Sep 232013

Today at Broadwell, I washed some more buckets and lids. Before I did that, Kathy had some other new thoughts, or thoughts that I may not have gotten last time. Her first point was that the compost was like cooking: The scraps and the worms are all ingredients. The heat that the microbes and stuff create is what cooks the food. The end result is great, healthy soil. The  trade off is, just like regular cooking, in order to get something really great, there will be dishes. In this case, the dishes are of course the buckets. I do enjoy cooking, so I think I even more fully understand what Kathy means.

She also said that it is simply skills for the future. If something were to happen later on with, say, waste disposal, what would happen? Not many people would really know how to deal with it. Right now, I am gradually learning how to do just that, deal with the waste safely. That includes cleaning the waste buckets.

  4 Responses to “Additional thoughts on “Question to Kathy J.””

  1. I am glad that the cooking analogy helped expand your understanding. I will clarify that it is the composter who does the cooking for the microbes. In other words:
    The cooking, for me, involves combining the ingredients in appropriate measure (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, moisture) to feed the microbes, especially the thermophilic bacteria in the first phase,
    We don’t need to cook the food, we need to create the right environment so as to activate the microbes in order to reduce the pathogens and the potential seed load. The rest of the soil food web critters and finally the earthworms come in after phase one to graze on the microbes and package all the great nutrients in sugar coated, time release, pellets of humus loaded with nutrients and microbes to help heal the soil…the worm poop, vermicompost or when screened, vermi-castings (worm castings).
    The worm castings are a soil amendment that helps build great, healthy soil with an effective nutrient cycle as described in the Holistic Management materials.
    But, yes, the composting process is similar to the cooking process in that one must be attentive to food safety, infection control practices, water conservation and grey water management.
    I would also like to say that although I was referring to the benefits of learning and practicing skills for the future… the waste disposal system is already broken and the first step is to shift one’s view and relationship with the concept of waste. So-called waste is actually a resource. In a world of diminishing resources, increasing population and all the rest … we need to develop sound resource management practices while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    Many people in our area have malfunctioning septic systems and/or just pipe their sewage over the bank into the creeks. The pathogen load in our creeks and rivers, high E coli, levels make the water unsafe to drink and dangerous to play in now. I would love to take my kayak down to Federal Creek with friends but the idea of playing in a slurry of pathogens is highly unappealing and risky given the potential of infection, sores, etc.
    So, it’s not just about the future… many people don’t know how to manage their waste NOW! And, anyone who just throws their food scraps and other organic materials into the garbage to be trucked to the landfill are demonstrating their lack of sound resource management skills, their lack of understanding related to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the need to give back to the Earth if we want to develop a sustainable, resilient society.
    I take pride in bucket washing as a way to manifest good infection control practices and to help encourage others to do the same. I know our local health department sanitarian is keeping an eye on the buckets coming and going from the restaurants. I am proud to be associated with the Athens’ Own Food Scraps recovery Initiative and proud to know that my small bucket washing role is essential in building and maintaining our Future Resource Base, also part of the Holistic Management processes.
    I know many people who do not attend to their compost buckets very well, and also those who do not manage their composting operations very well. The buckets are gross, smelly and a haven for vectors, e.g. fruit flies, etc. They never wash them, just dump the contents and then put the buckets back in the kitchen. It gives me the heeby-cheebies and gives composting a bad reputation.
    Anyways, I am glad that you are learning to deal with waste safely but instead of thinking of it as waste, how about you shift your perspective to think about it as managing a valuable resource.
    In addition, our world and our bodies are ruled by microbes. You have the opportunity to learn about microbes, learn about how to reduce pathogens, ensure food safety.
    There are many other things you could do besides washing buckets that might be more interesting, and yes, fun, but at this time you don’t appear to have the understanding, knowledge and skills to do much else and what makes the whole thing so challenging is the fact that I’m not perceiving an interest, the curiosity, the passion to learn more. If you simply want to do jobs, do what other people tell you to do for the rest of your life, I suppose just learning to deal, to manage the basics, like how to wash a bucket, how to prevent infections and environmental contamination, will get you through life …. but where is the spark?
    I commend you and thank you for your efforts to try to understand and to learn about this new world.
    I am trying to learn and practice how to refine my communications, my words, etc., to better reach people and unfortunately don’t feel I am being very successful in my efforts.
    I pray to God… the infinite universe, the mother earth, the beings of earth, air, fire, water, and either within the circle of the four directions for help.
    May the Grace of God help us in our endeavors to counter the Zombie plague.

