Tuesday Open Thread ~ The Earth Whisperers


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“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” ~ Wendell Berry

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If someone had told me a year ago I would be composting, I would never have believed them. A New York City girl at heart, I had no idea what microbes were, had never had a conversation about soil, and drove my recycling conscious Sister nuts with my collection of plastic grocery bags. Then I moved to California and my perception about trees, fires, droughts, and potable water shifted dramatically. So, you might say I was ready for the idea of composting when Christine Lenches-Hinkel of 301 Organics suggested I blog about it. As a writer who is always looking for new material to explore, the idea intrigued me. As a city girl, the idea intimidated me a little, but I decided to do it anyway.

My first week of home composting and already there have been a few surprises. The first one was discovering that composting is neither smelly nor messy. Largely due to a method, or as 301 Organics calls it, “a recipe”, where food scraps, yard waste, and paper waste are mixed together to produce a natural biological reaction that will eventually create a microbe rich soil that can be used to enrich your vegetable garden, your lawn, shrubs and trees to make them stronger and more resilient to drought. The other surprise was how collecting my food scraps, yard waste, and paper waste shifted my focus away from feeling hopeless about the damage we are doing to our planet and more towards the possibilities regeneration can have on our environment.

It’s actually very simple, or as Kiss The Ground might say, it’s a solution that is right under our feet. So where does composting come into this? Well, think of composting as “Nature’s Living Technology”. Since climate change is about having too much carbon in the air, then the process where carbon is pulled from the air by plants and trees who feed the micro-organisms to build soil seems like something we should be doing. By applying a thin layer of compost on your soil, you are setting off “an ongoing positive feedback loop that brings more and more carbon to the soil” Better soil, better plants, better balance between carbon and nitrogen in our environment. More carbon in the soil is what we want. Better soil means better, stronger, healthier plants, which means a better and higher quality food for us and a better and cleaner environment for us all to live and thrive in.

As the possibilities of “Nature’s Living Technology” began to grow in my own imagination, I wondered what would happen if some of my friends and family were to also shift their focus from feeling helpless to feeling empowered by getting them to start doing something as simple and as effective as composting? And what would happen if their friends and family began doing the same? And so on? Now imagine that this rippling effect can begin with you, right now, by simply composting?

Need a little more inspiration? Here’s a 3 minute video that may change the way you look at composting and the role you can play.

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Well, that about wraps things up for this week's edition.
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What’s on your mind today?
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My father taught me about composting. He always had the most beautiful garden with the best tasting veggies and I'm convinced it was because of composting. I compost, too, and it really does make you feel better about the little difference you can make.

Coming up for air today. It's been a whirlwind. Thanks for your support, Anja.

Enjoy the day! Pleasantry

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"When will our conscience's grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?" Eleanor Roosevelt

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Socrates (469-399 BC)

Anja Geitz's picture

@Raggedy Ann

Glad you stopped by. Been thinking about you. Hope to talk to you soon! Keep composting. Smile

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

And everyone

I have so much compost i have big wire bins full. Mostly green and nd brown. I wet the paper down separately and put it on the berms next to the wild life preserve ( which is also leaf and branch detritus ). Eucalyptus leaves take a couple of years to decompose. I generally add a wheelbarrow of detritus at a time to my bins. Wet it. Decreases in height very quickly. Great fun.

Here is the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network link for food waste and composting. Check the food waste part out too.

https://scruzclimate.org/food-waste-compost/

Thanks for this. Take good care, all.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@magiamma

I’ll definitely check out the link.

Have you heard about Kiss the Grounds new movie? It premieres on Netflix tonight. It’s all about regeneration and taking the climate change discussion and turning it from being an overwhelming conversation into a hopeful one. Something you have been talking about here for a long time. It’s an idea that turned my fear and anxiety into action and I hope to help others make that transition as well.

I’m working on a fundraising letter now for a client to raise money to support her youth training program targeting high school students to train them as field technicians in composting. The Kiss the Ground movie will be part of the tie in to get people interested in her program, interested in composting, interested in regeneration, and interesting in being part of the solution.

I’m excited and a little nervous. I’ve never done this kind of thing before.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

@Anja Geitz
The sccan website. Link posted above. Pauline is working with the youth climate movement here and there is a bunch if interesting info that might be helpful.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@magiamma

Thanks so much.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Lily O Lady's picture

getting bins, but after complaints from neighbors about “rats” I decided against them. No reported cases of rats unless there are bins.

