Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Week on the Farm: Tuesday

Tuesday: Composting

As much as I enjoyed working in the kitchen, one of my goals for the week was to get out and do some physical work on the farm. So when we heard that we were going to help with composting on Tuesday I was pretty excited. Even if it was raining a little, and all I had on was my jeans and a light windbreaker.

The task, is to build a layer cake of organic material that will be hot-composted down to organic fertilizer for the farm. The recipe has an adorable mnemonic "Farm Girls Must Sing", each of the letters is an ingredient: Food Waste, Green Waste, Manure and Something else I can't recall. The food waste comes out of buckets, the same we'd been putting our trimmings into during yesterday's kitchen work. Green waste was some cleared brush from a field, which was pitchforked onto the pile. Manure, thankfully, is handled entirely by the tractor, which works from a larger pile and scoops up enough for a layer. The paper towels from the kitchen and bathrooms are composted as well. Durning the composting process the pile is turned several times and heats up high enough to sterilize the pathogens in the manure.

Once the buckets of food waste have been emptied they need to be rinsed, then scrubbed with a brush, and the rinsed again. There were a lot of buckets, and they still had plenty of organic matter in them. Near then end I was so tired that I carelessly dropped the hose. The nozzle landed on the handle and sent an arc of water into the air and directly onto my head. I'd already turned my back and was just thinking, "wow, the rain really picked up, hope it's not long before we head back!" when the farm intern I was working with came over and turned off the rain.

By the time we were finished I was soaking wet, cold, tired and covered with rotten vegetables. The buckets had all been cleaned stacked and loaded into the truck. It was a relief to be excused for lunch and start the hike back up the hill. At the end of the morning, there was a sense of both connection to the kitchen work on Monday and accomplishment at what we had achieved together. The compost pile was taller than any of us and bigger than all of us together.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our emotional pain, anxiety and other problematic mental formations that we forget about good old fashioned physical discomfort. Composting in the rain with inadequate gear really clears that up. You get wet, the work is messy and physically demanding, I started out chatty and conversational and ended up quiet and focused on just the task at hand.

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