    • Miles, do you know the name of the watershed where you live?
      Do you know what kind of septic system you have, whether it is working properly, whether there is any maintenance needed to help keep it working properly?
      Do you know what septic systems are designed to do and why, what the various types of septic systems are?
      Do you know where your drinking water comes from, how it is treated, etc.
      Do you know there is a difference between grey water and black water?
      Do you know where your electricity comes from and how it is produced?
      Do you know where your food comes from and how it is produced?
      Have you ever been out to the landfill?
      The Athens’ Own rap has always been about building a sustainable system, about strengthening our local resilience about preparing for the future. The rationale is that if we improve our systems now, with worst case scenarios in mind, we will be better able to address our current challenges…like the problems with e coli and sediment in our creeks, the spread of infectious disease, the Zombie plague.
      Did the Holistic Management workbook effort simply represent an empty assignment, a job someone told you to do without any personal meaning to you?
      Learning about systems, about cycles, while nurturing the ability to be present with curiosity and the skills of observation, listening, etc. is essential; exploring process, identifying shared goals, shared visions and choosing to work together with others towards solutions is essential.
      Without such things, without the basics, the principles any topic of discussion becomes very shallow to the point of almost being empty. Without such basics … bucket washing is just a necessary component of dealing with waste.
      Seems like such a drag. I see the simple act of washing buckets as a gateway to so much more.
      I wanted to learn how to weld from my father and uncle, who were recognized as the best welders in their area. My first task was to hang out in a dark dirty corner of their shop sorting nuts and bolts. I really didn’t want to learn about all the various nuts, bolts. I didn’t see the connections or let my curiosity fly in terms of the different metals, etc. I didn’t get it. I thought they just wanted their nuts and bolts sorted, and I was just a grunt that was available to do the job. I just viewed it as a job they told me to do. Again, I just didn’t get it.
      When I apprenticed with the master chandler, the sorcerer’s apprentice, my first job was simply cutting lengths of wicks and tying knots on their ends so they would hang on the candle wheel. Thankfully by that time, 18-19 yrs. old, … I got it.
      It was a job that was a part of the whole system and via that task I could start to embrace the whole, start reflecting and asking questions and learning how to do just one task really well while preparing to move on to more advanced aspect of the dance.
      How can I help you step out of what appears to be a very disconnected, boring, interaction with life comprised of assignments, jobs, etc., into one filled with wonder, empowerment and the excitement that comes with being a part of a global movement of people who are alive and engaged with the world around them as part of the whole system?
      Do you want to continue to be a part of the Zombie clan or do you want to be part of something else that is overflowing with the joy of life?

  2. Thank you for these Kathy. I should have been clearer in my statement about the cooking. I do understand that the microbes, worms and stuff break everything down by eating it,passing it, and so on and not actually by their heat. I think that it was both that I was trying to get a good cooking analogy and also that I may not have been thinking clearly.

    Second, yes, I do need to try see it as a skill for the future, not just in case the waste disposal system breaks down, but in case it breaks down in some sort of disaster. I need to see that the waste disposal system HAS broken down and that you/we are helping that situation. I also need to see that waste as a valuable resource, and not as just a waste. If I can do that, I should be able to see it as saving that resource from going to the landfill, but instead helping become its full potential in the form of great soil. It’s just recycling, but a bit more than just recycling.

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