No. 1 Rules

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” — G.K. Chesterton

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While I do not like to mince words a la being “politically correct” when discussing public policy issues, I generally avoid indelicacy when it comes to certain biological functions. Nevertheless, taking such a risk, here goes.

We do most of the yard maintenance at home ourselves. Sea change landscaping and tree care are delegated to professionals, and I do not mean itinerant tree butchers who seem to be ubiquitous these days, but trained arborists. Gardening, mowing, and leaf raking, to name just a few activities, are domesticated. To that end, we have a regular compost bin to which we feed leaves, grass clippings, and other organic material. After sufficient time passes, and we turn it appropriately, we spread it on the lawn and garden. The results are wonderful.

It’s the “other organic material” that has given at least one-half of us some pause. While not formally trained in agriculture or horticulture (or any other kind of culture, for that matter) I learned enough organic chemistry in high school and college courses to know that animal, including human, waste contains significant amounts of fixed nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plant growth. During a sojourn in South Korea courtesy of the U.S. Army several decades ago, I observed the farmers clean out the privies, fill large ceramic tanks (ironically termed “honey pots” by the U.S. troops) to ferment, and spread the result on the rice fields. This practice resulted in lush paddies, and bumper crops of rice, the centuries old staple of that country. I am not aware of how widespread that practice is in South Korea today, but it sure worked then.

When we started our home composting, I considered that the organic activity might be enhanced by discrete additions of the product of lavatory function number one. Not to put too fine a point on it, number two might be so – ahem – aromatic as to offend the neighbors. Martha, who knows more organic chemistry than the next 200 people you will meet combined, doubtless recognized this. Her sense of delicacy, however, made her less than hog-wild about the prospect, so I did not make but somewhat irregular contributions to the piles, and she made, I’m sure, none at all.

This past week’s garden section of the Dallas Morning News reprinted an article from the Orange County Register that validates, and might make peeing in the compost acceptable, if not respectable. I’ll have to designate a jar in the garage.

See No. 1 Rule of Composting

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