Sunday, February 24, 2008

Making life go 'round up North: cold weather composting

Sorry for the neglect of this site. Life is good. Life is busy.

But it's also good to take time to share.

There was some musing going on here previously about cold-weather composting. First, let me say that this is a much more beautiful subject than you'd tend to realize.

Consider this: it's classic "re-use" positive; reducing garbage collection and landfill hauling related truck emissions; reducing the same kinds of emissions for getting that bag of dirt you'd otherwise buy to you from wherever; eliminating the plastic bags delivering the goods in both those trips; eliminating the, what 7 bucks plus these days, it costs you per bag of store bought stuff; and coolest of all, you get to make life happen!! Of course, you're not making life totally from scratch. Little to any of that actually goes on these days though -- but still, it's pretty darned cool to take part in, and not having to change any diapers in the process.

Anyway, as I do tend, I digress.

Cruising around the net, I found a couple of basic principles for more successful composting in colder weather climates. It's been about 25 years since I had a great compost pile, and that was in a much warmer climate, several degrees of latitude South (with a quarter-acre garden set in an old cattle pen, and lots of critters to contribute nitrogen components, so perhaps my expectations are still too high).

The first thing I learned though, is that in colder climates, I've got to make the pile bigger than I have been, perhaps 5 feet by 3 feet in footprint. Tough to do in any urban yard, but it makes sense that you'd need that much mass to maintain the heat.

The second concept I realized I need to pay more care to is the Nitrogen to Carbon ratio. The general view is that it should be around 1:3. This is really basic compost science, but an aspect that's easier to fudge in warmer climates, and correlatively harder where it's foggy, wet and cool. The Nitrogen comes from household vegie and fruit scraps (no grease or animal product scraps like meat or fat though), critter poo (aka manure, guano, etc.), and green grass and other garden clippings. A little bloodmeal can soup up this side of the equation. On the Carbon side, we're looking at more dry tree and plant waste, like leaves, straw and dry grass (though I can't say I've seen much of that around here).

Here's a pretty good site for the subject:, where all of the more basic tips are reiterated about stirring, keeping the oily, buttery, animal fatty type stuff out of the pile, and with a great tip for us coasties, kelp! I hadn't thought of that. I'll have to try it.

Well, have fun -- go forth and create life from life, and more life from that life! Oh my, this all stirs lust for seed catalogues. Just 60 or so more days to spring... yaaay.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

This Momentous Choice

Having just read Caroline Kennedy's glowing endorsement for Barack Obama this morning, I thought it a good time to comment on what may be the single most important decision this country is being called on to make in a long time. Do we stick with the tried and true, or do we stick our necks out a bit, and try to reach some higher plane?

Washington is mired in a partisanship that has brought all good ideas to a complete standstill. The only point of agreement is that everything needs to be fixed. We are a deeply divided country; polarized on so many important issues.

I admired and appreciated President Clinton's leadership during his 8 years in office. And I resented having his ability to do the job we put him there to do being rendered ineffective during the last year or two by the right-wing's and the craven press' inability to keep their nose out of his crotch. The last seven-plus years have made Bill Clinton's accomplishments and abilities shine even more (that's not saying much, though, I realize).

I appreciate the fact that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have found uncommonly broad common ground in laying out many of the general and specific things that need to be done to repair some of the damage that's been and is being done by the Bush people, and agreement on much of what needs to be done to move from there forward, with greater aspirations for our country. I expect any of them would do a great job. But to make any difference at all, the new president will have to motivate a highly divided congress.

Right now, given all those things, I appreciate Barack Obama's ability to speak to our higher selves. He takes an approach that attempts to evoke the best in us.

I am angry about what's been done to this country, and appropriately so I think, because I love this this country and its people. But I really like the way that Obama redirects our energies toward the higher aspiration of putting our heads and hearts together in a positive way to make things better.

Unfortunately, as much as I respect the Clintons' and Edwards' good intentions and abilities, they dwell so much on the negative, and polarize people so much, I think they would not be able to accomplish as much for us as a people as Obama would.