I’m skeptical about the rats. We’ve never seen any signs of them although we do have tons of chipmunks. Our neighbors have never approved of our compost pile. I don’t want to give them any excuses to object.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

Anja Geitz's picture

@Lily O Lady

I have a 32 gallon plastic bin with a few air holes drilled into it, and so far, I’ve seen no critters around it. I only put plant based food scraps in it, along with yard clippings, and shredded paper scraps.

301 Organics comes by once a week to mix it up with a pitch fork, take its temperature to see if the microbes are forming, and add in what ever new food scraps, yard waste, and paper I have. So far so good. And what surprised me the most is it doesn’t smell bad at all. Smells earthy.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Lily O Lady's picture

@Anja Geitz

neighbors started complaining of rats, I did some research and found rats and bins to be linked, but not compost piles. So I’m trying to keep from getting code enforcement involved. My neighbors are generally nutty Trumpsters so it’s good to keep a low profile.

I’m glad you find compost inoffensive. People who think composting is subversive seems to invent the odors.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

Lookout's picture

Here in the forest leaves will soon be falling. My roads will be mulched. I take a tarp, and blow the leaves on to it, and drag it to the garden to use them in my big compost piles.

I layer them with manure and a little of last years compost (plus a little lime) to build my piles. In the garden as we harvest beds, we add manure and cover with straw...typically twice a year.

We have the simplest home method up here by the house. Three wire rings and wheat straw. Add food and yard scraps, cover with straw. After all three bins are full, the first bin is ready to empty and use around your planting.

You may find this WW useful for your studies.
https://caucus99percent.com/content/weekly-watch-116

Here on the equinox I wish you all balance in your life and on your journey.
ying yang tree of life.jpg

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Anja Geitz's picture

@Lookout

Please send it our way. California could really use it right about now. Thanks for the link and the resource. I knew I’d get some good feedback from you guys! Smile

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

for a friend back in the 80s. I cut a hinged flap in the side of a steel drum with a latch to hold it closed, and mounted it on its side on a frame with 4 casters pointing up so it could be turned. Inoculate it with scraps and worms. You could turn it to mix the compost, and you could drain compost tea from the port. Some growers I've talked to swear by compost tea as an antifungal treatment. It was rat-proof, too.

Nowadays I just layer scraps and a little soil. I use spent mushroom soil for fertilizer, more than compost. Fantastic stuff. Basically well-rotted manure with mushroom metabolism products.

Oh, and Good Morning!

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If I'm wrong, it's the first time I'm happy to be confused. -Don Van Vliet

magiamma's picture

@pindar's revenge

https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/entangled-life-merlin-sheldrake/1136014152

The human sense of smell is extraordinary. Our eyes can distinguish several million colors, our ears can distinguish half a million tones, but our noses can distinguish well over a trillion different odors. Humans can detect virtually all volatile chemicals ever tested. We outperform rodents and dogs in detecting certain odors, and we can follow scent trails. Smells feature in our choice of sexual partners and in our ability to detect fear, anxiety, or aggression in others. And smell is woven into the fabric of our memories; it is common for people suffering from post-­traumatic stress disorder to have olfactory flashbacks.

Noses are finely tuned instruments. Your olfactory sense can split complex mixtures into their constituent chemicals, just as a prism can split white light into its constituent colors. To do this, it must detect the precise arrangement of atoms within a molecule. Mustard smells mustardy because of bonds between nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur. Fish smells fishy because of bonds between nitrogen and hydrogen. Bonds between carbon and nitrogen smell metallic and oily.

The ability to detect and respond to chemicals is a primordial sensory ability. Most organisms use their chemical senses to explore and make sense of their environment. Plants, fungi, and animals all use similar types of receptors to detect chemicals.

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@magiamma
Ability to detect minute traces of chemicals in the environment goes down to very "primitive" organisms. Look at how salmon can detect and return to their natal stream.

Book sounds interesting, thanks.

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If I'm wrong, it's the first time I'm happy to be confused. -Don Van Vliet

Anja Geitz's picture

@pindar's revenge

What a great way to mix your composting! Right now I’m doing it with a large pitch fork. As for the worms. Yeah. I know my next move will include the worms, but right now the idea is still kinda, er, icky. Lol.

Thanks for stopping by!

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

@Anja Geitz

If your compost is in contact with soil. Worm castings enrich it.
I have one pile on the ground with a fence, and worms. Another pile is in a bin - no worms.

