Monthly Archives: June 2008

WHY Decomposition Uses Nitrogen (or, What I Learned Today #2)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what happens when sawdust decomposes. But the account was incomplete, and I am here today to rectify that error. Call me honest, call me obsessive; I’m going to set the record straight, sawdust-wise.

I wrote then that sawdust makes a lousy lawn fertilizer because it requires so much nitrogen to decompose, and it contains very little. So far, so good. But when I wrote that “it requires nitrogen to break down, and it’ll make use of whatever it can lay its sawdusty little paws on,” I misspoke.

I know what you’re thinking: sawdust does not have paws. But that’s not where I’m headed. No, what’s at stake here is not anatomy, but agency. It’s a mistake to refer to sawdust as making use of nitrogen or to suggest that sawdust “gets” nitrogen whether with paws, hands, or any other part of its being.

It’s a mistake, in a sense, even to refer to sawdust (or anything else) as decomposing, as if this were something that it did all by itself. In fact, of course, something decomposes it. And not just one something; lots of somethings. These somethings are called—brace yourself—decomposers.

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Done at last–

At about three a.m. on Friday morning, I mailed my one hundred and thirty-two-page opus, the lawn-care article, off into the world and entered upon a new phase of life: the post-organic-lawn-care-article phase. I feel dazed.

When we were children, my sisters and I each had a special adult. Mine was Shifra, and she gave me two gifts, aside from the intangibles. One was The Bat Poet, one of those odd, unlikely, perfect books, which I have loved my whole life but whose author I had to look up for this post: Randall Jarrell, the poet, with pictures by Maurice Sendak. No wonder it is so beautifully crafted, a gift to the world.

Near the end of the book it is autumn, and the bat’s squirrel friend is so busy carrying nuts to his hole that he can’t stop to talk or to listen to the bat’s poems. Then one day when he reports in a dazed voice, “It’s full. My hole’s all full.”

That’s how I feel at the moment.

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Green Thumb Sunday: Larkspur in the Rock Garden


My first Green Thumb Sunday, and I’m all a-twitter, like my older sister before her first high school dance–How ‘s my hair? How’s my dress? Do these shoes go with this dress? How do I look? (It turned out she’d done it all wrong–she’d dressed up, and everyone else was wearing blue jeans. Hmm.)

I do realize that posting a day late is not generally recommended. Anyone who wants to go into that can check the previous post.

For my debut GTS post, I’ve chosen the larkspur in our rock garden.


A collaborative effort between my husband and me, this garden is one of the most successful in the yard. It needs almost no care,

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Blogless for a Day–Horrors! Or, Eric to the Rescue

This post is about why the next post, for Green Thumb Sunday — my first GTS! — is late. There may be some amongst you who are inclined to point out that writing this post (twice, as it disappeared into the void once as I tried to save, but I am nothing if not persistent–otherwise, I’d still be single) makes that post even later. You would be correct. Nevertheless, it would be appreciated if you would keep that observation to yourselves. Thank you.

I haven’t had to log into Typepad since this account was set up last August, but suddenly yesterday I did. (Why? Why, I ask you, why?) My memory is good enough to ensure that I climb into the right bed at night, but beyond that it’s pretty hopeless, so the chance that I’d remember the password was about nil. I’ll spare you the details of the multiple (wrong) tries, the inspired (but wrong) guesses, the e-mails to relevant support personel and the rest. It was an evening of hair-pulling, teeth gnashing, breast beating and all the time-honored gestures of grief and despair.

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Soliciting Advice: What to call the meme of ignorance?

Continuing the trend in unfortunate acronyms, I’m starting a new category, the working title of which is Research in Progress. I’ve considered Things I Don’t Know and several variations (What I Don’t Know, Things I Don’t Know Yet,) but there’s just no cachet to TIDK, WIDK, or even TIDKY. Still others– TIKL (Things I’ll Know Later (I hope)) or TILL (Things I’ll Learn Later)– show promise; we’ll see how they develop over time.

The other problem, of course, with Things I Don’t Know or any variation on it, is that the list would be unmanageably, indeed infinitely, long. Let’s not go there. It’s a fertile plot that will indubitably be thoroughly tilled and eagerly harvested by sons #s1 and 2. Thank goodness they don’t read this blog.

Truth to tell, I’d like to be able to use RIP, TIKL, and TILL all three. I know, greedy, greedy.

So I could use some input here. Which one do you like? Can you come up with something better?

If there isn’t a meme out there on this, I think there should be. Something like Wordless Wednesday or Green Thumb Sunday. How about Ignorant Tuesday? (You know, I.T.) Everyone who participates would write a short entry on something they DON’T know—a question, a curiosity, a gap. And there’s a chance someone else would be able to fill the gap.

I know forums do a lot of this, but I like the idea of bringing it home to the blog, and of the sort of random search involved.

I rather like TIKL for this—(Tuesday Information Knowledge List? Not great. Maybe this: Share Tuesday Info Know List? (STIKL)) No—Tuesday Ignorance-Knowledge List. Still horrible.

Help. I need help.