Friday, March 20, 2015

I dream of compost...


 
Compost... again? Yes, I happen to be in love with the concept and application for 20 years, studying it, interviewing experts on the radio show I hosted and produced for 7 years, and writing about it during my 15 year career.  Find chapter in Trast Talk book series as well. Book 2 I think.



I recently read a few articles about Paul Kaiser and his wife and their farm – Singing Frog. Actually I found a FB post and that lead to an article and that lead to more articles and before long here I am pouring out my passion for compost and sustainable food production to you yet again on this blog.I encourage you to look up their farm online through your favorite search engine to find numerous media interviews and articles about their success in using more compost than conventional farmers would use and how it affects the microbiological life, nutrient retention, water conservation and virtually eliminates water table issues (caused from water leaching nutrients and pollutants into the water table).



The key to a natural garden is to cover almost every spot of bare soil. Leaving a few areas of rocky and sandy textures for both landscape appeal but also for beneficial wildlife. So every garden bed and pathway should be mulched. Mulch will break down into compost eventually feeding the plants as well, so fresh mulch will need to be applied occasionally. Do not till - except in the situation where you have to start gardening from scratch. Tilling kills the biological life in the soil, leaving carcasses of worms and beetles and such in it's wake. Mulch instead and keep digging in a few inches of compost every year. Eventually you'll find you can sink your arm to the elbow in deep rich soil.


Compost leads to increased soil biologic life feeding and providing homes for all kinds of life forms from microbes to worms and beetles. These guys break down all that organic matter and soil chemicals and other things into nutrients in just the right form that the plants can readily absorb them, in which case experts would refer to your soil's nutrients as “bio-available”. You might have a lot of expensive soil amendments in there, but if your plants can't use them - you've wasted time and money.

Now, not to pick on Americans, but this is the stat I happen to have – Americans throw out more than 200 million tons of organic waste annually. 200. Million. Tons. And yet so many experts say we just can’t farm sustainably simply because we don’t produce enough compost. Hmmm. Where, oh where, will we find more compost?


Some people burn backyard leaves and branches, or farm debris - and the ashes are nutrient rich, however the act of burning releases carbon into the atmosphere, pollutes the air and wastes a valuable product. Sending it to the landfill is not a viable option either because it results in expensive water table issues, the release of toxic pollutants and climate change accelerators.

Here locally (Creston Valley, BC - Canada) we have a couple of options for people who don't want, or cannot, compost.  This notice was put out on FaceBook by the Creston Airshed Management and Regional District of the Central Kootenays: “Instead of burning backyard leaves, branches etc. all valley residents can bring these items unbagged for free to the landfill on Mallory Road in Lister for chipping and mulching. This is a free annual program to reduce backyard burning in the valley. Drop off is also available for lake residents at Boswell and Crawford Bay. "  ...We also have a local nursery - Morris - where you can take your leaves and grass clippings and ground up tree trimmings and such to.



If you know a farmer or gardener, see if they want organic matter for their fields or compost piles. If you have fruit trees or excess edible crop materials - there is likely a goat, rabbit, chicken or pig farmer who would love to have it. Or start your own compost  and feed the neighboring trees and boulevard plantings and landscaping or give the finished compost to other gardeners, offer to apartment/condo neighbors in the building for household or balcony plants. There are many indoor compost machines available for condo/apartment dwellers and for people who can no longer turn a compost pile. 

Farmers and market gardeners are dependent on their soil's health and as such it is in their best interest to make connections with orchards, food processing, cafés, coffee shops and restaurant industries.

 
Trash Talk - It's Easy To Be Green, Book 1



Food sharing programs might exist in your community everything from sharing harvests with the needy to missions for the poor, food banks, or just take your excess to work and offer to fellow employees and customers. In Kelowna (BC) we had a group that took virtually anything they could get, dehydrate it, and made soup and casserole mixes, dried fruit leather and other preserves - some stayed in the community but a lot was also shipped to grief stricken areas around the world. Locally in Creston (BC) we have a group called  Gleaners that share food with many non-profit groups, run the food bank and operate Harvest Share and Tree Share programs - connecting people with less to people with excess. Acts like this help to reduce food waste and improve the environment.


If you do start up your own compost system and/or garden - you might find that it helps you meet your neighbors - they get curious and start up conversations with you. Before you know it, like us, you'll be networking and sharing up and down the street. Start a phone # exchange for the purpose of neighborhood watch, and call them if you are heading to a farmers field with a load of organic waste, they might appreciate the offer to take theirs in with you as well. 

We've been in this small city in this home for 4+ years now and from the first year here, we have received regular contributions of grass clippings,  garden plant trimmings and tree leaves from 3 neighboring households. In the spring when the grass is growing rampantly, a lawn service fella drops off a trailer load of grass clippings whenever he is in our neighborhood. Last year I did an experiment, I put a notice out on a local Facebook group to see if anyone had clean, bagged tree leaves for us to pick up. In one hour or so I had more offers than I needed for the winter and early spring layers of contributions in the compost pile.

Trash Talk - It's Easy To Be Green, book 2


Find Dave and Lillian Brummet at: http://brummet.ca * Support the Brummets by telling your friends, clicking those social networking buttons, or visiting the Brummet's Store - and help raise funds for charity as well!

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