Right now I need low-effort approaches that don't draw critters. Making another one of those composter barrels would be good, but it's way down my list, lotta competition for limited resources (i.e., time and effort).

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If I'm wrong, it's the first time I'm happy to be confused. -Don Van Vliet

magiamma's picture

@pindar's revenge
I totally forgot about that. Antifungal? How do you apply it?

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@magiamma

some ginseng growers I talked with would put it in a sprayer and spray their plants.
Fungal diseases can totally wipe out a bed of ginseng in no time (believe me). The very old roots that people occasionally find just happened to be in a sweet spot of just the right moisture, soil, temp, etc.; conditions which allow the plant to thrive and resist diseases.

Hey CS, mushrooms are fascinating. I just spotted a patch of deep red stinkhorns in some old mulch. Beautiful, but whew! I keep trying to cultivate morels, no luck yet.

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If I'm wrong, it's the first time I'm happy to be confused. -Don Van Vliet

But this discussion made me think of a book I just picked up and am looking forward to getting into.
It's Entangled Life- How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures by Merlin Sheldrake (great name!). The reviews are glowing.

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"Without the right to offend, freedom of speech does not exist." Taslima Nasrin

Anja Geitz's picture

@Fishtroller 02

I agree. Merlin Sheldrake is a fabulous name. Make for a great character name, don’t you think? I see him as a curator in a museum that collects rare artifacts. Artifacts with mysterious stories to tell....

Book sounds very interesting. Wish I had more time to read. Alas! Thanks for popping in and joining the conversation.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

CS in AZ's picture

@Fishtroller 02

I have been looking for a way to edge this topic into a conversation here for awhile now. For the past year or so, I have been exploring and learning more about the incredible world of fungi/mushrooms and the mind blowing network of communication and health and energy that they facilitate, right under our feet, every day of our lives. My introduction started here, with this film (this is the official trailer):

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It all sounded a bit over-the-top to me at first, and there is a "mystical" tone to how it approaches and discusses the topic; but nonetheless, most of the information they present is well-researched and documented. Although there are definitely some aspects that are anecdotal and/or personal to the people involved. The photography is simply stunning!

I went to see this movie with friends (back when you could still do that), but one benefit to the pandemic is that they made the film available online now, so now you don't have to wait for a screening in your area to see it. But all of the friends I took to see it fell in love, many bought the book and/or passed on the info on the film to other friends.

I also bought the accompanying book, and over the past months I now get invited to many online live presentations and talks. Unfortunately I miss most of those because I still have a day job. But it's an active and growing movement, which I find exciting and also very optimistic and full of hope.

The view they present of the power and magic of mushrooms (and they mean all mushrooms, not just the psychedelic ones) is hard to explain, but for me it has been more than worth exploring.

They do also cover actual psychedelic mushrooms, and some of the frontiers of research going on there, which I also find very encouraging. Overall this view of life leaves me full of hope and awe and wonder at this amazing world, which will go on, whatever the humans do.

Thanks for giving me an opening to post about this. Smile

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enhydra lutris's picture

Been going at it since 5 something and had to come up for air (and lunch).

Nice column and topic. We do worm composting and make worm tea for fertilizer from the castings. Afterward there isn't that much volume. We also do a little regular composting of leaves and such, but don't tend it often enough so we are mostly enriching the soil where the bin is. Years ago we did generate a lot more that we did use in the garden and it is probably why it was better then. Turning it is the big problem, it gets harder as one ages; we should have gone with a rotary from day one.

be well and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

mhagle's picture

Like I told you, I mostly suck at it. Right now I have a pile in the field with a fence around it. I just throw in old hay and goat poop now and then. But I really need to work harder at it. I am also someone who isn't going to go in there with a pitchfork and turn it around. Too old. The keyhole/lasagna garden concept of composting in place is something that has worked for me but is very labor-intensive. Dr. Deb Tolman, http://debtolman.com/ is the keyhole gardening guru in our area. I paid 80 bucks to speak with her on the phone a few years ago and also attended one of her seminars at her place. Very cool woman. This week I am getting 8 big round bales. I have already purchased the nitrogen fertilizer and shrink wrap. Repotted my tomato plants to 6-inch pots and ordered more seeds on Sunday.

Thank you so much for taking on composting!!

I-m so happy

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

Lookout's picture

@mhagle

You don't have to have anything but patience. It really is a no rules thing.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”