Monday, May 10, 2010

One Big Pile Of...


COMPOST!! It's not just for breakfast anymore...

Surprisingly enough, this dirt is not as dirty as you think; this guy knows what I'm talking about.

Composting is such an integral part of farming that we had to dive into just what makes this brown gold so valuable.  Remember, compost is not just for big farms like this one, but can increase the strength of the plants in your garden or windowsill exponentially.  It's not the dirt itself that is so important, but the hidden reactions that take place deep inside this pile of compost.  The Captain explained that one man's trash truly is another man's treasure.

Compost is made through the aerobic decomposition of organic materials including plant and animal matter.  Carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen are all essential elements needed for creating a rich compost.  The carbon helps produce energy which creates heat.  The nitrogen synthesizes protein for the micro-organisms to reproduce and breakdown organic materials. The microbes need oxygen to survive and it also keeps the odor manageable.  Finally, water is key as it provides oxygen and moisture, both of which are vital for microbe survival and movement throughout the composting process.  Today we were assigned the job of transporting some extra earth over to the massive compost laboratory AKA huge pile on the side of the road.  The Captain brought out the tractor.

Lucky us, as we got to unleash our beloved Kubota. 

As discussed, there is no trash on the farm, only potential. Organic materials include plants, leaves, grass, straw, animals, animal manure, kitchen scraps, really anything that was once living and can be decomposed.  So all that leftover food doesn't need to go to waste, it can actually be used to strengthen your soil and in turn your plants too.  This excludes plastics and even clam shells because of their strong resistance to decomposition. All organic materials will decompose naturally, without any human interference, but by dumping everything together in a nice big pile, the micro-organisms and bacteria work together to generate heat and speed up this process. The spring warmth leads to more land being dug up for new beds and leftover grass and earth are the by-products. Here you can see some of these new beds that provided some of the compostable ingredients.

This dry brown dirt would soon be new, rich, dark compost.

Over the hills and through the woods to the compost heap we went. Unlatching the back and using this fancy set of gears, we had never seen before, the bed tilted back and we let the unloading begin.

But not before just one little taste...I'm sorry I just can't help myself, doing all this work really builds an appetite.

Since nothing goes to waste, Matt grabbed these stones too and tossed them into the big pile across the way.  These were kept just in case they were needed one day.  I guess you never know when a big rock may come in handy.  Not quite the Manhattan Mini-Storage we were used to, but effective nonetheless.  Things really are different here on the farm.

Why is the compost so important?  Not only does it recycle any leftover organic material, but it is a great supplement for the soil.  By adding compost, you increase nutrients as well as adding a natural defense mechanism.  Since micro-organisms live in the compost and eventually the soil, they will continue to fight off certain unwanted pests that would otherwise be able to permeate the untreated soil.  The goal here is to provide a healthy, safe environment for plants to grow without the use of chemically induced pesticides that you wouldn't want to ingest.  This is a safe and easy way to use a ton of the waste you accumulate on a daily basis to help you grow stronger plants.  This doesn't mean you need to have a big farm to reap the benefits of composting.  Your small garden or even your windowsill plants will gain from the addition of compost.  Nature has a funny way of providing us with everything we need and sometimes it's best to sit down for a minute and think about what solutions might be right in front of us instead of looking for quick shortcuts that may have negative side effects.  Patience is a virtue they say.

1 comment:

  1. Great post and statement:

    "there is no trash on the farm, only potential."

    Maybe a little long to go on the front of a t-shirt but a powerful statement that could apply to almost any aspect of society.