Home Composting – Art or Science?
Okay, so most of you that know me, know that I over-research things. I read every book, every blog post, talk to every expert and generally spend more time learning of a thing instead of actually DOING the thing.
The current thing I am spending WAY too much time researching instead of doing right now? Composting.
Sure, sure, sure, I have a bin that I use to store goat poop from my mini goats, and I use the poop to fertilize the garden soil I bought at a landscaping store to fill my raised garden beds. But when it comes to the art (or is a science?) of composting kitchen scraps, household waste and organic matter from the home? I have yet to start myself a household compost bin! *collective gasp*
I have drawn up blueprints for my compost bin. I own all the material to MAKE the bin. I know exactly where its going to go in my back yard. I even have the kitchen waste to outside bin route all picked out and sorted! But what worries me is.. will this even work? No, not the bin, I know I can build THAT.. but the actual composting process itself!
I have this vague notion that if I set my hand to something, the laws of nature will somehow stop operating as designed and will fail me. I keep fretting over proper bacterial ratios and proper formulas for maximum turn around time. So I did what I always do when doubt creeps in.. I started researching! I needed to know how composting was done in the old days, because if some cave dweller can compost, I sure as heck should be able to. So I researched the history of composting.. and realized, I am fussing over absolutely nothing. Really!
Composting in the Old Days
No one knows exactly when composting was first discovered – if it was even something to discover. Maybe some cavemen realized that things grew better near the place where they piled refuse in the cave. Then the word got out to all the other cave folks, and composting began. Who knows?
All we know is that the idea of putting human, animal, vegetable, and mineral wastes on or into the soil to make it better has been around as long as farming has, in every corner of the globe. Humanity has known for a long time that animal excrement – aka manure – is valuable stuff when it comes to growing things. But with or without farmers intervention in gathering organic matter to compost, we need to realize that composting happens – and has been happening – long before our ancestors discovered it. Decomposition is at least as old as the soil!
Long before people were around to observe it, composting was going on in every forest, every meadow, every swamp, and bog, and prairie, and steppe in the world. As Richard Langer says,
Composting is a natural process that began with the first plants on earth and has been going on ever since!
So compost is an ancient practice. Whether our ancient family approached it as an art, or a science, none can say. But through trial and error the earliest humans on planet earth were able to learn what worked when it came to compost. They didn’t have anyone to guide them or give them good advice. Things like psychrophilic bacteria and the relationship between carbon and nitrogen is the process of decomposition were the furthest things from their minds. All they saw, maybe, was the forest floor where leaves fell, turned dark, and gradually disappeared to be transformed into the dark, fertile soil gardeners were someday to call humus.
They must have realized that in time many things rot whether we try to do anything about it or not. Composting, by nature, is the easiest freaking thing on the planet because it WORKS, with or without you.
So with this in mind, I am FINALLY launching on my home composting journey! Hubby and I will be building our bin this coming weekend and my adventures in making household trash a gardening treasure will begin!
Because regardless of what you do or don’t do, when you leave everything to nature, eventually the conditions that encourage decay will establish themselves. This is something that has been going on since shortly after the beginning of time, and I doubt it will stop because of my brown thumb!
One aker well compast, is worth aker three… – Tusser (1557)
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless succession of diseased corpses,
It distills exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last. – Walt Whitman, This Compost