Snow and ice settled thick on our deck steps, making it a hazardous trip to the compost bin near our garden. Not wanting to toss perfectly compostable veggie peels into the garbage, but not eager to spend 30 minutes in the freezing cold to shovel and chisel the steps clear, we stuck a tall garbage bin on the deck and called it good enough.
We would open the deck door a crack and toss into the bucket our potato skins, banana peels, and lettuce lost to the back of the crisper finally found. No shoes, hats, or mittens required. I wondered why more people didn’t have a compost bucket right outside their door for the winter.
“Mama! What’s dat?” asked Alex, 4 years old at the time. I turned to see Alex and Amy, then age 2, standing near the deck door. Just on the other side, balanced atop the compost bin, sat a large, pink-snouted, rat-tailed creature. The furry hulk disappeared down into the bin.
“Possum! Mike, come look!” I called to my husband, who joined us gawking out the door. I picked up Amy to help her see into the bin. She smushed her nose against the glass. I hauled Alex up on my other hip, and the four of us stared, silent and still, as the possum dined on squash peels and apple cores.
After a time, Mike and I returned to making dinner, but Alex and Amy stayed to watch until the possum climbed out and ambled away.
Over the next month, the possum returned several evenings to feast in our compost bin. Each time, Alex and Amy delighted in the big snout and the white furry face that would turn to look at them. They chattered softly to each other about the long hairless tail, the big black eyes, the little black ears.
Eventually, the snow melted, and it seemed wise to redirect the compost to its usual bin. The possum stopped visiting our deck. We didn’t see possums before our winter compost bin, and we haven’t seen them during the winters since.
I’m tempted to put the scrap bin on the deck this winter just to see their long faces peering into my house again. Alex and Amy are now teenagers, but I bet their possum joy would still be there.
Nature nearby is a monthly column by Eden Prairie resident Amber D. Stoner.