Darkness comes early this time of year. So often, by the time I have a chance to take the kitchen scraps out, the sun has long set and I only have the light of the moon and a dim porch lamp to guide me back to my compost pile.
I don’t mind though. I walk this path every day, leaves crunching under my feet, the familiar rock path winding through small trees to the back of my yard. I still hear crickets chirping and our resident owl’s occasional call “who cooks for you” echoing across the yard.
I lift the lid of my compost bin and am about to pour out the contents of my kitchen collector when I see it. A tingling runs up my spine, goosebumps prickle my flesh, that sinking feeling of dread gnaws in my stomach.
What is that?
I lean closer into the bin, squinting in the darkness.
A white gossamer shape stretches across most of my compost. My heart races. A ghost? Could it really be a compost ghost?
Naturally, I do what any logical person does when confronted with something unknown. I pick up a stick and poke it. The fine thin arms like spider webs seem to reach out and grab the end of my stick.
Ah! It’s attacking!!!
The light of the moon hits the filaments and now I see. Now I understand.
Actinomycetes! A natural bacteria that looks more like a fungus, actinomycetes grow in the soil and sometimes in compost bins. Their enzymes help break down cellulose, bark, and woody stems. They give your finished compost a nice “woodsy” odor.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I drop my stick, empty my kitchen collector, and bury the food scraps, and the actinomycetes, in leaves.
“Compost ghosts,” I chuckle to myself as I walk back to the house. But I pick up the pace all the same.
Happy Halloween, composting friends!
Other ghoulish composting stories:Was Frankenstein an Outstanding Composter?
How to Practice Compost Witchcraft
Compost Like a Vampire
Three Warning Signs Your Compost is a Zombie