I am debating what kind of compost pile I want to build. Cold compost is chill (and can be wormy.) But I think hot compost offers more of a thrill. Let me break it down for you. Add browns (paper stuff) and greens (plant stuff) like any pile. If the ratio is just right and holds moisture, the compost will cook itself! How delectable. So I plant and water a fresh pile of browns and greens. I tuck it in under a couple pieces of cardboard. When I have scraps, I dig a hole and bury them. And my fingers are crossed..
Who knew it was such a science to brew fresh dirt! Maybe I’ll take it’s temperature later… For now I’m letting it break itself down for me!
Death and decay fuel new life, whether it’s from your fresh compost, a mushroom or what’s for dinner. Life and death compete and cooperate. Life and death breed both chaos and order across the food web. Life and death build upon each other. Life and death create growth that spurs us onward, naturally.
Years ago our cat preyed upon a bunny that I tried unsuccessfully to save. It’s one of those uncomfortable things that happen. I buried it in a tin with a big golden beet. My fascination with death has led to creating images. I captured this moment of the end. It’s confronting yet peaceful. We can no longer avoid the conversation. Death needs to be embraced so that it can be understood with reverence. Look at it. Be curious about it. Toss the taboo. Get familiar with this natural process. I call it Bunnykins.
My grandmother always recited the poem, The Spider and the Fly. The opening lines are, “come into my parler, said the spider to the fly.” In a flower garden there are many spiders and many more flies.
My preying mantis friend got eaten. I wonder how many flies the little guy caught while it stood still on it’s leaf all week. I visited every day, tried to be quiet and made an image of it. I know it’s natural, but I was still sad when it got consumed. The preying mantis got preyed upon itself. On and on up the web it goes.
The predator kills it’s prey. We eat; we process the meat. I take a photo. I honor the animal. I appreciate the beauty of it’s sacrifice as it is transmuted into new life. This is the first animal I helped butcher. The photo shows reverence as we kneel to skin the deer.
Finding strength and inspiration in the natural cycles of death and decay is the reason regenerative agriculture appeals to me. It can save our planet, which is dying from the way we abuse our natural resources and wild lands. Our plants and animals and soil suffers from the way we practice industrial agriculture. Regenerative farming can literally bring back life and carbon and water to the soil and in turn the animals, plants and us who all depend upon it. It can resuscitate our ailing earth!
And so we make compost.
We also grew a cover crop (aka lawn) this year here in Phoenix, Arizona. Yes, we do irrigate, but as the root system grows deeper and deeper with the help of beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi and microorganisms, it also holds more water and let me tell you, we need to sequester as much water as possible! We can also sequester carbon. This can positively affect climate change and our regional water cycle. We over-seed with clover and let the dandelions and purslane live to encourage biodiversity. Pollinators appreciate the variety. So does my cat.
I am attending a free online summit called Eat4Earth. The interviews are sent to my email. I play a couple from my phone each day.
After just a couple days, Jason and I are inspired! We are learning so much about food, farming, and healing the planet. Here is a quick synopsis:
Regenerative Agriculture focuses on a healthy soil food web. By adding biology, the dirt has life and becomes soil.
Fungi and bacteria grow around the roots of plants. Those fungi and bacteria get carbohydrate carbon cakes from the plant. In return, the bacteria and fungi reach out into the ground collecting and storing nutrients for the plant. It’s a plant pantry!
Predators (worms, protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods and macroarthropods) eat from the pantry making it bioavailable to the plant.
This results in plants with more nutrient content, that are healthier and more resistant to pests and disease, while sequestering carbon from our atmosphere and retaining more water in the ground and atmosphere. Everybody wins when you work with the bounty that nature provides!
Different plants like different ratios of bacteria to fungi. Weeds grow in bacteria dominated ground. On grasslands, the ratio of bacteria to fungi should be around 50/50. In the forest, there’s even more fungi! A couple kinds of plants do not like fungi at all- brassicas like broccoli and cabbage.
We are so excited by all we are learning. We are also excited that the universe has already put some of these solutions on our path. The Mycorrhizal fungi that many speakers talked about is on its way here from High Country Gardens; when I ordered it, I didn’t even know what it was! We plan to inoculate some pollinator friendly ground cover plants with the fungi.
We paid the local worm farm a visit and brought home compost and worm castings for the lawn we are going to grow. We ordered a native grass seed called blue Gramma. Compost is full of nutrients but we still need biology to make them plant available. Luckily I saw some volunteer worms in the yard.
Register and listen to the Eat4Earth summit here and let’s discuss mycorrhizal fungi!
The documentary Kiss the Ground focuses on industrial agriculture. Livestock are separate from crops. Crops are not biodiverse. The dirt is torn up every year, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and leaving the ground suceptible to erosion and runoff. Have we learned anything since the dust bowl days?
Then fertilizers and pesticides are added. Chemicals mask depleted soils. We are building a tolerance to these chemicals and using more and more on our food each year.
Kiss the Ground does a great job of illustrating how rejoining hooves animals and their pasture are a key to maintaining balance and biodiversity. Cows and goats are walking microbe factories!
It also shows the importance of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, through plants, into the earth. A byproduct of which is oxygen. This system not only takes carbon from the atmosphere, but also holds water- literally! You never till the ground thus preserving the magnificent structure of the soil. How nice for the biology (and my back.)
We also watched the documentary Seaspiracy. It shows how the fishing industry is ignoring it’s negative impact on ocean life while playing up the consumer plastics issue. The majority of ocean trash is not straws– it’s fishing equipment and the majority of destruction is caused by industry practices like bycatch, trawling or overfishing. Solution? Maybe eat less fish.