Friday, February 19, 2010

It's all about compost. . .

. . . Or at least one might think that if they spend too many hours reading this blog or visiting the farm. Compost makes up, easily, one third of our work load. The usual routine is moving buckets and adding to piles (or building piles), but every now and again we get to break from that and turn a pile - to add air. Yes, air!
As it turns out compost is a lot like burying trash (the other analogy, the one that I prefer to use, is a little more morbid, and it is much too early for that). Put the refuse underground and all of the little critters, fungi, and bacteria go to town! They gobble and reproduce and gobble again. Underground, however, all those little fella's are kept in check by a number of environmental factors the biggest of which is air. Above ground we have the ability to control that - to a degree. We build our piles and make sure that all of our environmental factors are just right, water, food, living quarters, air, etc. and we encourage our li'll friends to make themselves at home.
You have heard of a "hot pile", no?!?! Well that refers to the heat at the center of a pile. It is an indicator that our little microbe friends are working. They eat, and multiply and eat and multiply and all of that activity gives off heat! Much like living in a city, though, there are only so many resources (okay, in the country there are only so many resources too. . .). When resource run out the microbes stop reproducing and eventually begin to die off and the pile gets cold.
Air is our usual culprit. Our little friends the microbes use up air, but unlike underground where resources are controlled by nature, on the surface we can add some of them. So we turn the pile or find some other means of introducing air into the mix and life in the "compost city" goes on. Little things go to work, pile heats up again, solids are reduced and we end up with an amazing soil amendment on the other end.
It's like magic. . . . not always the most popular job on the farm, but magical nonetheless.

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