Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Waking Up the Compost

The movie Clear and Present Danger opens with a Coast Guard cutter overtaking a suspicious boat somewhere off the U.S. coast. When the suspicious vessel fails to acknowledge the Coast Guard's presence by slowing down, the cutter's captain gives a cold command to the sailor at the helm: "Wake 'em up!" An ear-shattering blast of the cutter's horn fails to slow the vessel, and the sailors man the bow gun and prepare to board.

Sometimes compost—actually, bio-organisms in the compost—needs to be waked up as well. The compost pile I fed with scraps over the winter had lain dormant during the cold months when the microbial life slowed down to a crawl. But with the warmer weather it's time to wake the critters—get 'em fed, wet, and aired out so they can pick up where they left off last fall and turn my food and yard scraps into humus.

This is a lame compost bin—not really enough mass to get really hot. But it has to suffice for the time being. I forked the scraps from a previous bin into this new bin, which provides oxygen and remixes the scraps. After every new layer (6"-8" of scraps) I added alfalfa meal as a nitrogen source for the microbes and dampened the scraps with the hose. Air, food, water—what every biological being needs, microbes being no exception.


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