A Milestone & letting go: lâcher prise
Levain: Giving bread its spark of life...in France or in The Wild West

une épluchure, les déchets, la poubelle: words in today's caper...involving compost

Purple basil coquelicots

Here is where a themed photo usually appears, above the word of the day. But you don't want to look at potato peelings do you? Enjoy, instead, a picture of our garden from springtime 2018. Strangely, all the red coquelicots, or poppies, did not return in 2019....

Today's Word: épluchure

    Une épluchure, c'est un morceau de peau d’un légume ou d’un fruit
    A peeling is a bit of skin from a vegetable or fruit
Exercises in French Phonics - A little gem of a book for French pronunciation. Order here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

When we moved to La Ciotat two years ago, one of our first tasks was to find a place to recycle all of our kitchen scraps, or déchets de cuisine. But in the years since we began composting, rarely have we actually gotten to use the finished product! I can't remember collecting more than a few buckets, or seaux, of the "black gold" in all the time I have painstakingly set aside rotten tomatoes, épluchures, apple cores, coffee grounds, tea bags, even my husband's underpants and socks! De plus, I regularly go through the kitchen poubelle, plucking out orange peels and banana skins that sometimes end up there.

Beyond our kitchen door, steps lead out to a side yard, and there, beneath the kitchen window, against the house, is where we set up our bac à compost : an unsightly plastic cube (and free gift from the town hall). Only, after one full year of collecting scraps daily, with the aim of making mulch, I noticed the pile was not growing. In fact it seemed to be at a standstill.

I thought about a comment one of our harvesters made, years ago: "Never place your compost pile beside un arbre....or the tree will eat your compost!" That sounded like something right out of a sci-fi book!

Come to think of it....when we first moved to this bungalow, I could see right through the sparse hedge outside my kitchen window, right through to my neighbor's bedroom window, just meters away. These days, while sipping my coffee at the kitchen sink, I notice the house has disappeared behind that hedge, which has filled in and then some.

Did that hedge eat my compost? It was time to get to the bottom of things--the bottom of the compost pile--to find out what was happening! I asked Jean-Marc to help transfer the compost over to the potager, where sunflowers grew last summer.
Sunflowers and smokey golden retriever

The two of us began shoveling rotten grapes, potatoes, and other as-yet-decomposed food onto a tarp that we placed beside the composteur.

When we dug deep enough to see soil, or hummus, that is when I saw the network of roots! Like a fine web crawling through the soil, the tiny roots made it difficult to break up the mass. By the time we reached the bottom, with the help of a hoe, we saw the giant tube-like roots. They reminded me of a hose siphoning all of the goodness out of MY compost pile.

Later, still livid, I told the whole story to Mom. "Can you believe it. That hedge ate MY compost! It snuck its hose-like roots up into the bin from below and sucked it dry! Worse, all that black gold might have gone to that tree in the middle of the hedge-- the one the rats use to climb on top of our roof! Imagine, all that effort gone into feeding a useless tree!

Mom, amused by my compost caper, stopped laughing in time to correct me. "There is no such thing as a worthless tree."

Well, I can't argue with Mom! Meantime, and from here on out, I'm feeding my kitchen scraps directly to my vegetable garden -- nevermind how odd my husband's underwear looks scattered beside the sunflowers!

I leave you with a wonderful book I bought years ago and gave away to a friend. I need to get another copy. It is called Lasagna Gardening, and it is all about placing your épluchures directly in the garden. Try it! This book makes an excellent gift for a gardener, too

Lasagna gardening

déchets de cuisine = kitchen scraps
le seau = bucket
une épluchure = fruit or vegetable peeling
de plus = what's more
la poubelle = garbage
bac à compost = compost bin
un arbre = tree

Mirabel plum tree
Picture of a Mirabel prune tree growing near our compost. Perhaps it benefitted from the compost pile, too? I hope!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Audrey Wilson

What an interesting thought Hedges & trees seeking out food like this ! One learns something new everyday p.s Love your pun on 'seaux'

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Audrey, for pointing that out. I didn't mean to make a pun. It was a happy accident.


Ha ha, I giggled - how annoying to be wasting YOUR scraps aka compost on the neighbours!!
PS poppies like that don't seem to like "fertile" soil.....they'll grow best where the soil is poor..... How can you win!!!! Love your stories, Kristi - we're all better people for "knowing" you!! hugsss, Maureen

Claudette Snitiker

Loved this!

One tiny mistake - UN arbre.....



Love this story! Minor correction. In the “Later, still...” paragraph I think you meant “ate my...” not “at my...” :) Never would have thought of putting underwear into compost piles. Learn something every day!! :)

Kristin Espinasse

Merci, Claudette! The tree is fixed. 🙂

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks for catching that one, Judi. Off to update the post. Also, re underwear, 100 percent cotton, non dyed! 😂

Gail Accuardi

If you have a favorite tomato, you can eat half of it and save the other half in a dish, tearing away the skin and pulp, drain and let fungus form on the seeds. Afrter this, rinse and let dry to save for net Spring. Or put a few of your favorite tomatoes in your compost pile, maybe at the edge and cover with dirt and you will have healthy tomto plants come up next Spring
Transplant to your garden.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Maureen. I didnt know that about poppies. Thanks for the info and very kind words! Hugs back to you.