In the Buddhist community, the people we purposefully associate ourselves with and with whom we attempt to learn together how to be better people, is called a "Sangha." Obama is the kind of individual who enriches our Sangha as a people, and I believe we would do well to give him a chance to lead us in a more positive direction.

However this comes out, it has been a huge benefit to our culture at large to have Obama imprint on us the idea, the image, the ability to imagine, a black man as President. And just so, Hillary Clinton's strength and long, hard effort has given us the ability to imagine a woman in that role as well. That doesn't mean anyone should or shouldn't vote for either of these folks based on their race or sex. But each of them, merely by their sincere and devoted efforts to come as far as they have come, have given us these gifts of imagining, and that has helped us to grow as a culture already.

I feel more optimistic than I have in a long time as a result.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thinking local ...

One of my favorite things about this region is the diversity and quality of local goods produced here. It's something to prize for many reasons: supporting neighbors in their business enterprises, minimizing road miles and the related carbon footprint of my consumption, and because it's quite often better than any of the more well-traveled stuff. A little pricier, true, but I view that as internalizing the real cost of production, rather than paying for it with petroleum subsidies and exported jobs -- and I find I'm liking the paring down to simpler things: buying a little less and making more out of it. Hooray for leftovers: less waste, less work, less spending. Also, buying local fresh produce means buying stuff in season, which has it's own host of benefits.

Just had some fabulous locally made jalapeno jelly. I bought it at Shaffer's Ace Hardware, of all places. An odd spot to buy jelly, I know -- but I couldn't resist, sitting there like it was, looking so pretty, handmade, local, and jalapeno! It's made by the "Whole Enchilada" restaurant in Salyer. Great find. Goes perfectly with another local favorite, Humboldt Fog cheese (I know they sold to a large corporate buyer, but I think it's still produced locally.)

So far, I've savored the local grass fed beef, butter, cheese, milk, ice cream, a variety of fresh fruits and vegies in season, ditto crab -- fresh off the boats (dang I love this place), jams and jellies, and other things I can't recall at the moment. I'd appreciate you all's input on what I might be missing.

It's one of the several reasons I don't shop at the major chain stores as a first choice (though I am not a purist and will do it if the local options or small-chain options just don't fill the bill), because they rarely carry a good variety of local goods. I find most grocers will try if you ask though.

And that's all just on the food front. There's also a whole world of local non-food products to keep high (no pun intended with the emerald triangle product line) on our radar. Besides great art (of which we have a rich abundance), local non-food products seem a bit harder to find when you have a specific need though, like clothes, furniture, ?? I don't get out much, so share if you're so inspired.

Of course, you can't get more local than the back yard. And talk about reducing your packaging waste stream! It was fun this Christmas to make several pies with the apples from my tree and butter from Ferndale, with a side of local ice cream too. We also had carrots still coming out of the ground back there for the festivities.

Kinda corny to be so enamored of this kind of thing, I know. It may not be as sexy as pitched or pithy prose on headline politics, but the little things really do matter. This one only seems little in the moment at the store, but it's both a local and global issue, a quality of life issue, labor conditions and working wage issue, as well as environmental, sustainability, and personal health issue. Pretty impressive for a little jar of jelly.


Hey. If you're reading this, I'm surprised, but glad. I just put a bunch of time into setting it up. Now I'm itching to get out there and interact with my beloved Lost Coast, rather than continue to sit here and interact about it, for the remainder of the limited daylight minutes this winter day offers.

In the future, I hope to share and generate thoughts on stuff that matters. And maybe even stuff that doesn't appear to matter. As I've read somewhere, that which you give your attention to, grows. And as Pema Chodron reminds us "This very moment is the perfect teacher." Or I think it was Roseanne Roseannadanna (may the late, great, Gilda Radner rest in peace) said: "Seems like every where you go, there you are. It's kind of like having bees buzzing around in your head. They keep buzzing around and buzzing around..." But I get ahead of myself (and date myself to those of you who actually remember Radner's great schtick).

You can expect thoughts on this wild planet, or what's left of what's wild on this planet, and why that matters. Thoughts on how people interact with each other, and why that matters. And less esoteric posts on the events we're all sharing at the community, regional and larger levels.

Ideas for what needs to be talked about, or what would just enrich life, are welcome.