Thursday, October 30, 2008

Some Dirt

Fishing is dropping off a bit, so maybe time for some thinking (on other, related items). Like black dirt and closing the loop at your home.

Here are some shots of Compost Alley - a key component of our local landscape. That black beauty represents quite a few months of food waste from our kitchen. Also thrown in are ashes, green plants, some leaf litter (not black walnut) and shredded paper.

We started composting ~5 years ago, and since, we've not thrown away any food matter. Corpses - the few chickens, beef bones, etc. are buried beneath the shrubbery just downgrade from the garden. Everything else - including meat scraps, fat, dairy - goes to this black hole.

There is no bottom to the bin, which allows Phylum Annelidia to inhabit at will.

The benefits:

(1) Less waste exits our home and property.
(2) Less fertile material need enter our home and property.
(3) Maximization of the value of the food material we purchase.
(4) We observe an important process.
(5) We know (in large part) the history of the fertilizer we apply at home.
(6) Kids roll around in black compost and attempt to eat it straight-up, thereby skipping several normally realized steps in the process of food production and consumption. If you think about it, fewer energy transformations ~ more efficiency, and therefore Danny is putting forth a good argument when he blackens his mouth.
(7) It's just cool as hell. I think people have an inherent love for process and efficiency and watching things work and fit together. Today's society obscures that though. In some degree, we all want to be farmers I'd say, even if we don't realize it. This is urban farming. It's micro-scale dirt farming. The caution is that it will likely lead to even further inroads, like laying chickens and vineyards and prairie plants, etc. Everything you can do to say Hey man, I live in this urban joint for various reasons regarding efficiency, transportation and neighborliness, but you can't beat the dirt out of a guy. Be a hybrid: city and rural together.

Visit Kenny's Sideshow for a bit on Finding God in the Compost Pile

Couple more bits on this topic:
Compost info from Better Times

In his collection of essays, Wendell Berry answers the question, What can folks do to address this modern day industrial food travesty? His answer, which includes an important nod to composting, is paraphrased here (can be found in the book What Are People FOR?):

From Jim Dixon's Real Good Food:

Berry's essay includes some suggested next steps:

"Participate in food production to the extent you can." This doesn't mean plowing up the front lawn and planting cabbage. A small vegetable garden, a couple of tomato plants, even a pot of herbs can provide the sense of responsibility for your own food. Tending a garden and managing a compost system also puts you into the natural cycle of growth and decay. Knowing the blend of sun, water, and effort that produced the tomato you're eating makes you appreciate it even more.

"Prepare your own food." The practical benefits of home cooking-cost and quality control-pale when compared to the real advantage: the food you prepare yourself can be better than anything you can buy in the market or restaurant.

"Whenever you can, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist." Food produced locally is generally going to be safer, fresher, and cheaper than imported food. Dealing with the producer at a farmers market allows you to communicate your needs and become familiar with the seasonal fluctuations of local agriculture. It also eliminates the packers, shippers, advertisers and other "middlemen" who add cost to the food at the expense of both producer and consumer.

"Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can about the economy and technology of industrial food production." Food costs are often determined as much by the "not food" components as anything else. Finding out what's added to the food we eat, and how much it costs, can be a real eye-opener. It can also scare the hell out of you.
Mealtime does more than merely fuel our daily activities. It provides a social context, offering a shared experience with the people we care about most. And eating itself, the most primordial activity, puts us in touch with the world we live in and demonstrates our dependence on lives outside our own.

The newly added food scraps are behind the divider... the finishing pile is in the front compartment.

Application of fresh compost to newly broken garden, to be planted with vegetables next year (in addition to base plot broken and planted this year). This tract is wedged between houses, but is south facing and is a "heat trap" of sorts. Some experimental planting there this year showed great results. Down with lawn!

The black geometry of Juglans nigra...

This special camo actually makes kids invisible... nightmare for parents.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make an excellent case. I've been wanting to take on that responsibility however composting is not on a renters "to do list." I'm hoping to purchase something with a large area for the dog. It may take a while though.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Do what you can do man. When we lived in a townhome, we put all our food scraps in an air-tight container, and carried them every week or so to a community compost. THat worked well. We're fortunate enough now to have our own land to work with and shape a bit... even if it is only postage-stamp sized. A good friend of mine frequently reminds me that you can do a lot with a little space.

On a related note - just built a cover for the compost bin today.

6:57 PM  
Blogger amanda said...

Composting - It's a good thing, great info shared.
And such a good cycle too... once that wonderful compost starts providing improved soil and food to grow more & better garden plants, then there is more & more to fill up the compost crib when they are harvested; the peels, the stalks, the leaves, etc. It thrills me to fill ours up each fall when the harvested plants get picked up & tossed in.

Very good 'eat local' suggestions from Mr. Berry & Berrell too.
MW got a nice eating 2 1/2 yr. old white tail the other day - that and some roughed grouse are cooking up well with garden produce. There's great satisfaction that comes from not depending on a grocery store or factory for food. And the benefits go far beyond just our own kitchen table.

Happy Composting. :)

11:18 AM  
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