Gail Accuardi

My soil is ascidic so i don't put citrus in it but bannas are full of potassium and break down easily. Cut off the knob if you are concerned. However, I wouldn't puut cloth in the pile 'cause it takes a long time to break down and there may be dyes in it. The best thing for compost gold is grass clippings, as yo probably know and/or horse or chicken manure and consistaent turning of the compost pile.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Gail. I will try this! I have gotten several avocado plants out of my compost. The trees may be growing somewhere back at our vineyard. 🙂


I have a groundhog eating my compost and everything it can get its little paws on my flower garden. Yikes.


Wow - smart mother nature. Amazing. thanks for your story - always something new.

Eileen deCamp

Funny Kristi!
That hedge must be really healthy! I am reading a book now called "The Hidden Life of Trees"
The bears get into our compost pile!

Allen Laskin

I'm sure you meant "humus" and not "hummus".


Our dear Kristi,
You and Jean Marc should be detectives!!(move over Nancy Drew and Ned!)Never would I imagine how and why your compost was disappearing!
Your words wrapped us in smiles,even though that situation was really not funny at all but frustrating!!
We applaud you for the wonderfully healthy way you garden.After seeing some of the produce at our market I wish we could share yours!!
Natalia. Xo

Kristin Espinasse

Marcia, Friends gave us a great tip, which we used back at the vineyard: buy an extra large plastic garbage can with a twist top. Then drill holes all around it. Put your kitchen scraps inside and, every so often, turn it on its side and roll it (helps the contents to break down). Ive gone back to this system, in addition to giving my garden treats directly from my cutting board. 🙂


Kristin, would we call a Mirabel prune tree a plum tree? The idea for Americans to see "prunes" growing on trees is funny. Sort of like raisins growing on a raisin arbor!!!


Kristi: Always a delight to see your blog in my inbox. Today esp. for the picture of Mirabel tree full of pretty fruits!

You see,one part of my Chinese name is a word meaning "plum"(pronounced like "May" in Chinese) . A French friend suggested "Mirabelle". Voilà, it becomes my French name!

Linda C. In California

You rediscovered an old and valuable gardening method. If you can, try to find a short book called “How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back” by Ruth Stout. It was written in 1955 — the first garden book I ever read, and it really helped. Basically she puts the compost directly in the garden rows, but she covers it with straw. That makes it look better, break down faster and the straw helps hold the moisture in the soil.


They get into mine too. I think the raccoons rummage around out there as well.


It would be difficult to have a compost in my yard with all of the wild animals around. Raccoons and possums and many other animals would do get into it. Something grabbed my hanging container with suet in it off of the hanger and opened it and all all of the contents.
I put cayenne pepper in with my bird seed so that the deer don't eat all of my seed. Birds do not have taste buds but deer do.
Living with wild animals makes it much more difficult than with plants stealing your compost. Nature, we love it but sometimes it gets the better of you.


Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Susie, You had me smiling, imagining all those wrinkled prune in the tree. Yes, I meant plums.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, In-May. And I love the story of you French name. 💕


That is so cool! I have long been fascinated by the underground network that trees form to communicate with other trees. It's so interesting to read about trees sending their roots to search for delicious hummus from which to extract nutrients that are essential for them to thrive. I'm curious about the idea of putting underwear and socks in the compost bin, as I thought that only natural materials can be broken down in the compost. How about the lycra that makes socks stretchy? I'm also interested to read more about the idea of putting scraps directly into the garden. I think that it would eliminate the need to pull weeds. Something to try. :)

Gail V

Love this post so much! I too have a hedge that was robbing my compost,but also a strawberry patch on the opposite end. So although the hedge got lots of grub, the strawberries multiplied and produced like rabbits. It is so much fun gardening. Thanks for the delightful read once again.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Linda. I love Ruth Stout and have her books. Have you seen this YouTube video about her? 

Gail Accuardi

look at the interest in gardening! There are suc great suggestions, black plastic bag with holes, straw ddirectly on the scraps for the compost (and not hay which has seeds) and the tip about ruth Stout and the book that looks like Lasagne. Thank you all for this great information.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Katia, you can indeed put clothing in the compost pile, but it needs to be 100 natural (linen or cotton), non-dyed. It does take time to break down...so these days I recycle it (as rags for cleaning) instead of feeding it to my compost pile. That said, it could work well as a weed suppressor, much like cardboard: set it over a patch of bindweed and then add soil on top and plant what you want!


Thanks for this most excellent post, Kristi. My beloved grand-mère, Mollie, often dug her kitchen scraps directly into her garden. Compost is a luscious yummy gift back to Maman Nature who rewards us with same in time. A lovely cycle of life and reminiscent of dear Thich Nhat Hahn's teachings on interbeing, the connectedness of all life. It is always good to think about this especially when so much is tearing us apart in our loud angry world.

Great comments, too. Below, a link to his essay on interbeing.


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