Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Ode to Compost

Remember that feeling you had the first time you were covered in cow manure? Well, I certainly do! It was disgust at that green slime running down my arm; disgust at that pungent odor permeating my clothes. Why was I covered in cow poop you might ask? Because I needed it for my abonero, my compost-pile. I have a large bin in my backyard (hopefully it’s tall enough to keep the chickens out). I first put a layer of dry leaves to cover the bottom. Then I spread a layer of oh-so-sweet-smelling manure on top, after which I put another layer of dry leaves, followed by a layer of green leaves and rotten lemons, another layer of dry leaves, and finally kitchen scraps. I made sure to water the pile between every layer and add soil as well, just for consistency. The layers alternated between carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich organic matter, as to create the proper chemical reaction that will cause the pile to heat up. What was the point of spending all morning shoveling piles of shit, raking up leaves and rotten fruit, and hoisting buckets of water out of my well? What’s the goal? Crumbly, sweet-smelling compost (and this time I really do mean sweet-smelling) – the best all-natural fertilizer you can give your garden. A supplement that puts carbon, nitrogen, and potassium into the soil, enriching it and helping fruits and vegetables grow faster, last longer, and taste better.

Since I was already covered in dirt and sweat by this point, I decided to experiment with manure tea. I put heaping piles of cow dung into an onion sack, tied it shut, and placed it in a bucket of water where it will steep for a week or two, resulting in rich, liquid fertilizer. There was one hitch with this plan. I was getting the cow poop from my neighbor, whose house I reached by hopping a barbed-wire fence. The problem I did not foresee was transporting this bag of manure back to my yard. Imagine the sight of me stumbling around, desperately clutching in both arms, trying to move a surprisingly heavy sack of shit. This brings us back to the point where we came in, the one where I was covered in shit. Oh well, all in a day’s hard work!

P.S. Another problem I did not foresee was getting shit stains out of a shirt. I guess I’ll have to keep that shirt aside for my “lifting piles of cow shit onto my abonero” days.

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