Because in our heart of hearts we dream of tree-lined lanes and vegetable gardens and evening skies full of stars, we started a worm bin last summer. By December we had two bins, each full and weighing at least forty pounds. We didn’t weigh them, that number is not factual, is actually based on the amount of effort it required to haul the blasted things in and out of the closet, but “fifty pounds” sounds better than “really f-ing heavy”. So here we are in our little Harlem apartment, in the middle of an east coast winter, with a gajillion pounds of vermicompost. That was when my mom suggested we give it away as Christmas gifts, because nothing says Merry Christmas like a zip lock bag full of worm poop.
There was much fussing and oohing and ahhing when Michael and I hauled the sagging bins from the closet. My parents were both there, in town for the holidays, and as I harvested the compost I explained what we put in and what we didn’t, how long it took the worms to get through what, showed them bits of egg shell still at the bottom, the swarming, writhing worms. I was picking cherry pits out of a handful of partially digested compost when I realized that bit of green I was looking at wasn’t undigested vegetable matter. It was a sprout. Something we’d eaten and discarded had taken hold and now there was a tiny, perfect sprout. I was so excited I stopped breathing.
I didn’t know how much I loved growing things until I moved to New York and couldn’t grow things. After all, it’s hard to grow things in a place where your windows look out at other windows and four out of seven days a week the sun won’t even drive in. In Los Angeles I had a garden, a rose garden and two oak trees and ivy and impatiens and lilies and I never ever went out there because I didn’t want to get dirty.
This weekend Mike and I were waiting for the D at 125th Street and a terrible stinking drip of city gravy fell with a splat on the side of my face and dripped down my neck. The whole platform ceiling was oozing with city gravy and Mike got an ear full at the exact moment I was hit and we cried out in unison, “Dodge the gravy!” Number twelve on my list of things New York has taught me is that cities are far dirtier than gardens, and not nearly as enchanting.
When we finally move back to Los Angeles, if we are lucky enough to have anything even reminiscent of a garden, even if it’s just a small window box that gets full sun a few hours a day, I will relish it. I will dig my fingers into the dirt and I will plant things and one of the first things planted will be my sprouts.
There were two of them growing in the bin. We plucked them out and planted them in seed pots and they have grown over six inches in five months. We have no idea what they are. They’re obviously from something we ate, and they’re definitely tree-shaped. Look at that picture and tell me that sprout isn’t growing into a tree that’s just perfectly shaped for climbing. Tell me that bend isn’t a reading nook.
We can’t say for sure what they are, but we’re placing our bets on orange trees, because of the size and shape of the leaves. And also because it’s just kind of awesome to be a California dreamin’ couple in Harlem, growing citrus trees on our windowsill.