SOLAR POWER IN A BANANNA PEEL
Organic refuse is stored solar energy. Every apple core or potato peel holds a tiny amount of stored energy, just like a piece of firewood, which is converted into useable plant food by the compost pile. Perhaps S. Sides of the Mother Earth News states it more succinctly: "Plants convert solar energy into food for animals (ourselves included). Then the [refuse] from these animals along with dead plant and animal bodies, ‘lie down in the dung heap,' are composted, and ‘rise again in the corn.' This cycle of light is the central reason why composting is such an important link in organic food production. It returns solar energy to the soil. In this context such common compost ingredients as onion skins, hair trimmings, eggshells, vegetable parings, and even burnt toast are no longer seen as garbage, but as sunlight on the move from one form to another." 5
The organic material used to make compost could be considered anything on the Earth's surface that had been alive, or from a living thing, such as manure, plants, leaves, sawdust, peat, straw, grass clippings, food scraps, and urine. A rule of thumb is that anything that will rot will compost, including such things as cotton clothing, wool rugs, rags, paper, animal carcasses, junk mail, and cardboard.
To compost means to convert organic material ultimately into soil or, more accurately, humus. Humus is a brown or black substance resulting from the decay of organic animal or vegetable refuse. It is a stable material that does not attract insects or nuisance animals. It can be handled and stored if necessary with no problem, and it is beneficial to the growth of plants. Humus holds moisture, and therefore increases the soil's capacity to absorb and hold water. Compost is said to hold nine times its weight in water (900%), as compared to sand which only holds 2%, and clay 20%.6
Compost also adds slow-release nutrients essential for plant growth, creates air spaces in soil, helps balance the soil pH, darkens the soil (thereby helping it absorb heat), and supports microbial populations that add life to the soil. Nutrients such as nitrogen in compost are slowly released throughout the growing season, making them less susceptible to loss by leaching than the more soluble chemical fertilizers.7 Organic matter from compost enables the soil to immobilize and degrade pesticides, nitrates, phosphorous, and other things that can become pollutants. Compost binds pollutants in soil systems, reducing their leachability and absorption by plants.8
The building of topsoil by Mother Nature is a centuries long process. Adding compost to soil will help to quickly restore fertility that might otherwise take nature hundreds of years to replace. We humans deplete our soils in relatively short periods of time. By composting our organic refuse and returning it to the land, we can restore that fertility also in relatively short periods of time.
Fertile soil yields food that promotes good health. One group of people, the Hunzas of northern India, has been studied to a great extent. One man who studied them extensively, Sir Albert Howard, stated, "When the health and physique of the various northern Indian races were studied in detail the best were those of the Hunzas, a hardy, agile, and vigorous people, living in one of the high mountain valleys of the Gilgit Agency . . . There is little or no difference between the kinds of food eaten by these hillmen and by the rest of northern India. There is, however, a great difference in the way these foods are grown . . . [T]he very greatest care is taken to return to the soil all human, animal and vegetable [refuse] after being first composted together. Land is limited: upon the way it is looked after, life depends." 9
Source: The Humanure Handbook. Jenkins Publishing,
PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127. To order, phone: 1-800-639-4099.