The compost soapbox

    “I guess I sort of want to be like you when I’m old,” remarked one of my kids recently. “But I definitely won’t be composting. It doesn’t matter if all that stuff goes to a landfill- it will still decompose”

    Despite the dig about my age, his remark made me almost giddy; here was an extremely rare opportunity to talk about two of my favorite subjects- biomass and compost.

    Biomass is any material that comes from living or recently living organisms, and there’s quite a bit of it that comes into our lives. Think of the bags of groceries lugged home week after week, and the leaves that fall off the trees in autumn (happy autumn, by the way.) Newspapers, yard waste, straw hats, fingernail clippings- it’s a lot.

    Some of this biomass we use to fuel our bodies, but there’s still literally tons left hanging around. And although this leftover stuff may look like debris or garbage, it still has energy in it that could be converted to something useful. For me, this would be compost.

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    Every good garden (or lush lawn, healthy forest, or fertile field) is the result of increased biomass over time. The inverse is true as well; that earth that loses biomass, let’s say from raked leaves that go into the trash can or spent flower stalks that don’t get recycled back into compost, loses energy and the ability to support growth. This results in anemic lawns, underperforming vegetable gardens, and flowers that don’t grow well and aren’t very colorful.

    My current composting setup is primitive but effective. I throw everything from weeds to cabbage cores to moldy gumbo into the chicken run, and periodically shovel out the black dirt that accumulates once the chickens have processed everything. This gets dumped back onto the garden. It’s not quite a closed system (I’d need a composting toilet for that) but I manage to keep quite a bit of all that nice biomass that comes onto my property.

    Trapped as he was at the kitchen table, my son was forced to listen to my whole carefully thought out explanation, which was finally getting an audience! Of course he couldn’t admit it, but I think there might be a compost pail in his future.

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