Garden Millipede (Oxidus gracilis)

Garden Millipede (Oxidus gracilis)

There is magic in decay.
A dance to be done
For the rotting.
— Dan Chelotti, from "Compost" (2014)

In a shaded corner of our backyard we built a 3-bin compost. It is extraordinary. Here, rich organic matter is made. Our green scraps, eggshells (+cartons), coffee grounds, tea leaves, and cuttings transform into friable, dark, nutrient-rich soil.

Millipedes, centipedes, pill bugs, earthworms, slugs and snails all make their homes in the chunks of decaying matter. Twigs and leaf litter, soil and mycelium...what a lovely habitat for decomposers and detritivores! 

This evening I spent a half an hour with my nose inches from decaying matter. It smells much like the forest - damp and earthy. And the diverse community of arthropods and other invertebrates living there is fascinating to observe...millipedes scurrying, their short antennae wiggling around and around as they move over mounds of detritus...wood louse rolling and unrolling as they are nudged aside by other (larger) beasties...earthworms poking their heads (or tails) in and out of the leaf litter...everyone living harmoniously.

That is, until the wee toad I've seen hopping around the bins grows a bit larger!   


Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.