Our approach to making compost and our inspiration to launch this cooperative composting project has a foundation in the following reality:
“Soils are created out of the mother substance by the influence of cosmic forces working through fluctuations in climatic rhythms, temperature, rainfall, splitting and erosion. These forces are usually labeled mechanical (and chemical) forces. Most soil formation is, however, the direct result of living organisms working to create the proper living conditions for themselves! …. wherever there is soil, living organisms have preceded it … “
“We see how plants actively work at creating for themselves the soil they need. … However, (the plants own work of chemical transformation and) the roots are not alone in this soil building process; animal manures with their complex enzymes are constantly modifying the plant growth, and an astronomical number of microorganisms in the edaphon support these living processes.”
“In a teaspoon of good soil there are literally billions of microorganisms carrying on life functions of continuous metabolism, respiration, reproduction, dying, excreting hormones and enzymes, exchanging cations and anions, responding to cosmic influences such as lunar phases and the daily and yearly solar cycles, and so on.”
– above quoted from Wolf D. Storl in Culture and Horticulture, pgs 166 – 168
It can come as a thunderous shock when you open a crack or when one gets wacked open and you find the courage to look straight at the tragic mistakes triggered by mankind’s presumption that we humans can live here independent of the natural world’s unfailing offers of assistance. First a thunderous shock then a debilitating nausea.
On the other hand is the feeling of deep satisfaction that comes with using the finished products, so to speak, that The Island Cooperative Compost Project seeks to generate. These are substances that people have been involved in creating for thousands of years with the integral assistance of the vast intelligence of nature.
The human involvement in the process of making compost is one of the very special examples of our ‘use’ of natural forces that not only supports but enhances the creative power woven through everything that exists.
The teeming universe of organisms that make real soil what it is – alive – is ever ready to accept our assistance as we work to gently accelerate the alchemy in decaying organic material returning to life as soil.
Rather than just arriving at aged, partially decomposed material that may give a short term one season limited fertility boost – it is a much better investment of time and energy to work towards a broad spectrum finished compost high in stable humus which contributes to the long term structural stability of the soil.
Decomposing materials can be blended and guided towards the natural formation of stable humus – by care with moisture content, air supply, carbon nitrogen ratio and the best possible, given the other needs of that pile, conditions for a thriving earthworm population.
If the various conditions are balanced successfully you arrive at compost that can give the soil readily available new supplies of core nutrients for the near term but also strengthen the soil for years to come through the addition of high percentages of stable humus. This accumulation over seasons is what builds the capacity of the soil to retain moisture, nutrients and minerals in a way that also holds them most efficiently available to growing plants.
Most importantly this more complete soil amendment mirrors the structural and nutrient balance that is present in soil which can readily renew and regenerate its own biological life across the growth and decay cycles of the seasons. The key for humans working in cooperation with the soil is to focus on strategies that specifically support soil’s own ability to renew itself.
You begin to see that the living systems of soil are predisposed to take immediate and full advantage of even the smallest amounts of compost with a high percentage of stable humus. Native, undisturbed soil ecosystems create their own supplies of stable humus and disturbed and depleted soil environments progressively lose their ability to create new stable humus, which is the foundation of the soil’s ability to regenerate its life. So it becomes a downward spiral.
But even badly compromised soil ecosystems retain a predisposition grab onto and use the humus in true compost not only as an immediate boost but also as a catalyst to restart its failing regenerative process. As if the stable humus from “man-made” compost, even in small amounts, is a re-seeding of the weak soil with live soil. Which spreads. Strength building on strength.