-the-dirt needs, so taking him along seemed like a great idea.
We put on his splash pants and his Bob the Builder crocs. He ran into the back yard and got his plastic orange garden spade and I found his Lightning McQueen gardening gloves. We loaded up the Mazda and away we went.
We drove way up Bronte Road and turned left into the landfill. Then we zig zagged through the windy roads until we came to the happy Partnership West Volunteers. I handed them my two canned goods and then asked Cole to hand me the one he was holding. He misunderstood me and offered me his shovel.
We followed the orange safety cones and then entered the big dirt parking lot with long lines of mounds of warm compost. I backed the car up to a pile and unloaded my son and our tools.
The atmosphere at the compost giveaway is surprisingly festive. It seems to draw a certain type of crowd - humble and frugal gardeners, giddy at the idea of feeding their crops for free. It also feels great contributing to the carbon cycle. We rake our crispy leaves out onto the road for leaf pick-up in the fall and they get speed-decomposed with heat and whatever other magic they do here at the landfill and the end result falls right back into our hands. It's wonderful.
I've almost mastered my technique. If your container of choice is paper yard waste bags, like me, then make sure you line the bottoms with newspaper. Because if the warm compost sits in them for any length of time beyond a day, the moisture will interfere with the integrity of the bag. Also, you need to bring a bucket. That way, you can fill your paper bag half way, THEN put it into the trunk of your car and then continue to fill it using the bucket. Also, a bucket is the perfect height for a 3-year-old to deposit his shovel-fuls of dirt into.
Cole got right to work. He had on his red gloves and gripped his orange shovel. And each time he turned around with a heap of dirt balanced on the shovel and I was emptying the bucket, he giggled and said, "HEY!" He even tried climbing the compost heap at one point. The compost was light on the shovel, so it was easy to scoop. And on such a cold morning, the mounds were giving off a welcome warmth.
As I filled the fifth bag, I said to Cole, "This is the last one. We're going home soon. Thanks for being such a good help."
Cole paused in his shovelling and turned to look at me. What a picture he made standing knee-deep in dirt, holding that orange shovel with a fine speckling of dirt all through his copper hair and on his face. He looked up at me dreamily and exclaimed, "I want to stay here forever!"