I was getting ready to post about my own compost experience when I found this wonderful forum post by a gentleman going by Forerunner at Homesteading Today. I love his writing so much, that I am trying to contact him to get permission to repost more of his writing here. He has so much knowledge of composting that I hope to learn a great deal as well.
All material between the lines is a direct quote.
I have been gardening for the purpose of feeding the family since I was three– likely sooner, but I’m going from memory here…..
I recall my early days in St. Louis, Mo. My father was a fresh graduate and was hired as a school music teacher. That was his first real departure from the farm here where he grew up. We spent 4 years there, in a modest little house in downtown Jennings, a suburb….. and Dad had a compost pile right next to the roughly 500 square foot garden. It was a hefty pile for being down town. He had it piled against the cinder block garage and tarped with one of those heavy old black oil tarps. I don’t recall much detail about his application of the stuff nor where he got most of the raw components. I do recall the healthy green of the tomato patch, and I do recall the day that I saw movement under the tarp and went straight to the house to make the report only to have Dad come out and peel the tarp back to reveal a ‘possum.
He promptly dispensed the ‘possum with a crowbar and I got my first lesson in composting animal carcasses.
Years passed. Gardens were grown. Leaves, grass clippings and table scraps were procured and composted.
Justice would not be served if I failed to make mention of my paternal grandparents, their obsessive work ethic, and their flawless gardening over the years. Grandma, especially, encouraged me in many ways to become, among other real and crucial things, a master composter.
In my early teens, circumstances unfolded in a manner to give me the opportunity to become head stall cleaner at the local thoroughbred race track. It was a smaller, family-run affair, but there were 20 or so horses on the place and they knew what fresh bedding was for….
The local sawmill was a quarter mile north of home, and they gave me sawdust. The race track was a few hundred yards across the field from home and I got all the manure I wanted, plus a few bucks an hour for the shoveling.
The true nature of Heaven cannot be far removed from that picture.
I used Dad’s John Deere A and an old homemade trailer that hauled about a pickup load to do my trucking. The trailer did NOT have a dump mechanism….
Well, I was an impressionable young lad, and eager to please, so when Grandma came out one summer afternoon to look at my tomatoes and potato patch, only to confide proudly to me that my garden was doing much better than Dad’s….. I was hooked.
I bought the place, here, in ’89. I was young, 22, and stuffed clear full of pioneer spirit. This was an old, rundown farmstead that hadn’t seen life for nearly 40 years… the last being a pair of loggers that helped run the long-since disbanded mill on the river, a mile or so south of here, so they tell me.
The soil here was, at best, timber. At worst, sand and clay.
I remember our first few years, and recall that gardening was on the back burner due to the fact that we had succumbed, a bit, to the modern notion of eeking out an existence, “off the farm”. I was doing backhoe work and shoeing horses. She was teaching school.
It was likely our third or fourth year here that she wanted to start a garden.
I had a neighboring farmer plow up a good sized patch east of the house– which was about the only level site on the place at the time.
That was my–and her–first experience gardening in raw clay.
This is where the survival end of the story begins.
People have to eat. It is fast becoming apparent that people are soon going to be forced to grow their own food, or suffer the consequences.
There are very few places left in this country, or the world, I suppose, where the ground is of proper tilth to raise quality produce, without the diligent hand of man being wisely and laboriously applied.
The time to begin preparing your soil for your family’s future survival is now.
The men who grow the food for this nation have been mining the soil for what it can provide THIS YEAR, without giving a thought to the next, for decades. The quick fix of NPK, with an occasional shot of calcium or sulfur, has become the norm. Indeed, the men who grow this nation’s “food” have largely forgotten the value of humus, let alone the dire need for a balance among all of the trace minerals. Consequently, the nation’s collective health is at an all time low, regardless of what the media or medical lobby might be shouting from the rooftops.
Most of us have no sense of bearing for the sake of comparison. We have never known real health….. real energy….. real strength. We only assume that what we know and are is normal. We assume far too much.
In order to thrive, people need to eat plants that are superior in every way.
For a plant to be superior, to be full of vitality and high resonance, it must be grown in soil that contains the minerals, the humus, the enzymes, the balance and the energy that only millennia of natural topsoil development can provide….. or….. in soil to which a few short but intense years of composting has been applied.
Compost offers clay soils drainage and the enzymes required to release the abundance of minerals that clay contains naturally.
Compost offers sandy soils the structure required to resist erosion and drought. It offers many of the minerals and organic nutrients devoid in sand.
Compost is composed largely of carbon, the natural sponge that was intended to absorb and slowly release all manner of nutrients required by plants.
Heavily composted soils resist excessive moisture as well as drought.
I have many times been in my small fields with my mid-sized tractor and disc, days ahead of the local chemical farmers. My living soil does not compact near as badly nor mire down the equipment as a typical clay or timber soil field would.
Compost chemically and physically binds nutrients to the soil molecules in such a manner that they will not wash out with heavy rainfall.
Compost can absorb up to ten times or more the amount of water that other soils can, thus reducing runoff, leaching, erosion and the resultant flooding and polluting of the waterways that has become pandemic these last few years.
I dare say that if just 20% of this nation’s agricultural land were so tended, the rivers would be calm, the waters clear. Surface wells would contain far less in the way of nitrates. More carbon would be locked into the soil rather than saturating the atmosphere in the form of CO2. Topsoil erosion would be checked. Riverbed silting would be drastically reduced. Food would contain nutrition again…..
I’ll leave off now, and go to bed.
If anyone isn’t convinced of the dire straits in which rest this nation’s agriculture and food industries, or needs more evidence before he or she starts throwing their own pile of organic matter together, we can take it up tomorrow.
To find more of his writing you can also check here.
Featured image by Forerunner at Homesteading Today forum.