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Rain & Shine: Composting 101

Calla Rose Ostrander

When people think about what compost is, a few things tend to come to mind: first pretty much everyone, republican or democrat, city dweller or rural resident, thinks its good, I haven't met a farmer who didn't like it and people in cities tend to think of it in connection with beautiful things like community gardens or their grandparents backyards and old farms.  

What is the difference between compost and a pile of manure? Unlike raw or dried manure, compost is a nutrient stabilized, pathogen free material that is also filled with beneficial microorganisms. To get from manure, (or food scraps, or leaves) to compost these materials must either be digested by worms or be managed in such a way to support thermophilic decomposition. “Thermophilic bacteria are heat-loving microorganisms that thrive in temperatures between 113 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the activity of the billions of bacteria in a compost pile that cause the increase in temperature through their activity of eating carbon compounds and reproducing.” When these organisms have eaten all the carbon, they die and the pile cools down, or matures. A kind of magic happens in this process, where previously mobile nutrients become bound up with the carbon, now transformed into the bodies of all these tiny creatures which collectively make up a new soil-like substance. In this high heat process pathogens, harmful bacteria and many kinds of hormones and pharmaceuticals are broken down leaving the resulting product clean and safe to use! 

Composting Resources in KVNF's Listening Area:
Soil Not Dirt - Crawford
Paonia Soil Company
Mesa County Organic Materials Composting
3XM - Olathe

Modular Home Thermophilic Composting Systems
Getting the Right Mix for Thermophilic Composting, Cornell University
The Marin Carbon Project, Compost

Calla Rose was born in Tucson AZ and grew up in the Rocky Mountain West. She attended Shining Mountain Waldorf school in Boulder Colorado K-12 and graduated with a degree in International Political Economy on a classical cello scholarship, from the University of Puget Sound. After spending some time in California she is happily back in Colorado and living in Paonia.