Dirty Jobs, Good Results

I’ve never been averse to a bit of dirt. After all, gardening involves:

  • Digging in the soil.
  • Hauling extra dirt from the garden center.
  • Sweeping the spilled dirt off the patio after transplanting or planting something new.

Still, there are a few jobs that I have to be in the right frame of mind for, like fussing with the compost pile. But, once I get going, the other jobs easily follow.

Path leading to the compost corner
Flattened compost behind the hydrangea

The first of these jobs involved mucking around in what I call the surplus compost pile. We live on a small lot, which limits the space available for a three-pile compost system. Over the years, I’ve dabbled with a few ready-made composters and eventually happened upon a pyramid composter.

It works well, but I have more yard waste at certain times of the year than others. So I started a second, smaller pile in the corner next to the pyramid beneath the orange tree. We share our oranges with neighboring squirrels, tree rats, and probably opossums, so they also add half-eaten oranges and rinds to the pile.

I sorted the pile, removed and bagged the rotting oranges, and pulled assorted twigs, which take longer to decompose. As a result, the stack is now flatter, making it easier to access the fence for additional work. Seeing all those earthworms working beneath the soil did my heart good. It’s been too dry for too long.

A fragrant, slippery mess

My next dirty job involved cleaning the bird bath. I generally clean and disinfect it with white vinegar and a big brush, but my friend Donna suggested hydrogen peroxide to help reduce algae. So I researched and confirmed that it’s safe for birds and plants. A little goes a long way, and wow, what a difference.

I believe that’s a Chestnut-backed Chickadee

The final dirty job for the week involved rust removal from my fairy garden gate. I fell in love with this cast iron piece when I spotted it in a neighborhood shop years ago. This John Wright piece used to be a doorstop. It’s the perfect size for a miniature garden, and the weight deters marauding squirrels who love digging through the planter. I’ve always thought a bit of rust added to its charm, but it started looking more orange than I liked, so I brought it in for a cleanup.

Rusty gate in a white vinegar bath

I soaked the little gate in white vinegar for over 24 hours. I used a piece of steel wool to try and loosen the rust, then switched to a stiff brush.

After several rinses, I switched to lemon and salt, soaking and scrubbing again.

The lemon returned some of the original colors, so while some rust remains, I’m happy with the results.

After the final rinse

I need to do a bit of maintenance in the miniature garden. I’ll share photos when I’m done.

Do you like getting your hands dirty?

28 thoughts on “Dirty Jobs, Good Results

  1. This was a timely post for me – about to start burning heaps of winter detritus. Excellent photographs of your processes. The cleaning methods are interesting. Flo prepared the soil for her fairy garden yesterday evening.


    • Derrick, you must be up early! Thanks for your kind words on the photos and process. Do you have a special place to burn things, like a fire pit? People used to do that here, but it’s been outlawed in many places due to fires getting out of control. I’m glad to hear about Flo’s fairy garden. That made me smile.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We use the Back Drive; sometimes an old incinerator, sometimes a broken wheelbarrow, Alys. I get up and go to bed earlier these days. This morning, 3.40, was particularly early.


        • 3:40 is early, but it’s probably lovely at that hour if the sun is up. I’m not sure how far north you are, but I remember the long summer days I visited the Lake District many years ago. It’s gorgeous there.


      • There is a woman here, younger than me, who didn’t know how to iron. I am so very grateful for my eclectic life.. Puts things in perspective. 😉 I finished the morning glories wall hanging and think I just needed a quiet day of nothing to regroup. The kids laid bricks all day yesterday for a new shed at the school. I wish I had been able to help. Did you get the pictures I sent via email?


        • Hi Marlene, I received your email with photos and sent a long reply. So let me check to see if it didn’t send for some reason.

          It’s hard to imagine not knowing how to iron. I remember our mom teaching us how to iron, sew, knit, and tat. We picked up what we didn’t learn at home during home economics classes. Such a different time.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. One of these days, I’ll have to get very dirty indeed, when I excavate the enormous compost pile that is the chook yard. It starts with wood chips, weeds, dead leaves of all sizes from banana to grass, then all my vegetable scraps, chicken poop, ground up shell, comfrey water, etc. After they have dug it all over and it has rotted down, we shovel barrow loads out for the vegies and start again with another trailer load of wood chips.


  3. You did a good job on the gate Alys, and I can’t wait to see your fairy garden this year! I love the smell of the garden soil in spring, and love working outside when it is slightly damp. And although I do wear gloves when gardening I still get that inevitable dirt under the fingernails! 😉 Happy gardening Alys!


    • Thank you, Cathy. I’m looking forward to sprucing up my fairy gardens. Its a challenge finding smaller-scale plants that work like miniature trees, so I’m going to try something different instead. Stay tuned.

      I too wear gloves, but I inevitably remove them for some reason, that forget to put them back on.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love getting my hands dirty, and I find outside work so satisfying, much better than inside house work. In your post, I learned about two creatures I have never heard of—tree rats and chestnut-backed chickadees. Always great to learn something new. Great job cleaning that doorstop. Quite the before and after.


  5. Nice work on the rusty gate, Alys, and thanks for the hydrogen peroxide tip.
    Winter here is loosening its grip at last, so the garden season is off and running. I prefer to wear gloves to protect my hands. 🙂


  6. hey hey busy girl 😀 It’s nice to strike things off the list! The little iron gate is a cute addition to the fairy garden. Also a cute door stop. Probably one of a kind now.
    After working really hard at the lake for years, I’m not especially fond of yard work now. Lucky, there’s little to do (garden wise) in our yard. I just have so many other things I’d rather be doing these days. You’re in much better shape than me too. My knee is a bother and my back just doesn’t cooperate at all. We walked miles today and my feet are throbbing…gah, what a disaster, LOL 💗💗


    • Hello Boomdee. You were with me (I think) when I bought that gate for $5 at Not Too Shabby. By the by, they recently closed, and now that space is a doggie daycare. I’m sorry your knee is still bothering you. You really took a bad fall, and I imagine, too, that you have scar tissue around the surgery site. Where did you walk all those miles today? Throbbing feet are no fun!


  7. I think your fairy gate looks lovely with its aged patina.
    As for dirt and compost – I leave that to Mr. Tialys who has an affinity with compost and we now have a total of thirteen containers/pits/heaps in various stages of preparation. For reasons I don’t fully understand, and don’t really want to know, he still has to go and buy sacks of compost from the garden centre on a fairly regular basis. This afternoon after work he is off down the road with his wheelbarrow to a neighbour who has horses – I will say no more.


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