Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Compost Pile

I have previously suggested that your farmer Wayne is a pretty good maker of compost....he has great ingredients and puts some regular effort into turning and tending his piles to ensure they are hot, active and breaking down into nutrient enriching soil amendment.

Not only are there excess vegetables that come out of the farm fields but also landscape trimmings from local maintenance crews, kitchen scraps from the Tierra commercial kitchen operation, and occasionally specialty aquatic infusions like pond or sea scrapings.

Usually the pile would be turned before it gets to this stage of being covered in compost-able debris. Alas, the on-going rains of this winter/spring period have halted access with the tractor as the mud around the pile is squishy and could very well trap the tractor in place. Therefore, we have quite a science experiment and ecosystem establishing itself in the pile. Mammals, insects (both good and bad) and tossed vegetables are thriving in this single spot that provides food, warm and diversity for survival. On the right, a parsnip sends up foliage for a second wind in it's life cycle.

Next are the onions. Onions are called biennial, versus annual or perennial plants. This means they require two growing seasons to come to reproduction, or set their seeds. These specimens are the fall 2009 crop that did not store and were rotting, hence got tossed in the pile and now have found rejuvenated life in the resources of the pile, undisturbed by the usual turning that might interrupt them if Wayne could get at the spot with the tractor. And so these onions grow and if were left to their own devices would set seed by early summer that could then be harvested and saved for future crops.

This familiar foliage represents potatoes that are reaching out for a new generation in life. Kinda a weed, potatoes will start growing pretty much any place this time of year and are no surprise to see poking out of compost piles or pathways where a tuber may have fallen the previous fall. Framed by a smattering of cardoon, sunchoke, giant carrot, and purple cauliflower, these potatoes will likely be disturbed and turned under once the ground dries out properly to allow the pile to be tossed and turned in order to facilitate decomposition.

Until then, enjoy the unique vegetable and animal insect empire that is establishing itself out behind the farm stand. There is so much to observe here!

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