Tag Archives: sustainable farming


I've been thinking about this morning all week, waiting to see.

I'm not sure why it captures my attention.

Maybe it’s the food scraps that have been collecting all week that I want to get out of my sight. But it's about more than cleaning up garbage. It’s a tending, a checking in, an ultimate fascination with the process of turning the unwanted into a priceless resource.

It’s my alchemy.

Compost bin

I swing the pallet door open, pitch the fork into the pile, and proceed to tear into the layers of straw and weeds and food debris.

And it's a good thing.

Even though the parts around the edges were dry and the center is humming with heat in perfect moisture, the stuff at the bottom of the pile is too wet, a compacted slime that has passed its prime. It is just beginning to carry that sour smell of anaerobic stalemate.

Evidence of Magic: Compost that reaches 130° to 160° will eliminate plant disease pathogens.
Compost that reaches 130° to 150° for four days will eliminate plant disease pathogens.

The rest of the pile is cooking. At one point my glasses are so fogged with steam that I can’t see through them. I soon peel off the sweatshirt that I had needed just a few moments earlier. As I scrape bottom,  I notice which items are still hanging on (the pineapple tops), turn over the seed sprouts from last week's cantaloupe guts, and judge whether I need to back off on adding more straw.

This is how I know it's working: when I look closely, I see a city bustling with activity. Small insects hover, while others scurry and mine for gold. Fungi sprout tiny skyscraper mushrooms while their mycelium build a network that holds it all together. This is a world unto itself, crafting the best soil builder known to humanity. I can only marvel at it all.

Compost mycelium

Then back in it all goes, the driest materials dragged to the bottom while the really wet stuff falls toward the edges in an inexact science.

After the pile is back in place I add another layer, close the door, and rinse off my shoes and the scrap bucket.

One step closer.