Thursday, January 11, 2007


One of the most important parts of sustainable living is composting. With all that organic matter out there to be had, we cant just sit and let it rot. Yes we can, but it need to be in our yard to rot because not only will you have the nice compost when you're done, but the soil under the pile will benefit real good too.

There are lots of arguments about how to compost, whether to layer, or shred, or mix, or use worms. In this area I am a pluralist. All composts are good. My philosophy is get that stuff in my yard, it will all work out in the end.

This reminds me of a concept I've been trying to work together. It involves adding more organic matter to your soil than is taken away. For instance, you have a garden and a compost pile, and composting toilets. Your garden produces food, you eat the food, you redeposit the food in the toilet, which creates compost that you add to your garden where your food grows. At times, you don't redeposit the food in your own toilet, or you eat food that didn't come from your garden and deposit it in your own toilet. This creates an average 360 degree cycle. But, it is good for you to add organic material to your system that came from another system. For instance, collecting your neighbors leaves and composting them.

Every year, literally millions of tons of leaves fall, and most in residential areas are cleaned up and disposed of. What a huge wasted resource. I read a story a while back where a man collected leaves using a giant vacuum attached to a horse trailer and put them in his garden. He had a free source of nutrients and his soil was awesome. I have really wanted to do this because I live in Arkansas, and most of the trees are deciduous but the equipment would probably cost a few thousand dollars to make new.

Another really awesome piece of equipment is a wood chipper. I have three trees, and in the process of pruning in the last 6 months, I have taken off nearly a cord of wood not including small branches and leaves. A wood chipper can turn a good portion of that to a nice organic wood mulch that you can put on your flowerbeds and walkways or include in your compost piles as brown matter. Unfortunately, to get a good one of these, you'll shell out a thousand or more new. It will probably be more economical and useful to borrow or rent one when your wood pile grows to be too large. There are also lots of older outdoor power machines with broken engines that it may be economical to buy a new or used engine to put on them. Part of living sustainably is taking care of your equipment so that it lasts the absolute longest amount of time possible. Use synthetic oil!!!

Lets review. Composting the the natural process by which organic material is returned to the earth providing nutrients and conditioning the soil so that it can better support life.

Do it.

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