Friday, March 26, 2010

Compost Is...

"It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions... It gives such divine materials to man, and accepts such leavings from them at last."
-Walt Whitman "This Compost", Leaves of Grass.

Sarah the intern here... back again! When Salem asked me to look into composting methods, I had no idea the complex world I was about to enter. Worm bins, pails, piles, tumblers, trenches...? I Googled around and found some helpful sites that explained the various processes and the advantages and disadvantages of each (the most valuable site I found was Composter Connection, in case you're interested).

When I headed to the library, I picked up a small book covered in brown cardboard. Simply titled, "Compost," this book by Carolyn Goldsmith tells the story of the composting process from start to finish complete with detailed directions AND cartoon illustrations (it felt like I was reading Shel Silverstein for the first 20 pages). Though initially it seemed like a book for 8 year olds, this 1970s British booklet taught me Compost for Dummies...First, I read how to set up a compost pile - using layers of green matter, manure, earth, garbage, and vegetables. Then, compost needs to "cook" for an extended period of time (though there are other methods to speed up this process). Last, I learned what compost is like when it is "ready" - medium loose crumbly texture, moisture similar to a squeezed out sponge, and smells "earthlike" (which I don't imagine to smell good). In the image above, you can see how fun yet effective Goldsmith's illustrations are.

Salem and Margaret are about 10 steps ahead of me in terms of knowledge for how to create good compost, and they've certainly seen the positive effects in their beds. Currently, they have a large compost bin in addition to a greens, leaves and weeds pile. Worm compost is the newest endeavor at Beta Verde, where a medium-sized Tupperware bin holds organic matter with lots of worms squirming through it to create rich compost from worm castings.

I'll leave you with a little known fact I've gathered during my time at Beta Verde... People actually GIVE away manure on Craig's List... and who knew that free manure would be such an exciting find! I never considered manure to have a real market, but now it all makes sense!

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