Compost Candid

Flowers and foliage get plenty of glory. What about soil? Where’s the spotlight on the underground?

It’s difficult to illuminate what’s out of sight. Sometimes a heavy price gets paid for inattention — today and yesterday. In Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America, Yale University history professor Steven Stoll highlights the efforts of “soil improvers” of the 1800s, a breed of farmer who acted like their acres might be their last and tended them accordingly.

Farmland richness was eroding, a trend that did not escape the earlier notice of a farmer-president. George Washington said the lands were “originally very good; but use, and abuse, have made them quite otherwise.” Much had been “scratched over and none cultivated or improved as it ought to have been.” Minimizing investment and taking fast profits off given soil fertility left land “bankrupted,” Stoll says.

Kitchen scraps look to me more and more like handsome savings supporting garden solvency.

Compost Candids 1-Bray, 2-24-18 DSC_1598

FUTURE ROOT SWADDLE: The garbage disposal beckons, but kitchen scraps look so full of promise in a sink side steel pail, a gift from my son. When I tip the goods onto the compost pile at my city dwelling, the pail gives a satisfying farmy clang. Photo Credit: John A. Bray

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